Reuben Foster [LB] Alabama
While No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas provides the 49ers with another supremely talented interior rusher, in terms of pure talent, Foster was their best pick.
There has been concern that Foster will need a second surgery on a shoulder injury, as well as some off-the-field issues that led him to slip to a point where the 49ers could trade back into the first round and take him at No. 31.
But reading the MMQB’s Peter King’s piece from inside the 49ers’ draft room, San Francisco’s medical staff do not seem at all worried about Foster’s shoulder.
And, if all is clear on that front, then the 49ers, who are clearly comfortable with Foster’s character, have potentially stolen a player who can develop into one of the best linebackers in the league.
Prior to taking Foster, San Francisco was set to go into the 2017 season with free-agent signing Malcolm Smith and Ray-Ray Armstrong as NaVorro Bowman’s running mates in the middle of the field.
Bowman, coming off a torn Achilles, needs a more athletic presence next to him – Foster provides that.
He can chase sideline to sideline and attack downhill, flying to the football with impressive closing quickness and hammering ball-carriers at the line of scrimmage.
What makes Foster so valuable, though, is that he can hold up in coverage — even matching up against slot receivers on occasion — and excel as a blitzer.
At their peak Patrick Willis and Bowman were both very good in coverage and very good as blitzers.
Bowman can still make an impact as a blitzer but, with his injuries, his play in coverage has fallen off.
Foster can have an immediate impact by making up for Bowman’s deficiency in that area and, providing he learns from the 49ers veteran, has all the tools to eventually replace him as the leader of the defense.