Reuben Foster has too many red flags for the Eagles

Reuben Foster has too many red flags for the Eagles

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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.

The complete Eagles guide to the first round of the 2017 NFL draft

The complete Eagles guide to the first round of the 2017 NFL draft

It’s difficult to say who the Eagles will take with the No. 14 choice in the 2017 NFL draft. With needs at just about every position on the roster, and trading up or down always a possibility, almost nothing is off limits. There doesn't seem to be a great deal of consensus on how to rank the prospects, either, so even narrowing the list is difficult.

Still, after many months of arduous debate and bluster, there is at least some sense of what the Eagles' options will be. We've pared our list down to 23 names, which seems like a lot, but a case can be made for anybody who's made it here. And if you click through, we've taken a more in-depth look at 16 of our prospects and explored why they may or may not be a fit.

This handy guide eliminates the prospects who are expected to be gone well before the Eagles pick, or are extreme long shots in the first round, whether there's a trade or not. In other words, while 23 players presents about the broadest view possible of the draft, we're fairly confident one of these names will be on the roster in less than a week.

 

RUNNING BACK

Dalvin Cook, Florida State (Stats, measureables and profile)

A true dual threat and perfect fit for the West Coast offense, Cook is a risk nonetheless. Issues with ball security, and multiple injuries and arrests are not easy to overlook. Otherwise, there may not be a more gifted running back in the draft.

Leonard Fournette, LSU (Stats, measureables and profile)

A devastating, downhill, between-the-tackles runner, Fournette is not a prototypical West Coast back. Can become a weapon in the passing attack with work, but is not uncomfortable catching passes or in protection as is. May be off the board before Eagles pick.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (Stats, measureables and profile)

Arguably the best all-purpose back in the draft. McCaffrey has a smooth, patient running style, tremendous vision, and is an elite receiver out of the backfield. Returns kicks and punts. Concerns over durability raised, though it’s unclear why.

 

WIDE RECEIVER

Corey Davis, Western Michigan (Stats, measureables and profile)

The most prolific receiver in NCAA Division I/FBS history, Davis possesses prototypical size and strength, isn't afraid to go over the middle, and can make a defender miss or break a tackle. Polished route-runner who doesn't drop many passes.

John Ross, Washington (Stats, measureables and profile)

Set the all-time record for fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Scouting Combine history. Defensive backs better give a cushion, or they'll get burned. Dangerous kickoff returner, too. History of injuries -- especially lower body -- and diminutive size are concerns.

Mike Williams, Clemson (Stats, measureables and profile)

Big, physical receiver who's at his best when the football is up for grabs. Williams is dangerous at every level of the field, but especially deep and inside the red zone. No issues going over the middle and making contested catches.

 

TIGHT END

O.J. Howard, Alabama (Stats, measureables and profile)

With receptions for 314 yards and 3 touchdowns in two national championship games, Howard dominated on the big stage. Rare combination of wide receiver-running back athleticism in a tight end's body. May be off the board before Eagles pick.

David Njoku, Miami

Outstanding production in 2016, but limited body of work overall. Njoku possesses the size and athleticism to be a receiving threat, particularly in the red zone. Drops are an issue and needs a lot of work as a blocker.

 

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Garrett Bolles, Utah

Tremendous athleticism for an offensive lineman and flashes a mean streak, but play strength is an issue. With just one season in the FBS, Bolles still has room to develop, although he also turns 25 this year.

Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin (Stats, measureables and profile)

Successfully made the jump from Division III to Wisconsin, earning first-team All-American distinction in lone season. A sound technician, Ramczyk projects as a left tackle, though he lacks ideal length. Passion for football also a question mark.

 

OFFENSIVE GUARD

Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

Likely to move inside after starting at left tackle. Lamp has experience at guard as well, so the position change isn't difficult to project. Dominated the competition in the C-USA conference, but the NFL might be a different story.

 

DEFENSIVE END

Derek Barnett, Tennessee (Stats, measureables and profile)

One of the most productive pass rushers in NCAA history, Barnett wins at the point of attack with a combination of strength, motor and sophisticated technique. Big frame and impressive agility and bend, but lacks explosion or high-end straight-line speed.

Taco Charlton, Michigan (Stats, measureables and profile)

At 6-foot-6, 277 pounds, Charlton's size is a huge draw. Difficult to move off of the line of scrimmage and can collapse the pocket, but only a one-year starter who was inconsistent and doesn't possess great speed off the edge.

Charles Harris, Missouri

While not especially physically imposing or explosive, Harris was a disruptive force in 2015, finishing second in the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss. Numbers dropped off last season after scheme change, but he can still make plays in the backfield (12 TFL, 9.0 SK).

Takkarist McKinley, UCLA (Stats, measureables and profile)

Only one 4-3 edge defender timed faster than McKinley in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 scouting combine. Needs to add strength and more pass-rush moves to his repertoire, but his speed could be especially enticing in the wide nine.

 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Malik McDowell, Michigan State (Stats, measureables and profile)

Intriguing combination of size and speed for an interior lineman, but production dipped in 2016. While an ankle injury may have been to blame, McDowell’s effort has been called into question. Could line up at end from time to time.

