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Reuben Foster is vastly overrated, and the Eagles should avoid the Alabama linebacker in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft at all costs. This is only an opinion, and an unpopular one at that -- although Foster skeptics are not unheard of, either.
One anonymous talent evaluator claims the club he works for removed Foster from their draft board before a high-profile incident at the scouting combine. Another former high-level executive believes the Butkus Award winner for best linebacker in the nation will slide to day two of the draft.
Talent -- or physical and athletic ability -- doesn't seem to be what's at issue to people around the league, or at least it's not at the forefront of the conversation. Off-field matters have come under increasing scrutiny since Foster was dismissed from the combine for getting into a "heated argument" with a doctor. Later it was revealed his drug test came back dilute, which is treated as a positive test.
Even if we chalk up Foster's disastrous combine experience as a pair of unrelated misunderstandings, the 23-year-old's background is raising more concerns. Some of that talk is unfair, perhaps even plain out of bounds, but you can read about his personal life on Wikipedia and draw your own conclusions, as front-office types already have.
Is Foster's ability enough to transcend all of these supposed character flaws? Many feel this is a top-10 talent who can anchor the middle of the Eagles defense for the next decade.
I am far less certain. There are plenty of red flags in Foster's game, too. Known for being a big hitter, his reckless style of play seems to be at least partly responsible for a long list of injuries, and lends itself to more in the future. Even looking at Foster in terms of pure production, there is reason to doubt he is ever going to become an impact player at the next level.
While numbers are no substitute for the tape, Foster's stat line doesn't mesh with the perception that he's a game changer. The unanimous All-American was a tackling machine and flashed pass-rush skill, but made almost zero measurable impact in coverage and didn’t force a single turnover in three seasons for the Crimson Tide.
No forced fumbles. No interceptions. Only two pass breakups as a senior. And Foster's 5.0 sacks don't hold as much weight with the Eagles, because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz seldom blitzes. So what's the big deal about this kid?
Oh, right, he hits hard. Well, that’s sort of a problem in itself. Foster's highlight-reel collisions have taken on a life of their own, although they're a lot scarier than they are impressive.
Foster has a tendency to lower his head when he goes to make a tackle, which has consequences. Poor technique is widely believed to have resulted in multiple neck stingers during his career, while it puts the athlete at greater risk for concussions as well (he had one of those as well). Leading with the helmet will inevitably result in penalties, too, though perhaps the least of our concerns here.
Even if Foster will suddenly transform into a playmaker, injuries could keep him off the field. He's had numerous throughout his college career, including a shoulder that teams have been monitoring throughout the pre-draft process.
Put on just about any Alabama game from the past year, and Foster stands out. He's disruptive at the point of attack and behind the line of scrimmage, and punishes ball carriers. There is no denying Foster can make opponents think twice about going over the middle.
Yet, is Foster going to be there to delivering those crushing blows, or will he be sidelined by injuries and suspensions at the next level? And when healthy, will he simply rack up triple-digit tackles year after year, or will he start to make plays that alter the momentum and course of a football game?
When you take the total package into the equation, Foster isn't worth the top-15 pick in the draft -- not for the Eagles, anyway. There are too many red flags, and I'm not convinced he would have an outsized impact in Schwartz's defense.