FOXBORO – We mocked up running backs for weeks, then the Patriots made a mockery of the mocks and passed on all of them.
Except for D.J. Foster. The hybrid running back/wide receiver from Arizona State was snagged as an undrafted free agent on Saturday evening of the NFL draft. The phone call in which Foster told his grandmother where he would play pro football was recorded on camera and served as an emotional slice of reality TV.
“I forgot I was mic'd up at the time,” Foster told media on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots offensive rookies were introduced. “I walked around to the back alley and I heard my grandma’s voice and I kind of broke down. Throughout my whole life, this is a dream a lot of us have and to be able to get to that point and talk to Coach (Bill) Belichick and understand where my future is and go to the next level. That was an exciting moment for me and my family.”
Foster said he didn’t sweat the process, despite the uncertainty that looms when 250-plus players came off the board without his name being called.
“I went through the whole process with open arms and took it day by day,” he said. “I had a lot of family support around me and I knew how this process was gonna go. Some guys have an idea, some guys like me, you don’t know where you could fall but I’m so happy where I ended up. I’m here now and part of this organization and I’m very excited to go forth with that.
“I had about five minutes (to make the decision),” said Foster. “This organization speaks for itself. For me, growing up, hearing about this organization, talking to (Belichick), I just loved his message to me and I was excited to join. It just felt like the right place for me and the place that I wanted to be. I was talking to a few teams but when I talked to Coach Belichick, I took a step back, talked to my family and figured out what’s right for me in my life as a young adult so I felt like it was the best decision for me and I’m so happy to be here.”
Foster isn’t very big – 5-10, 193 pounds. But he’s waterbug quick. His three-cone time at the Combine was fourth among wideouts (6.75 seconds) and first among running backs. His 20-yard shuttle time (4.07) was first (tied with Braxton Miller). He had the fourth-fastest 60-yard shuttle (11.12).
By comparison, James White’s three-cone was 7.05. Julian Edelman’s was 6.62.
Foster was a pass-catching running back for three seasons at Arizona State before making a conversion to being predominantly a pass-catcher. He had 222 receptions in four seasons with the Sun Devils. After carrying 194 times as a junior, he ran it just 55 his final season.
Where do the Patriots have him slotted?
“We haven’t really talked about that,” said Foster. “Right now, I’m working with Coach (Ivan) Fears and the running back group. Right now, I’m learning about the organization, the culture of this organization and just learning my teammates.”
The Patriots will likely try to develop foundational knowledge at both spots for Foster. They know he can catch. How well does he read defenses and blocking assignments? Can he compete in blitz pickup? Can he run with any power between the tackles? If the Patriots get affirmative answers there, they can create a two-way player.
“Moving to receiver helped me to broaden my view and perspective of the game,” said Foster. “I learned a lot as a receiver. I learned a lot being in the receiving room. Understanding defenses better as a receiver and it overall helps me as a running back. I definitely think it benefited me in the long run. I have some diversity. I bring two different things to the game. I’m just going to be a tough guy that can come here and is ready to play what they want me to play, special teams, whatever they want.”