Analyst: Alabama’s Foster risk worth taking

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — In the months since wrapping up his stellar collegiate career, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster has had a less than ideal pre-draft process. You could go as far to say it has been disastrous.

First, Foster had rotator cuff surgery that prohibited him from taking part in the NFL scouting combine. Still attending the event to take part in the medical evaluations and team interviews, he was sent home after an altercation with a worker at the hospital.

Things haven’t gotten better in recent weeks. First, reports surfaced Foster’s medical recheck hinted he might require a second surgery. This was followed up by news the linebacker failed a drug test at the combine for a diluted sample, which he’s blaming on hydrating following a bout of food poisoning.

For any team thinking about drafting Foster, that’s a lot of risk. But the potential reward, well, it’s immense. That’s why, despite all the red flags that have cropped up, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock still believes Foster will go in the first round.

“I don’t see him sliding all that far,” Mayock said. “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.

“I think the combine incident has been wiped clean by almost every team,” Mayock said. “I think that was way overdone and he should not have been sent home. That’s my opinion and most people in the league believe that. As for the diluted sample at the combine, that’s always really disappointing, has to be taken into consideration. I think the shoulder is apparently going to be OK, from a recheck perspective.”

If Foster were to slide to the Detroit Lions at No. 21, the team would face a difficult decision. Linebacker is a big need and Foster is an impact player at the position.

“The off-the-field things that a number of prospects have every year, you have to evaluate it and make the best decision you think for your football team,” general manager Bob Quinn said Thursday. “It’s something we spend a lot of time on.”

Foster, a unanimous All-American and Butkus Award winner, recorded 115 tackles for Alabama last season, including 13 for a loss and five sacks.

Projecting Taco

Mayock was also asked his opinion of former Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton, another potential fit for the Lions with the No. 21 pick.

“He’s intriguing,” Mayock said. “He’s got length, he’s got power, he’s got athletic ability. He doesn’t have the twitch. I wanted him to be (Cincinnati Bengals defensive end) Carlos Dunlop, because they’re very similar size. Carlos ran 4.72, Charlton ran 4.92.

“What you see on tape is what I saw at the combine,” Mayock continued. “He doesn’t quite have the twitch of an elite edge rusher. I think he’s more of a base 4-3 end. There’s nothing wrong with that. He can be a good football player that plays eight to 10 years in the league. I’ve got a second-round grade on him.”

Charlton was first-team All-Big Ten last season, with 40 tackles and 10 sacks for the Wolverines.

Twitter: @justin_rogers