Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
At a Glance
Weight: 229 lbs
Arm Length: 32 3/8"
Hands: 10 ¼"
The 2016 Bengals
Who Dey? Well, the Bengals entered 2016 as one of the NFL's "bubble" teams, teams that many fans believed had a chance to come out of the regular season with a winning record and a playoff berth. However, the start of the 2016 season was a good indicator of some of the issues the Bengals would face throughout the entire season.
Offensive Coordinator Mike Zimmer left town to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and the Bengals' coaching staff received a moderate makeover from top to bottom. Many key offensive and defensive players, including Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Reggie Nelson, and Leon Hall, left to join new teams during the offseason. In return, the Bengals signed relatively few big names to fill in the holes left by these players' departure, highlighted by Brandon LaFell, Taylor Mays, and Karlos Dansby.
The Bengals drafted cornerback William Jackson III in the first round draft, who while had promise, suffered a pectoral tear on September 4th, ending his 2016 season. Throughout the season, the Bengals suffered even more turmoil, being without star linebacker Vontaze Burfict for the first three games of the season due to suspension and losing superstar wide receiver AJ Green for almost the entire second half of the season.
In short, the 2016 season was certainly a disappointment for Bengals fans, who witnessed their team go 6-9-1 and exit the season with a wide array of questions and injuries.
The 2017 Bengals
Like most teams who end their seasons with a losing record, the Bengals are looking to start a fresh season in 2017 and try to overcome some of the adversity they faced from their 2016 disaster.
However, history is seeming to repeat itself for the Bengals, as good talent on the team have opted to take their skills elsewhere, most notably major offensive line centerpieces Andrew Whitworth and Keven Zeitler. The Bengals also opted to release veteran middle linebacker Rey Maualaga recently. The loss of these three players not only pokes even more holes in the Bengals' roster, but leaves the Bengals without key leadership pieces they've relied on for multiple years.
The good news is that the Bengals were able to retain some of their free agency talent, particularly rising cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. The Bengals also brought in free agent linebacker Kevin Minter from the Cardnials on a one-year deal to fill in Maualaga's gap temporarily, infusing some talent along their front seven.
The NFL Draft: The Bengals' Team Needs
Offensive Line: One of the biggest identified issues of the Cincinnati Bengals is their gaping hole of an offensive line. Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth were major cogs for the Bengal's front line, and their departure leaves the center of the line in disarray. However, the 2017 NFL Draft contains few, if any, blue chip Offensive Tackle or Offensive Guard prospects, so drafting an offensive lineman with the 9th pick may be shallow on value. However, players like Ryan Ramczyk, Garett Bolles or Cam Robinson could be targets after a trade down. The good news is that quality interior offensive linemen can be drafted in the early-mid round range.
Linebacker: With the departure of Rey Maualaga and the ever-present issues revolving around the talented Vontaze Burfict, the Bengals' linebacking corps could use some major talent. As it currently stands, newly acquired Kevin Minter is expected to step into the 4-3 MLB role immediately (coming from a 3-4 defense), and Marquis Flowers, who is more of a hybrid Safety/Linebacker product, is the starting SAM linebacker. Alabama's Reuben Foster or Vanderbilt's Zack Riddick could be the pick here.
Wide Receiver: Many people think of A.J. Green as the Bengals' wide receiving corps, and thus tend to overlook the rest of the cast, but the Bengals could use a high upside wide receiver to compliment their star wide receiver. A.J. Green is also turning 29, coming off of injury, and is entering contract negotiation season soon, so some talent at this position would be optimal. Corey Davis makes the most sense here from a complimentary standpoint, but Mike Williams could also intrigue here despite having a similar skill set to A.J. Green (minus the sheer top tier athleticism).
Other Options: DE, TE
I was between Mike Williams and Reuben Foster with this pick, as both players have tremendous value for the Bengals at #9 while filling in some major holes. These two are also arguably blue chip prospects that could end up completely turning their selective units around. In the end, however, much of the Bengals' current and future investments are heavily on the defensive side of the ball, and without leadership and (most importantly) talent along the linebacking front, their defensive scheme will fall apart. Reuben Foster was thus the pick over Williams in this scenario.
