One of the most polarizing prospects in this year’s NFL Draft is Reuben Foster.
Regarded by most experts as the best overall linebacker in this draft, Foster just wrapped up his Alabama career with 115 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and five sacks in 2016. That earned him the Butkus Award, which goes to the top linebacker in college football, as well as a first-team All-SEC selection while earning game MVP honors in Alabama's SEC Championship win over Florida.
The 6-foot, 229-pound Foster is viewed by most experts as a top-10 prospect in this year's draft, and some believe he’s the second-best prospect behind only Myles Garrett. Foster 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.
Needless to say, Foster would be a great asset for the Bengals.
Here’s why Cincinnati should take Foster with the No. 9 overall pick:
- Foster is the best linebacker in this draft, period.
- The Bengals have one of the best NFL linebackers in Vontaze Burfict, but they’ve never had a good running mate for him to make this defense truly elite. Foster can be that.
- He’s not only an elite defender vs the run, but Foster also excels in coverage as much as any backer in this draft. That’s been a major hole in the Bengals’ linebacking corps for years now outside of Burfict.
- Speaking of, Burfict and projected starter Kevin Minter are set to hit unrestricted free agency in 2018, so Foster could prevent a major hole from arising at this position.
- Pro Football Focus ranks Foster No. 4 overall, while
- Sports Illustrated ranks Foster No. 2 overall and says his NFL comp is “Ryan Shazier with NaVorro Bowman upside.”
- PFF compares him to Patrick Willis.
- This is a thin linebacker class, and the dropoff between Foster and the next group of backers is significant. If the Bengals want a surefire upgrade here, Foster is their man.
- The Bengals play in a division that features Le’Veon Bell, who is 4-0 vs the Bengals in games he starts and finishes. Bell is the kind of back this defense struggles mightily against, and Foster would help even the playing field.
Here is why the Bengals should pass on Foster at No. 9:
- With Burfict, Minter, Vigil and Vinny Rey, the linebacker group is pretty crowded, making it hard for Foster to find the field in 2017.
- Foster was kicked out of the NFL Scouting Combine after a confrontation with a hospital worker.
- He’s recovering from shoulder surgery that hasn’t healed as fast as anticipated, which is a major red flag.
- Ignoring the long-term health concerns, Foster is now in danger of missing his first NFL training camp, as well as the start of the regular season. The Bengals need guys who can make an impact now, and it’s looking more and more like Foster won’t give them that in 2017.
- Did we mention he failed a drug test at the Scouting Combine?
Before this week, it seemed like a no-brainer that Foster was more than worthy of the No. 9 pick. Now, it looks like he may not even be worth a first-round pick. I don’t think his issues push him completely out of Round 1, but don’t expect Cincinnati to take him at No. 9.