One potential candidate for the No. 9 pick is on the mend due to shoulder surgery that will keep him off-the-field for several months.
Alabama middle linebacker Reuben Foster recently had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder and will be sidelined four months, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
Foster's projected recovery is about four months, which is well ahead of the start of training camps in July.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 13, 2017
Foster, the top graded inside linebacker for many teams, will not be able to participate in drills during next month's NFL Combine.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) February 13, 2017
Though Foster will be sidelined for the NFL Scouting Combine, he will still be present to do interviews with teams, which should include the Bengals, who could certainly use an upgrade at middle linebacker.
Foster just wrapped up his Alabama career with 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 2016. He’s the kind of complete linebacker who could impact the Bengals in a huge way, even as a rookie.
Foster is not just some hard-hitting run-stuffer. He is viewed by many as the top linebacker in this year's NFL Draft. He is a true three-down backer who has the coverage skills and sideline-to-sideline speed to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense on both the inside and outside.
However, this news of pre-draft surgery is very concerning, especially since Alabama prospects are notorious for entering the NFL banged up and injury prone for the early parts of their pro careers. The Bengals are no strangers to this with Dre Kirkpatrick and Andre Smith combining for 21 missed games during their rookie seasons due to injuries suffered in training camp.
Just last year, Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland tore his ACL in training camp after the Bills drafted him in Round 2. All of this makes Foster’s injury a lot more concerning than if he was coming from any other school.
The Bengals need their selection with the No. 9 pick to make an impact early and often if this team is going to rebound from a 6-9-1 season. I still like Foster a lot for the Bengals, but this definitely hurts his chances of being the No. 9 pick.
And until the Bengals cut Rey Maualuga and don’t re-sign Karlos Dansby, I’m passing on linebacker at No. 9, especially when guys like Leonard Fournette or Derek Barnett could be on the board.