Reuben Foster: The Prospect
Reuben Foster is simply the latest model of Alabama linebackers to come from the Tide, following in the footsteps of Reggie Ragland, C.J. Mosely, and Don'ta Hightower, and Courtney Upshaw. However, many prospects believe that Foster is actually a better prospect than any of these Alabama record setters, showing extreme athleticism from the 4-3 linebacker position and having significantly impressive stats from his time as a platoon member and starter for the Tide.
Reuben Foster is all about that good, rangy, sideline-to-sideline speed you want to see from a linebacker prospect. Foster received top marks in both run stopping and pass protection, showing teams the tantalizing skill set he brings to the table. Rebuen Foster is also a fierce player and a nasty hitter, being credited as the top prospect for big hits and good form tackling. As one scout put it: Foster plays at around 235, hits like 250, and runs like 220. Foster also has an amazing potential when it comes to his size, as he once played at 255 earlier in his career to similar results, yet slimmed down to gain more speed. Many scouts have compared him to such players as Patrick Willis, Bobby Wagner, and - yes - Vontaze Burfict. With Myles Garret being touted as the best defensive prospect in this draft, it's Foster that seems to be turning heads with his game tape.
Foster, however, does come with some issues. Off the field concerns, particularly regarding the now notorious "hospital altercation" during the NFL Combine, has some teams worried about his potential for a leadership role. However, these issues appear to be minor, and should not impact his draft stock as much as the media reports (in my opinion). Foster also has some history with injuries, recently undergoing surgery to repair a tear that should sideline him for at least a month or so more. In terms of on the field issue, Foster is ultra athletic and has a mean streak, but these qualities sometimes lead to over-aggressiveness, and Foster tends to over-pursue targets. Furthermore, Foster also lacks polish as a pass rusher, having the tools to effectively disrupt offensive linemen but lacking extensive knowledge of pass rush techniques, particularly using his hands as a wedge.
Reuben Foster: The Fit
The Bengals are craving talent right now, and Reuben Foster provides it for them. As previously noted, the linebacking corps is one of the Bengals' area of needs, and Foster fills up one of their major holes nicely. Foster comes from a 4-3 system and is projected to play either MLB or WLB (with the WLB position seen as his best fit). This pick would either place Foster in the MLB role or allow Burfict to move over to MLB, with Minter sliding over to SLB (a more natural fit for him). Foster is a perfect scheme fit. Foster's athleticism will be the perfect compliment to Vontaze Burfict's tenacity and fierceness, and if both players can learn to hone their passion for the game, the Bengals could have one of the strongest and most athletic front sevens in the NFL (which pairs nicely with their already-strong secondary).
2017 BGN Mock Draft Order
1) Browns (JALupowitz): Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
2) 49ers (sports00fan00): Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford
3) Bears (gubby): Jonathan Allen, DT, Alabama
4) Jaguars (TheWhalwing): Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
5) Titans (drc242): Jamal Adams, S, LSU
6) Jets (boomorbust): Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
7) Chargers (NowWhat?): Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
8) Panthers (B-Potts): Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
9) Bengals (Kiko’s Delivery Service): Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
10) Bills (jimmyrustler):
11) Saints (NotSoSlick):
12) Browns (Straight Edge Sid):
13) Cardinals (Paulie97):
14) Eagles (ablesser88):
15) Colts (mconner96):
16) Ravens (The Man, The Myth, the Matthews!):
17) Washington (kbruneault):
18) Titans (mchiodo):
19) Buccaneers (ei78):
20) Broncos (NVEaglesShark):
21) Lions (Shark Fighter):
22) Dolphins (J. Wil):
23) Giants (BigWardy59):
24) Raiders (big DUB):
25) Texans (GotFunds):
26) Seahawks (Rogmcc23):
27) Chiefs (B1G Cat):
28) Cowboys (RegalEagle):
29) Packers (Wutang_):
30) Steelers (General_Lee12):
31) Falcons (SirJon):
32) Saints (Huffs_cellmate):