When the 49ers drafted Reuben Foster in the 2017 NFL draft, he was seen as one of the best defensive players of the entire draft, but he came with question marks, notably his durability and character.
And unfortunately, all those question marks managed to manifest themselves at some point during and after the 2017 season. When Reuben Foster was on the field, he was a game changer; the 49ers defense was a very different defense when he was on the field—you don’t see or say that about a rookie all that often. It’s a testament to how much talent Foster has.
Unfortunately, Foster’s rookie season while impressive, was plagued with injuries and fans passing out from held breath after every hit he gave or took. It seemed like every game Foster had to be examined for something.
It also didn’t help when Foster was arrested twice in the offseason. The good news on that is the most devastating of his legal issues have been concluded and dismissed. All that remains is a gun charge which has been brought down to a misdemeanor. Now Foster can return to focusing on football, and him staying healthy on the field is a another issue entirely.
Experience: 1 accrued season
He is entering the second year of his four-year rookie contract. It comes with a base salary of $875,708 and his prorated signing bonus of $1,177,830. He likely forfeited future guaranteed money with his marijuana arrest, but that is still unclear.
Why he might improve in 2018
Foster’s biggest problems on the field have been his durability. He sprained his ankle in Week 1, keeping him out for several games. Once returning, he visited medical trainers regularly. It’s been cited as a technique issue and the coaching staff is working to get that out of him. A lot of Foster’s high-flying, lumber-laying hits worked in college, but simply cannot be sustained against NFL players. He will need to work on breaking those habits if he wants any sort of longevity in professional football.
Why he might regress in 2018
No sense ignoring the elephant in the room: He can’t get better if he’s not playing. Foster managed to avoid significant legal trouble—and a lengthy suspension by extension—but one of his arrests, possession of marijuana, isn’t going to fly with the NFL. Argue or mock it all you want, at the end of the day, rules are rules. Considering Foster already had a diluted drug test at the 2017 NFL combine, he may be looking at a suspension of a game or two. Regardless of his other legal issues being dropped, Foster would do well to keep himself to make good decisions and keep himself out of bad situations before they can turn awry.
But he also can’t get better if he’s sidelined due to injury, and if Foster’s durability continues to haunt him into his second year, it won’t look good for the future of his career. Former 49ers safety Eric Reid had similar issues his rookie season with tackling form and when his second season rolled around, a lot of the issues he had were gradually being fixed. Here’s hoping Foster can follow suit.
Odds of making the roster
Foster is an absolute lock for the roster now that his more serious legal issue has concluded. He still faces a misdemeanor gun charge, and that coupled with his marijuana charge (dismissed, but only after completing a diversion program) could still result in a suspension of an indeterminate length.
That being said, he should be back on the field at some point this season. He’ll look to build on his impressive rookie campaign and be the focal point of Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense. The 49ers have added some talent around him with BYU’s Fred Warner, and it will be interesting to see how he does with the new defensive additions.