San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster is one of the best players at his position, and he’s being recognized for it. Each week, Pro Football Focus posts their rankings of all NFL rookies, and for a long time, Foster wasn’t on the list due to his injuries. Now he’s sitting at No. 5 overall.
They give Foster a grade of 91.7 overall, which is the highest among all rookies they are grading. I’m not entirely sure why, then, they have him ranked fifth, behind cornerbacks Tre’Davious White and Marshon Lattimore and running backs Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. His grade is higher than all four of those, and as far as I can tell, no explanation is given.
Either way, they list their “Elite Stat” for Foster as him ranking fourth among all linebackers with an 11.4 run stop percentage. That’s pretty good, and a very useful stat to track. I’m not a fan of a lot of those kinds of things, but that one is easily trackable. He’s been extremely good off the snap and closing on runners before they can make it past the line of scrimmage.
Here is what they have to say about Foster:
Foster has been one of the best linebackers in football from the moment he stepped onto the field and if he had more snaps under his belt, there’s a good chance he’d be leading this race right now. He currently ranks fourth among linebackers in terms of overall grade and along with Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, Sean Lee and Luke Kuechly, he’s 1-of-5 linebackers to rank within the top-10 in both run defense and coverage grade. Foster has earned a positive grade on 20.8 percent of his snaps spent in run defense this season, a rate that leads all linebackers, and just 28.6 percent of the targets into his coverage have resulted in either a first down or touchdown, well below the league average of 36.2 percent. With Foster anchoring the defense – and a certain QB acquisition on the offensive side – the future looks bright in San Francisco.
Not only did they give Foster the above props, they listed another 49ers rookie as an honorable mention. And Solomon Thomas is ... not that player. Thomas hasn’t gotten much love from PFF, but then again, he hasn’t stood out that much.
Ahkello Witherspoon is the player. He’s come on strong over the past couple weeks. He’s fast, he closes hard on the ball-carrier, and he doesn’t get beaten badly in coverage. He’s shaping up to be a solid starter.