The 2011 NFL Draft linebacker scouting train now heads up north from the seedy and despicable Eugene Duck campus to the beautiful and tranquil Lake Washington campus of the Huskies. Full disclosure: I am a Husky. Which may leave me a touch biased, but it also means that this next player is one of the few in this draft that I have a solid play in and play out understanding of. That player is Mason Foster.
Foster was an amazingly productive college player. His senior year he tallied 163 tackle, which was 58 more than the next closest Pac-10 player. He led the Pac-10 in tackles two years in a row. Now, some of this is because there weren't a lot of other players on the Husky defense capable of making tackles, and as a result Foster ended up getting a lot of Kirk Morrison type non-impact tackles.
But that is not to say he did not make his impact felt on a game. Foster also helped solidify his standing in the draft by leading the Senior Bowl with eight tackles. He is not a particularly strong pass rusher, but he is solid in every other area....
Foster was originally projected as third to fifth-round prospect, but he appears to be gaining some momentum. One unnamed scout was quoted by Aaron Wilson of the NFP as saying he may have worked himself into the second-round and added:
"He's a tough, instinctive player that consistently gets to the ball. The more tape you watch of him, the more you like him, and the more you realize that he is one of, if not the most, consistent play-making linebacker in the draft."
Foster measures in at 6'1" and 245 pounds. He ran a 4.67 at his Pro Day, and was in similar range at the Combine. Foster put up 21 reps on the bench and had a vert of 32".
Here is what NFL.com hast to say about Foster:
"Foster projects as a future starting 3-4 inside linebacker or SAM 'backer in a 4-3. Will immediately provide excellent depth and contribute on special teams. Nice combination of size and speed. Shows impressive awareness and instincts reading run, staying in position against misdirection, and in coverage. Has good range against the run, is athletic enough to hold up in man coverage, and is a sure, reliable tackler. However, doesn't have sideline-to-sideline ability, struggles at times shedding blocks, and doesn't bring much production as a pass rusher. Foster is a low-risk prospect who could help out a team as a rookie and should be selected on Day 2."
fWell there is a problem right off the bat. They didn't project him for the position the Raiders need. However, the Raiders are trending towards bigger linebackers and I think Foster can handle the Will just fine. Here is CBS Sports' take:
Very instinctive. Not a particularly physical linebacker despite his production. Prefers to slip past blockers by recognizing the play or using quick, strong hands to slap away blockers' attempts to get into his chest.
The four-year starter has the instincts to play in the middle and the athleticism to remain outside. He might lack the name recognition of the top linebackers in the draft, but his production and consistency won't be overlooked. Many were surprised to see Donald Butler wind up as a third-round pick (San Diego) last April. Foster should match and could even better Butler's draft status.
And we will go back to the NFP for one final report:
Is a bit limited in his back-pedal and doesn't get much depth in his drop. However, possesses good body control in coverage and for a bigger backer possesses good fluidity in and out of his breaks. Looks clean when asked to redirect, isn't overly explosive, but does a nice job maintaining balance and getting after the football. Exhibits good ball skills and has a good feel in zone, reading the quarterback's eyes and getting his hands on footballs thrown. Always seems to put himself around the football.
Impression: A guy who has just really worn on me as the year went on. Possesses a nice frame, uses his hands well to slip blocks, finds and tackles the football well and exhibits above-average fluidity in coverage. Isn't a dynamic athlete, but good enough to become a very solid starting linebacker in the NFL.
Finally, we will let Mason speak for himself. I like when there are highlight packages available from just one game. It allows us to get a much better feel for the overall play of a prospect.
Ah...that was a fun video to watch. I think we got a pretty clear picture of Foster. He has solid athleticism for his size. He is not the biggest hitter, but he is a sure tackler. He has good balance and change of direction, and he is solid in coverage.
I'll add that his intangible qualities are off the charts. I watched him play through a win-less season and never once could you doubt his intensity or focus. He is the kind of high-character guy the Raiders have been drawn to.