It’s no secret the Saints are in need of linebackers. It’s also no secret Alabama’s Reuben Foster is one of the best available in this year’s draft. In a strictly football fishbowl, the Saints would be crazy to pass over Foster if he is available when they choose with the 11th overall pick. In his senior season, the 2016 Dick Butkus Award winner posted the second most tackles (115) in all of college football and five sacks.
Even though he is recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery, Foster is expected back healthy by training camp. Because of the injury, Foster wasn't even supposed to work out at the NFL Combine. He just needed to show up, interview with teams, and submit to a medical exam and drug test.
The Wonderlic test is the official intelligence test of the NFL, but many scouts and executives believe the drug test at the Combine is the real intelligence test. If a player is so lucky to be invited to the Combine, they know the date well in advance and can easily pass a drug test by simply abstaining for a specific period of time prior to taking the test.
Not only did Foster fail to utilize his opportunity to interview with all 32 teams in one place, he also planted significant seeds of distrust among his future potential employers. Foster was dismissed from the Combine following a heated exchange with a hospital worker who was supposedly not impressed when Foster tried to play the “do you know who I am?” card while waiting for his Combine physical.
Apparently prior to being kicked out, Foster submitted a urine test which was categorized as dilute and will therefore be treated as positive. From the day he signs his first NFL contract, Foster will enter the NFL Substance Abuse Program. Foster provided an explanation for the diluted sample ensuring all teams that he was recovering from possible food poisoning and had consumed a lot of water while trying to rehydrate.
As if the dismissal from and positive drug test at the Combine weren’t enough, rumors have also been swirling that Foster’s partially torn rotator cuff isn’t healing as fast as planned and may even require a second surgery. You can’t deny this kid has had a terrible few weeks and he hasn’t even been drafted yet.
In a phone interview with NFL.com, the young linebacker sounded like he might not be up for the admittedly searing lights of scrutiny that come with playing in the NFL. “Hectic, stressful, very stressful. It’s like the devil is coming after me. I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do, but no matter what I do, it doesn't come out right," he said.
I don’t think he’s a bad guy, but you have to play by the NFL’s rules. And though I don’t agree with many of them, that’s the playing field. I’m starting to doubt this guy’s ability to stay on the field and out of the dog house.
Still, I like him and he seems genuine at least. Though he is full of excuses and appears entitled, he really hasn’t done more than act bitchy and drink too much water. Players with way more baggage like Laremy Tunsil and Tyrann Mathieu have adjusted admirably at the professional level, and nothing Foster has done yet proves he can’t learn from and avoid future mistakes.
“I don't make excuses. I'm a real dude. I try to be a good person. ... I just hope the coaches understand and that's all I can hope and pray for."
The Saints might be praying for Foster’s antics to cause him to fall to 11th, and if he does, I don’t think the Saints would be wrong in taking a chance on him. Barring a secret drug addiction or homicidal tendencies (a la Aaron Hernandez), Foster hasn’t done anything more terrible than failing the unofficial IQ test of the NFL. He might require some extra care and attention from whichever team selects him, but his talent is probably worth it.
Foster knows his potential more than any coach, scout, or executive. "If it's first round, second round, whoever takes me will get a good football player and an All-Pro," Foster said. "I hope I go on Thursday, but I can't control that.”