 

LINEBACKER

Reuben Foster, Alabama (Stats, measureables and profile)

Known for hard hits, Foster combines physicality with the athleticism to run sideline to sideline. Shows potential as a run defender and pass rusher, but did little in coverage. Injuries, poor tackling form and a string of off-field incidents are concerns. May be off the board before Eagles pick.

Haason Reddick, Temple

Ridiculous production last season with 22.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 1 interception and 3 forced fumbles. Shift to linebacker in a 4-3 would be an adjustment, but at 6-foot-1, 237 pounds with 4.5 speed, there’s no reason Reddick couldn't.

 

CORNERBACK

Gareon Conley, Ohio State (Stats, measureables and profile)

A two-year starter, Conley has the size and speed to match up against and run with receivers on the perimeters. Quality tape and solid numbers backed up by combine performance. Experience with man and zone coverages. Needs improvement in run support.

Marlon Humphrey, Alabama (Stats, measureables and profile)

Physical corner with a broad frame to jam and re-route receivers at the line of scrimmage. Humphrey maintains tight coverage beyond the five-yard window. Aggressive in run support and knows how to finish. Could track the ball better in the air.

Kevin King, Washington (Stats, measureables and profile)

There may not be a more impressive physical specimen at corner. King is 6-foot-3, with the quickness, balance and agility to turn and run with receivers. Aggressive in run support. Intelligent and versatile, with experience outside, in the slot and at safety.

Tre’Davious White, LSU (Stats, measureables and profile)

Unrivaled experience with four years starting experience in the SEC. Durable, productive, and a leader on and off the field. Played outside and in the slot, in addition to returning punts. Decent size, though not ideal.

 

SAFETY

Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

Maybe more of a sub-package specialist than a pure safety, Peppers is an intriguing prospect. Lined up all over Michigan’s defense, including linebacker and nickel cornerback. Production wasn't impressive, indicating potential jack of all trades, master of none.

Eagles draft targets at No. 14: LSU CB Tre'Davious White

Eagles draft targets at No. 14: LSU CB Tre'Davious White

Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 192 pounds

2016: 35 TKL, 14 PD, 2 INT
2015: 44 TKL, 7 PD
2014: 33 TKL, 6 PD, 2 INT
2013: 55 TKL, 7 PD, 2 INT

40-yard dash: 4.47 seconds
Bench press: 16 reps
Vertical jump: 32.0 inches
Broad jump: 119.0 inches
3-cone drill: 6.90 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.32 seconds

Once again, there is very little consensus as to the best cornerback prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft. Yet, for some reason, Tre'Davious White is a name that keeps popping up for the Eagles at No. 14.

You won't find a corner with more and better collegiate experience -- that much is certain. White was a four-year starter, which in itself is almost unheard of, and at an SEC program known as a bit of a football factory, to boot. He was voted first-team all-conference and a consensus All-American as a senior, too, so it was merely a matter of durability. This was a quality, productive player.

White lined up on the outside and in the slot, which shows versatility. He returned punts as well, with three career touchdowns. And in addition to his tangible contributions on the field, White was a leader, earning the program's prestigious No. 18 jersey for his commitment to the team.

The Eagles have displayed an apparent attraction to LSU players in recent drafts. In 2013, it was defensive lineman Bennie Logan, another recipient of the No. 18. Then just last year, it was defensive back Jalen Mills. Both picks were made with Howie Roseman at the helm, and Mills was under current defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as well.

Those seemingly unrelated factors do not automatically indicate the Eagles will pursue White. Then again, even vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas was raving about the Tigers star at the Senior Bowl, making mention of both Mills and the No. 18 distinction.

White is an apparent fit in Schwartz's scheme as well. While taller, longer cornerbacks are in vogue across the NFL, Schwartz has frequently worked with covermen who are 6-0 and under, so size is not likely to be an issue. The ability to line up in the slot is also significant, as it means he doesn’t need to be pressed into a starting role if he's not ready, or can move inside in nickel packages.

There is an awful lot to like about White. Whether he's worth a first-round pick is the argument. He's ranked fourth at best among cornerbacks on most prospect lists, in a draft where there's little consensus and only one is expected to be taken before the Eagles are on the clock. No. 14 might be a stretch to those who treat such sheets as gospel.

Then again, there aren't many cornerbacks in the draft with a résumé quite like White's. Multiple prospects may have more "upside," but all White did was start and play almost every game for four seasons against SEC competition, and did so at a high level.

Furthermore, if the Eagles are enamored with White, round two may not be an option. If the club truly feels that there isn't another cornerback with his combination of skill, experience, fit and intangibles, you can't really argue against him at No. 14, when nobody agrees on how to rank these talents in the first place.

It's no wonder many have mocked White to the Eagles. They need a cornerback and have made it no secret they like this player and where he comes from. If his name is called at 14, it shouldn't come as a surprise, no matter where he's ranked.

 

Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
Alabama LB Reuben Foster
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington CB Kevin King
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
Washington WR John Ross
LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Clemson WR Mike Williams