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Reuben Foster finishes behind 4 defensive rookie of the year candidates at ESPN

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The 49ers linebacker should get the kind of work that puts him in position to claim DROY.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL season gets going on Thursday, and with it comes a host of previews (read SB Nation’s!). ESPN is the latest to join the mix, and they included a vote on various awards, featuring 13 of their “experts.”

The 13 experts voted on defensive rookie of the year, and Reuben Foster got some votes. He did not top the list, but instead was listed under “Also received votes.” The top three included Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, New York Jets safety Jamal Adams, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett.

Pass rushers and defensive backs are usually in the best position to win this award thanks to high profile sacks and interceptions. However, if Foster stays healthy, he could put up the kind of tackle totals that get him firmly on the radar. He struggled in college when it came to forcing turnovers, but in training camp, he was regularly intercepting the ball. If he can turn that into regular season production, he becomes an even stronger candidate to claim DROY.

Solomon Thomas will likely get plenty of playing time this season as well, but Foster is the one who will see every down snaps. Thomas will find himself in a rotation at defensive end in the base defense, and defensive tackle in sub packages. He can be productive, but I don’t think he’ll get the kind of snaps that lead to DROY recognition.