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Former NFL scout ranks Reuben Foster the No. 1 rookie heading into NFL Week 1

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The 49ers linebacker has a shot at defensive rookie of the year in 2017.

NFL: Denver Broncos at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL gets going Thursday night, and for the new class of rookies, the race is on for offensive and defensive rookie of the year. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster has made a big impression in the preseason, and after months of people wondering how healthy he would be this season, he is making a quick name for himself.

NFL Network analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah put together a ranking of the top 25 rookies heading into Week 1 of the 2017 season, and he placed Reuben Foster on top. He offered this comment on the ranking.

Foster has All-Pro ability. He is quick to diagnose and is an explosive striker on contact. He is someone opposing teams will need to game plan against.

Foster worked his way into the 49ers starting lineup after Malcolm Smith suffered a torn pectoral muscle, but he was well on his way even when Smith was healthy. The 49ers tried to bring him along slowly, but he was making big play after big play in training camp, and then he kept on doing it during the preseason. He has made his share of mistakes, but a consistent message from the coaching staff and front office is that he learns from his mistakes and generally does not repeat them.

The rest of Jeremiah’s top five included Detroit Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, and Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett. Garrett is going to drop down this list next week as he suffered a high ankle sprain this week in practice. He could be looking at a month’s absence, possibly more depending on how the ankle heals.

There are 16 games still to be played, and plenty of rookies are going to emerge. Even on the 49ers, Solomon Thomas and George Kittle are two of several rookies who could step up this season. But as the season gets going, Reuben Foster has a chance to make the biggest impact of them all. NaVorro Bowman and Eric Reid are two of the more notable returning names, and the 49ers have some heavy investment on the defensive line, but this seems to quickly be turning into Reuben Foster’s defense.