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Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster visiting Bengals

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Despite some setbacks this offseason, Reuben Foster is still considered one of the top prospects in this year’s draft and a legitimate target for the Bengals with the 9th overall pick.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most talked about candidates for the Bengals’ No. 9 overall pick, Reuben Foster, is finally making his first appearance in Cincinnati. Multiple draft analysts have considered him a likely target for the Bengals, as arguably the best linebacker in this year’s draft. Bengals fans can’t help but think of the possibilities involving a tandem of Foster and Vontaze Burfict in the linebacker corps. Now, the Bengals’ coaches will have a chance to see what he brings to the table first hand when he visits Cincinnati this month.

Heading into the draft, Foster is noted as the top linebacker, from a talent perspective. His fearsome hitting style, outstanding athleticism, and brutish, spartan mentality make him an extremely appealing prospect. In addition, his refined tackling and coverage abilities are enough to convince any team of his potential as a pro. In three seasons at Alabama, he recorded 211 tackles (23 for a loss), seven sacks, and nine pass deflections. There is no question he has what it takes to succeed at the NFL level.

Unfortunately, scouts are keeping their eyes out for red flags as much as they are for anything else, given Foster’s history. On one hand, he has had notable issues with a shoulder injury and character issues that caused him to be asked to leave the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. He was asked to leave as a result of a confrontation that started during the medical checkup portion of the Combine, which doesn’t look great to NFL teams who are considering paying him large amounts of money and will expect him to cooperate during physicals.

The Bengals could certainly use help at the linebacker position. Rey Maualuga’s vacant spot will likely be filled by new veteran linebacker Kevin Minter, but it seems the Bengals are banking on former third round pick Nick Vigil to fill in at the WILL spot. In theory, he could be a solid addition to the Bengals’ front-seven long-term. But, there is no guarantee he will be ready to be thrust into the starting position so soon. A highly developed player with an alpha mentality like Foster could take the reigns at the position and add a fearsome element to the Bengals’ defensive scheme, an element Vigil is not expected to bring.

One of the most feared and highly-touted linebackers in college football, Foster could be the missing piece in the Bengals’ linebacker corps that makes the unit go from ‘pretty good’ to ‘great’. It is exactly the kind of impact you look for from a top-10 draft pick. It is true that Foster has had his fair share of red flags before heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. But, then again, so did Burfict, who was once considered a first-round prospect before falling out of the draft completely. The Bengals simply aren’t going to find many game-changers in this draft like Foster, so it makes plenty of sense why they are still making the effort to scout him and assess his value to their No. 9 overall pick.