Sometimes the simplest conversations lead to the greatest debates. Such was the case last week when I was talking with a friend of mine who happens to cover the NFL. He said he thought that Reuben Foster, a linebacker from Alabama, might be the safest pick in the first round of the NFL draft. Admittedly, I almost choked on my drink. Foster, who is the best at his position in this draft class, didn’t appear to be a “need” pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. But after watching the team release Dan Skuta and saw the depth of the position slip, maybe it’s something the team is looking into. The NFL Draft is all about conjecture and smokescreens. Hot button players and sure fire first rounders make up the majority of the conversation. The pundits and “experts” are left to decide who goes where and what trades are made. In this case, the Jaguars might be best served to trade down a few spots and still have the chance to take Foster to sure up its linebacker unit. As of now, Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny and Myles Jack Will start in the 4-3 defense. After that, depth is a concern. Lerentee McCray, Audie Cole and Marcus Rush don’t scare a high school team. Hayes Pullard had his moments, but he really is a special-teams player. A unanimous first-team All-American and All-SEC pick, Reuben Foster also won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Additionally, he was a finalist for the Bednarik Award. In fact, he led the Tide with 115 tackles, 13 for which went for losses including five sacks. He won the SEC Championship MVP, as well (11 tackles, 2.5 for loss, two sacks). Foster was a starter as a junior (73 tackles, eight TFL, two sacks, nine pass break-ups) after two seasons as a key reserve MIKE linebacker and special teams ace (12 tackles in 2013; 22 tackles, two TFL in 2014). I have to ask, what’s not to like? The Jaguars do you have other needs. They must find a tight end to give Blake Bortles another passing weapon. Also, they could use another pass rusher, mainly because there is talk about Dante Fowler moving to outside linebacker. Finally, the Jags could also use help on the interior of the defensive line and offensive line. And if this team is going to gloss over playmakers in the first round, look no further than Leonard Fournette, the running back from LSU. Decisions, decisions. There are plenty of them and with general manager David Caldwell constantly hearing advice from Tom Coughlin, the team’s executive vice president, there is a chance the team will take a linebacker. I just don’t think it will be with the team’s first pick. The Jaguars are in a great position. They own the fourth pick in the 35th pick in the first two rounds. They have a chance to find to impact players that will greatly shape this team future. If Reuben Foster is the “can’t miss” pick, then this team better be repaired for him to start at some point this coming season. When you look at the team’s roster, there aren’t a lot of positions where there are openings for starters. Draft picks must work their way into the lineup. But in Foster’s case, this team better make an exception. Foster could prove to be one of the five best draft picks out of this class five years from now. But the same was said about Jack last year when he was a second round steel. Former head coach Gus Bradley had a hard time finding space for him in the starting lineup, which puzzled many people. This is a franchise that has gotten rid of the term LEO and is just getting back to its own brand of defensive football. Reuben Foster is a guy, along with Jack and Smith, this team can build around for the future. If they decide to take the Alabama linebacker, they better be sure he’s going to start. Moreover, he has an impact immediately. If not, questions will abound, and once again this team will have to answer them and explain themselves. This draft isn’t as much about answering questions as it is more about making a statement. If they decide to draft Foster, he better be the biggest statement of Caldwell’s four years of general manager. If not, there’s a good chance he won’t be around for a fifth year.
Sep 10, 2016; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Reuben Foster (10) at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Tide defeated the Hilltoppers 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Reuben Foster - Linebacker, Alabama