In the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, CardinalsSource will profile 30 draft prospects who could end up making their way to Arizona this offseason.
Player: Reuben Foster
Weight: 229 pounds
Arm length: 32 3/8 inches
Hand size: 10 1/4 inches
College stats: 2014: 23 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks, 2015: 73 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, 2016: 115 tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks
Strengths: A truly natural playmaker, Foster is as quick to react to key reads as any draft-eligible linebacker. What separates Foster from his competition, though, is his downhill playing style and his ability to not just run his feet through contact, but pound and sprint them through contract which allows him to square up his shoulder pads and deliver tremendous form tackles. When Foster sees a lane, he hits it as hard as possible and doesn't stop until he's dragged his responsibility to the ground. When you watch Foster, you can't help but think he's got the positional flexibility to play both Mike and Will in the Cardinals' scheme because he's rangy enough and moves laterally well enough to make plays sideline-to-sideline. And while it doesn't stand out immediately on his tape, Foster developed a great reputation for covering backs and tight ends in the open field against the pass and registered seven passes defended during his junior season. If Foster is able to translate those coverage skills to the next level while maintaining his attacking nature against the run, he could be an excellent pro for a long time.
Weaknesses: Though Foster demonstrated an outstanding ability to fly up and make plays at the line of scrimmage at the college level, he's susceptible to choosing the wrong lane and leaving gaps wide open when he reads his keys incorrectly. Our biggest concern for Foster is how well he'll react to play-action concepts and false reads in the NFL that are designed to confuse linebackers and take advantage of holes over the middle of the field. In Foster's position, he needs to be the most disciplined player on the defense, and it remains to be seen if he's able to do that. Another area of concern, and it's only slight, is that some of Foster's film reveals a tendency to go for a bigger hit instead of using his arms to wrap up. On these plays, Foster would also stop his feet and make himself susceptible to missing tackles, which is a weakness that NFL ball carriers will have the strength to exploit.
Foster's fit: The Cardinals' decision to sign Karlos Dansby this offseason to replace Kevin Minter makes drafting Foster less likely than it was before, but nevertheless, because Dansby is nearing the end of his career and Foster has such high upside, it wouldn't come as a great surprise if the organization selected Foster and allowed him to learn from a player Arizona considers a master of his trade. Foster has as high of an upside as any linebacker in this year's draft, and if he improves upon his technique, demonstrates an ability to react to key reads in the NFL quickly and doesn't lose any of his quickness, the Cardinals could have their Mike linebacker of the future for years to come. Another reason Foster is a potential fit for the Cardinals this year is because he could immediately help the team on special teams, especially on kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. Foster is an ideal cover man for special teams units and a physical presence who could develop into an asset as a blocker. Though organizations always want their first round selections to become more than just special teams players, head coach Bruce Arians often lets rookies serve as understudies and Foster could still help the team while waiting in the wings behind Dansby.