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2017 Draft Watch

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Ah, draft talk in October. Been a while since a Bengals season was basically over by Halloween. So, what poor sap will get selected by the Bengals with their (likely) top 16 pick and (possibly) top 10 pick? Glancing through a few mocks, the leading candidate is Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.



As evidenced by the fact that he was voted the SEC's Defensive Player of the Year, a unanimous All-American and led the national champs in tackles in 2015, there is no question that Reggie Ragland was the heart and soul of Alabama's linebacker corps.

But a funny thing happened along the way to Ragland earning the 41st overall selection of the 2016 NFL Draft. As scouts poured over the game film, it became increasingly obvious that the Tide's "other" inside linebacker, Foster, was by far and away the more athletic of the two.

As Ragland utilized his instincts, power and reliable open-field tackling to finish with a team-high 102 stops in '15, it was Foster often serving as Alabama's only true linebacker on passing downs, finishing second to Ragland with 73 tackles (including eight for loss) and behind only nickel cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick with nine pass breakups.

Ragland may have received the hardware (and deservedly so) but Foster could get the last laugh on draft day, when he trumps his former teammate as a first-round pick.

Like many Alabama players, Foster signed with the Tide as an elite prep prospect, earning consensus prep All-American honors and being ranked the top inside linebacker prospect in the country. He capped his prep career with an invitation to the 2013 Under Armour All-America game, where he was named Defensive MVP.

Despite the buzz, Foster had to wait his turn before seeing the field, only emerging as a full-time starter as a junior. While waiting for his turn at linebacker, Foster developed a reputation as a fierce hitter on special teams coverage units, registering 12 tackles as a true freshman in 2013 and 22 stops (including two for loss and a sack) as a sophomore before enjoying his breakout campaign at WILL linebacker in 2015.


At a rock solid 6-1, 240 pounds with broad shoulders, a trim middle and well-built limbs, Foster offers prototypical size for an inside linebacker role. His greatest attribute, however, is his pure explosiveness. Whether it be his outstanding sideline-to-sideline speed or the impact he generates with his collisions, Foster is a heat-seeking missile hell-bent on destruction.

Just as aggressive as he is athletic, Foster attacks would-be blockers in the running game, jolting opponents with a powerful punch that can leave them staggering. When blockers are successful in latching onto him, Foster shows impressive leg drive and balance to anchor, creating a pile runners have to avoid and easy tackle opportunities for teammates.

Foster is a true lights-out hitter, generating bone-rattling hits due to his acceleration and compact frame. He launches himself into ballcarriers, typically wrapping his arms securely, as well, for the flashy but efficient take-down.

Foster shows acute diagnosis skills. He takes sharp angles to the ball, often beating blockers to the action and surprising ballcarriers with his closing speed. Foster keeps his eyes locked onto the quarterback when in coverage, breaking quickly as the pass is released, often initiating contact with the intended receiver just as the ball arrives.

WEAKNESSES: At times, Foster appears too athletic and aggressive for his own good. His sharp pursuit angles leave little room for error and, at times, he can get a little too far over his skis, flailing his arms to keep his balance while throttling down to change direction.

Savvy quarterbacks can manipulate Foster with their eyes and he'll lose track of receivers around him, closing the gap between them only after the ball is being thrown. While this can result in some big collisions (and passes broken up), Foster can improve his coverage with greater route awareness and patience.

To this point, Foster's calling card has been his explosive hits, but he has to be careful about lowering his head when tackling. Further, he remains unpolished as a pass rusher. While Reggie Ragland often was asked to rush the quarterback in 2015, Foster typically remained out in coverage, only occasionally blitzing. Foster's power and aggression shine through when rushing the quarterback, but he is largely reliant on a simple bull rush or shoulder dip, at this time.

IN OUR VIEW: Foster is a more explosive athlete than former teammate Reggie Raglans, something he demonstrated mostly on special teams over his first two seasons while he waited his turn behind C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest. Highly aggressive, athletic and a big hitter, Foster could push for top 100 consideration in 2017.

