For the first time in a long time the linebacker position isn’t a glaring weakness on the New York Giants’ roster. Protected by a stout defensive line and lock-down secondary, the Giants’ linebackers played much better in 2016 than in previous years and it would follow that their draft priorities should be elsewhere.
However, it has often been said that “good” is the enemy of “great”. If the Giants were to find themselves with the opportunity to draft a player who is a definite upgrade for the weakest unit on their defense, shouldn’t they at least consider him?
Alabama’s Reuben Foster is the consensus top linebacker (non-edge rusher) in the draft. However, the revelation that an injury will keep him from working out at the NFL Scouting Combine, the relative devaluation of his position, along with a deep draft at more valuable defensive positions, could cause him to slide some in the draft.
Could all of that conspire to make him a Giant come May?
Height - 6 feet, 1 inch (listed)
Weight - 228 pounds (listed)
40 Time - 4.72sec (projected - injured)
- Exceptionally athletic linebacker. Huge range and is everywhere on the field
- Fast in space, but explodes into another gear when closing on a ball carrier
- Quick to diagnose plays and his first step is usually accurate. Rarely wastes movement.
- Explosive tackler.
- Shows strength to stand up to linemen in the run game.
- Aggressive angles can break blocking schemes.
- “3 Down” linebacker who can defend the run, drop into coverage, or rush the passer as a blitzer
- Occasionally too aggressive. Athleticism will let him recover, but occasionally takes himself out of plays.
- Surrounded by highly talented players. Will he be able to play as fast with a more even talent level?
- Can be a bit hesitant before committing. Could get caught out of position as the game speeds up at the next level.
- Will miss the workout portion of the Combine after rotator cuff surgery. Teams will have to double-check his medicals
Does He Fit With The Giants?
The Giants might feel good about B.J. Goodson, but Foster is almost exactly the type of linebacker their defense needs. Athletic, aggressive, and a true 3-down player who came out of a complex and well coached defense. His range and athleticism would help lock down the middle of the field, his run defense would play terrifically with the Giants’ stout defensive line. Also, Steve Spagnuolo has used a lot of linebacker blitzes (even discounting the times Devon Kennard has rushed as a defensive lineman), which would only be made more effective by Foster’s speed and explosiveness.
Of course the Giants would need to pay particular attention to his medical reports if he happens to fall to them. However Foster would be an instant starter who could probably play the weakside in base defense, slide inside in nickel packages, never have to come off the field, and be the defensive field general Spags’ defense REALLY needs.
Big Board Rankings
Big Blue View - 14th overall
Mocking The Draft - N/A
CBS Sports - 7th overall
Draft Countdown - 21st overall
Draft Tek - 12th overall
As a player on the field, Reuben Foster shouldn’t get anywhere near where the New York Giants are drafting.
While off-ball linebackers may slip a bit in the draft, athletic, rangy, versatile, and productive ones tend not to. He isn’t a pure pass rusher, but as his 5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss indicate, he is perfectly capable of coming downhill and disrupting behind the line of scrimmage.
If there’s a weakness to his game, it is that while he plays a fast and aggressive brand of football, he doesn’t quite seem to trust his instincts. There sometimes seems to be a beat of hesitation while he verifies what he sees before launching into motion. While his athleticism and the quality of his teammates afforded him that beat in college, it might slow him down at the next level. However, it could also go away with more starting experience (only two years of starting experience in college).
If he DOES happen to slip to the Giants, they should absolutely be interested, but they should also be cautious. There is some speculation that his violently explosive hits may have conspired with poor tackling technique to lead to shoulder issues. That will need to be thoroughly investigated by any team that drafts him. However, if he just happens to fall due to the glut of talented edge rushers and defensive backs -- and his medical report comes back without long-term issues -- the Giants would be foolish to not pounce on him.