When the Oakland Raiders selected cornerback Gareon Conley with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft, the Raider Nation exploded. Some were pleased, saying that the Raiders had just found their Marcus Peters, while others were furious, because of Conley’s off the field accusations. Those fans would’ve preferred that the Raiders selected another troubled draft prospect, Reuben Foster.
The Oakland Raiders Were Right to Pass on Reuben Foster
Who is Reuben Foster?
Reuben Foster was Alabama’s star linebacker last season. He was an All-American, All-SEC, and a Butkus Award winner. Last year he registered 115 tackles, including five sacks. He is a hard hitter and plays with a mean streak. Before the combine, he was considered a consensus top ten pick and the best linebacker in the draft.
So why isn’t he a Raider? Firstly, Foster isn’t a pure inside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, which is what the Raiders need. But that’s mostly because of his size. He plays with good speed, but the actual measurables, unfortunately, we’ll never know.
Teams likely wouldn’t have gotten a look at Foster’s measurables at the combine anyway because of his injury, but he didn’t give them a chance. After he got into a heated argument with a doctor, he was sent home from the event. What happened between Foster and the doctor remains unknown, but considering none of the other players had problems, it’s hard to blame the doctor.
Especially when reports came out after the fact, and were confirmed by Matt Miller, that Foster was a bad interview, displaying impatience and a bad temper. However, for some teams, that’s a plus. Linebackers need to have that mean streak in order to chase down ball-carriers. Then the drug test happened.
The Drug Test
While he was at the combine, he tested positive for a diluted urine sample. Now this one is a little cloudy. Foster claims that the reason his test came back positive was because he was sick the week before he took it, so he drank a lot of water. He also said that he was trying to get his weight up, so he was also drinking a lot of water for that.
The truth? Well coached excuses? It’s impossible to tell. But even giving Foster the benefit of the doubt, the off-season from hell wasn’t over just yet.
Reuben Foster is currently recovering from a torn rotator cuff, and it’s not coming along quickly. Whether he’s just not doing the work in rehab or he’s having bad luck, the recovery process is coming along slowly, and it’s being reported that he might need another surgery in the near future.
The Oakland Raiders have a chance at winning the Super Bowl this season, and they can’t afford to sit on their hands and wait for a prospect to heal. And that’s assuming he does. The Raiders have had their fair share of talented players that couldn’t stay off IR like D.J. Hayden and Darren McFadden.
The Raiders saw the film, saw the behavior, saw the drug test, and then saw the news that he would need surgery, and decided to go elsewhere. The team can tolerate a little risk, as long as they can control it, but not that much.
Some people look at Reuben Foster, see the hard hits and the draft rankings, say “that’s my guy” and that’s the end of the story. But if you look just a little deeper, it doesn’t make sense.
Foster is an inside linebacker in a 3-4, which the Raiders haven’t committed to running. If the Raiders are going to stick with the 4-3, they need a Mike linebacker, which Foster is not. He comes with issues off the field regarding his attitude, a potential drug problem, and a bad shoulder.
Why would the Oakland Raiders take a guy that doesn’t fit their scheme, has off the field issues, and might not even be able to play right away? Especially when arguably the second best corner in the NFL was available for them.
At the end of the day, nobody is perfect. People make mistakes in their personal and professional lives all the time. So there is a chance that Reuben Foster will turn into one of the NFL’s best linebackers while Conley follows in the footsteps of D.J. Hayden. In the meantime, the man who picked Conley over Foster? His name is Reggie McKenzie, and he’s the NFL’s reigning executive of the year. So let’s give him some slack.