Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Weight: 229 pounds
2016: 115 TKL, 13.0 TFL, 5.0 SK, 2 PD
2015: 73 TKL, 8.0 TFL, 1.0 SK, 7 PD
2014: 23 TKL, 2.0 TFL, 1.0 SK
When was the last time the Eagles had a linebacker who truly made opposing players afraid to go over the middle of the field?
Big hits and intimidation are the M.O. of Reuben Foster, who some argue might be the best defensive prospect this side of Myles Garrett in the 2017 NFL draft. In fact, there's a very real possibility the 2016 Butkus Award winner may be long gone before the Eagles' pick rolls around.
Although, the chances Foster is still on the board at No. 14 may be more likely than once thought. Attitude and off-field issues have come under increasing scrutiny since the unanimous All-American was dismissed from the NFL Scouting Combine after a heated argument with a doctor. While he didn’t miss a game over the past two seasons, a laundry list of injuries could be another red flag, as is a flawed tackling form that lends itself to concussions and neck stingers.
Even the extent of the impact Foster will have at the next level is open to debate. The 23-year-old didn't force a single fumble or record an interception in three seasons for the Crimson Tide. He didn't make many plays in coverage, period, recording just nine career pass breakups. Foster did flash potential as a pass-rusher with 5.0 sacks as a senior, but wouldn't be asked to blitz very much under Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Still, all of that is nitpicking to some extent. Foster has the bulk to hold up behind Schwartz's wide-nine front, the athleticism to run sideline to sideline, and a physicality that commands respect from teammates and opposition alike. So when was the last time the Eagles got that from a linebacker?
That probably isn't entirely fair to Jordan Hicks or Nigel Bradham, both of whom enjoyed Pro Bowl-caliber seasons in 2016. Between the two of them, the Eagles had 187 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 16 pass breakups, 6 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles.
The Eagles aren't exactly hurting for help at the top of the depth chart. Hicks has a lengthy medical history, yet managed to play all 16 last season. Bradham has only one year remaining on his contract and is mired in legal issues, so perhaps he’s the odd man out eventually -- though that would be a shame, because he fits brilliantly within the scheme.
Could Foster replace Bradham? Keep in mind, the Eagles used only three linebackers roughly a quarter of the time in 2016 -- a sign of the times in the pass-happy NFL -- and may not want to invest too heavily as long as the starters are set.
Even if Foster is a possibility for the Eagles at 14, doesn't his very availability set off alarm bells? This is a potential top-five talent we're talking about, and every spot he slides should raise the question of Why?
Foster certainly looks like the type of player the Eagles could drop in the middle of their defense and would be more than capable of racking up triple-figure tackles for the better part of a decade. Then again, are the Eagles really looking for that, and will his production always be so limited? Will Foster be suiting up 16 times a year, or will injuries and other unforeseen circumstances keep him off the field?
Assuming Foster is even around at 14, does he so significantly upgrade the linebacker spot over a duo of Hicks and Bradham that it's worth ignoring greater needs at cornerback, running back and along the defensive line? All fair questions, which the Eagles might be grateful they don’t have to answer if Foster is taken in the top-10 after all.
Other Eagles draft targets at No. 14:
Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
Michigan DE Taco Charlton
Ohio State CB Gareon Conley
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
Western Michigan WR Corey Davis
Alabama LB Reuben Foster
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
Washington CB Kevin King
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell
UCLA DE Takkarist McKinley
Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
Washington WR John Ross
LSU CB Tre'Davious White
Clemson WR Mike Williams