--Rob Rang (@robrang), 9/19/16

Also on the radar, Missouri DE/OLB Charles Harris.


Top NFL Draft Prospects: Charles Harris is Mizzou's next stud D-lineman

The 6-3, 255-pound redshirt junior is ready to extend the Tigers' pipeline of NFL talent

by Rob Rang

The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Aug 01, 2016 • 2 min read

With NFL draft picks Shane Ray and Markus Golden playing ahead of him, Charles Harris had to wait his turn at Missouri. He rewarded the Tigers for their patience last season, however, erupting for 56 tackles, including 18.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a redshirt sophomore, his first season as a full-time starter.

Harris has gained approximately 20 pounds of muscle since signing with Missouri as a highly-regarded two-sport (basketball and football) athlete. He redshirted in 2013 and only saw spot action a year later, starting one game (when Golden was injured) and finishing the season with a total of 19 tackles, including four for loss and two sacks. Optimism was high that Harris would break out once given the opportunity, especially after he recorded a then-career high four tackles (including his first sack) in the start against Indiana.

It didn't take long for Harris to emerge as one of the SEC's best pass rushers in 2015. He was a terror against Arkansas State, registering six tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks in that contest, alone. Harris didn't just feast upon lower level competition. Later, he posted nine tackles (and a sack) against Georgia and seven tackles (including 1.5 for loss) against Tennessee.

In fact, Harris finished the year with multiple tackles for loss in nine of Mizzou's 12 games. His 18.5 tackles for loss ranked second in the SEC to Texas A&M superstar Myles Garrett, who played in 13 games last season. Harris and the Tigers only played 12.

Though he was also asked to drop back into coverage and slide inside to defensive tackle, on occasion, Harris predominately played right defensive end (against the left tackle) in 2015. Whether out of the two or three point stance, Harris fires off the ball, giving would-be blockers a legitimate speed threat to worry about. His burst forces tackles wide and Harris complements his speed with an effective spin counter back inside, showing lateral agility and balance.

He locates the ball quickly and pursues the ball with passion, including far downfield. Harris looks comfortable rushing the passer out of the two point stance and can flip his hips and change directions quickly, demonstrating the kind of athleticism to potentially handle some linebacker duties, as well.

Harris wins with his explosive burst and agility to elude pass blockers but he's also surprisingly strong, keeping his butt low and his limbs locked out to anchor in the running game. He latches onto ball-carriers attempting to run past him, showing the strength to pull them down while fending off blockers.

The primary thing scouts want to see from Harris in 2016, of course, is evidence that last season was not a fluke. Now the target for each opponent's blocking scheme, Harris will have to prove that he can handle double-teams. While athletic, Harris struggled with cut-blocks last season, failing to recognize them quickly enough and too often getting knocked to the turf.

While last year was certainly an impressive starting debut for Harris, NFL scouts are eager to see more. The expectations of greatness along the defensive line are high at Missouri, with five Top 60 picks coming from this position since 2011.

Fortunately, based on his lightning-quick first step, versatility and high-revving motor, Harris appears ready to build upon his flashy 2015 campaign and continue Missouri's impressive pipeline to the NFL.

Other names getting mentioned:

Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Cam Robertson, LT, Alabama

Adoree Jackson, CB,USC

Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama

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Foster sounds like a significant upgrade over FNR, and with Maualuga turning 31 in the final year of his contract next year, it would be the perfect time to groom a replacement. But Marvin has not been keen on LB in the first round. I don't think they've taken one in his time here unless you count Pollak.

DE would be a no-brainer pick. Hunt is a FA after this year and hasn't given much reason to stick. MJ looks like he's done and cutting him frees up $3 million in cap space. A guy like Harris who can cover and slide inside would seem tailor made for a Bengals team that likes to have personnel flexibility on D.

Corner is always a possibility but even if Dre leaves they have WJ3 in the wings. Bengals won't take a safety in the first.

If the take an OT fans will burn down PBS.

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Foster looks good.  What you say about Marvin not taking any 1st round LBs may be true, but possibly he and Mike are watching our linebacker play this year and reevaluating that draft strategy.  

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