Dallas Cowboys

Who is Reuben Foster and where does he fit in the draft?

Scouts love former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster’s sideline-to-sideline range, explosive tackling and leadership qualities, but teams might be concerned about his injury history and off-field issues.
Scouts love former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster’s sideline-to-sideline range, explosive tackling and leadership qualities, but teams might be concerned about his injury history and off-field issues. AP

Is Reuben Foster the player who won the Butkus Award after leading Alabama with 115 tackles? Or is he the guy who was sent home from the NFL Scouting Combine reportedly for physically threatening a hospital employee during medical evaluations?

Is Foster the guy who started all 15 games at weakside linebacker last season? Or is he the guy who had multiple shoulder stingers, a concussion, a left hand injury and underwent right rotator cuff surgery in February?

Is Foster the guy who committed to better eating habits and lost nearly 20 pounds before his senior season? Or is Foster the guy who admits the NFL notified him of a diluted urine sample, putting him into the league’s drug program?

“There are some red flags there,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said on a conference call last week. “I think the combine incident has been wiped clean by almost every team. I think that was way overdone, and the kid should not have been sent home. That’s my opinion, and most people in the league believe that.

“As far as the diluted sample at the combine, that’s always really disappointing and has to be taken into consideration. I think the shoulder is apparently going to be OK from a re-check perspective. I don’t see him sliding all that far. I think he’s a top-20 pick all day long in any draft. Could he have been a top-10 pick? He still might be a top-10 pick.”

Foster could become the first linebacker off the board, with Temple’s Haason Reddick and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham also projected as first-round selections. Though Foster is anything but a sure bet — because of his injury history and off-field concerns — scouts love his sideline-to-sideline range, explosive tackling and leadership qualities.

Foster had 222 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 11 pass breakups in 50 games (24 starts) in four seasons.

“He is a power athlete with range, diagnose skills and a true predator mentality, and if he stays disciplined and durable, Foster will start at a high level in the NFL for the next decade,” CBS draft analyst Dane Brugler said.

Overview

It’s a solid class, with good prospects deep into the fourth round. Three linebackers — Alabama’s Reuben Foster, Temple’s Haason Reddick and Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham — are expected to go in the first round.

Cowboys’ needs

Sean Lee didn’t make the Pro Bowl but was awarded All-Pro honors for the first time. Lee, the defense’s only star, made 145 tackles and 12 tackles for loss last season. Versatile Anthony Hitchens started every game at middle linebacker last season and made 78 tackles. The Cowboys could move him to the strongside, where Damien Wilson started six times and Kyle Wilber once in the seven times in 2016 they didn’t open in the nickel. The Cowboys drafted Jaylon Smith in the second round last year with hopes he could return in 2017 from a major knee injury. He is expected to play this season despite still wearing a brace for foot drop.

Top five

Reuben Foster, Alabama, 6-0, 229, N/A. Durability a concern, but he had 222 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and eight sacks in his 50-game career.

Haason Reddick, Temple, 6-1, 237, 4.52. A two-year starter at DE, he had 143 tackles, 46 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in his four-year career.

Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt, 6-3, 234, 4.67. In 36 games and 27 starts, he made 295 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss and six sacks and forced seven fumbles.

Jarrad Davis, Florida, 6-1, 238, 4.58. Injury history is a concern as he missed games in each of his four seasons, including two with season-ending injuries.

Duke Riley, LSU, 6-0, 232, 4.58. After three years on special teams, he started last season and made 144 tackles and 10 tackles for loss.

Sleeper

Ben Boulware, Clemson, 6-0, 238, 4.83. Scouts aren’t high on one of the stars of the national championship game, but he did make 352 tackles and 26 tackles for loss in his career.

Source: Heights, weights and 40 times were compiled from CBS Sports analyst Dane Brugler.

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