PFF scouting report: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Name: Reuben Foster
Position fit: ILB
Stats to know: Led all FBS linebackers in run-stop percentage in the 2016 season.
What he does best:
- Flashes the lateral agility and speed to run with tight ends, as well as chase down run plays from the back side.
- Has the speed to get depth, also capable of flipping his hips and locating the ball in coverage. Tied for the national lead with seven pass breakups in 2015.
- Has the ability to take on bigger blockers at the line of scrimmage—can stand up at the point of attack, as well as shed to make the play.
- Stays low and square to the point of attack—this allows him to wrap up and strike through the ball carrier, as well as establish leverage and hold his ground against bigger blockers.
- Needs to diversify his attack, but has the quickness to be an effective blitzer on interior pass rushes.
- Excels at sifting through the trash to find the ball.
- Can beat blockers with quickness and with his hands.
- Tries to run around blocks at times; takes him out of his gap assignments on occasion.
- Needs to use his hands when rushing the passer—will at times try to simply run by interior blockers.
- When he gets overly aggressive, Foster tends to leave his feet and will miss tackles; he missed 16 in 2016.
- Too often attacks the line of scrimmage with his arms at his sides, allowing blockers to quickly latch on and seal him out of the play.
Player Comparison: Patrick Willis, LB, 49ers (2007–2014 seasons)
High praise, but it’s a reflection on Foster’s ability to do everything. He has the top-end athleticism that Willis had, which allows him to play sideline-to-sideline and cover running backs, tight ends and slot receivers, as well as the strength and physicality needed to consistently take on and beat blocks on inside runs.
Foster is a complete prospect, and should be considered among the elite players in this draft class. He graded well in all three phases of defense, most notably posting the highest overall and run-defense grades among FBS LBs, as well as the eighth-highest pass-coverage grade among LBs with at least 300 coverage snaps played. His athleticism is evident in all phases, as he has the quickness and change of direction needed to be an effective pass-rusher (he posted 22 total pressures in 2016 on just 93 rushes). He excels in all forms of coverage, but most notably in man, as his speed and closing ability allow him to consistently stay with backs and TEs and make plays on the ball. Against the run, he does an excellent job of staying square to the line of scrimmage, which allows him to move laterally to the boundary and effectively adjust to cutbacks. He demonstrates the ability to take on blockers at the point of attack and either stand them up to clog up the hole or shed them altogether to finish the play. At times, though, Foster will try to run around blocks and not use his hands to set them. While the importance of inside linebackers in the NFL has been, to an extent, lessened by the modern game, Foster’s rare ability in all phases means he is worth top-10 consideration.