‘Who is that guy?’ 49ers executive fell for Foster last year
Last year, when he was preparing for the draft as part of the Broncos’ front office, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters was studying video of Alabama inside linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Ragland, the 2015 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, was selected No. 41 overall by the Bills last year.
But Peters had trouble focusing on him.
The reason: Alabama’s other inside linebacker was Reuben Foster.
“This guy (Foster) is running past (Ragland) on every single play and making it,” Peters said. “It was like ‘Forget about that guy - who is that guy?’ And Reggie Ragland is a very good payer in his own right, don’t get me wrong.”
Peters and the 49ers clearly think they landed a potentially great player in Foster, who was drafted No. 31 overall in April. In fact, for Peters, who has served as general manager John Lynch’s right-hand man, Foster was his so-called “draft crush.” A problem? He defers to his boss on such matters.
“I’m not going to take John’s (draft crush) because I liked Reuben Foster, too, and I guess he gets first pick,” Peter said, laughing. “… Even though John claimed him, he was my favorite guy this year.”
Peters and Lynch were smitten by Foster’s blend of talent, tenacity and passion.
A Butkus Award winner and unanimous first-team All-American, Foster had 115 tackles last year and was also named the SEC Championship Game MVP.
“The casual fan can see how much he impacts a game,” Peters said. “How fast he plays. How much passion he plays with. How instinctive he is. He’s what you want in a linebacker in this day and age. A guy who can play the run and is still athletic enough to play the pass. He’s a sideline-to-sideline guy who can stay on the field for all three downs. He kind of brings up the level of intensity on the defense with the way he plays.”
The question, of course, is why wasn’t the rest of the NFL as enamored with Foster, whom the 49ers were prepared to select No. 3 if Solomon Thomas wasn’t available?
His tumble to No. 31 was partly tied to concerns about a shoulder that required surgery before the combine and reportedly could require a follow-up procedure (Lynch has said the 49ers think a second surgery won’t be necessary). And off-the-field concerns also played a role in Foster’s fall. Foster was dismissed from the combine after arguing with a hospital employee and he tested positive for a diluted urine sample, which the NFL counts as a failed drug test.
“You meet Reuben and you find out how much he loves football,” Peters said. “And how important the game of football is to him. How important the brotherhood of being a part of a football team is. Because of that I think he’s going to make the right decisions. We’re going to have a lot of people around him that support him and help him make the right decisions. I think that’s what make you comfortable and happy. We’re ecstatic that we have him on our team. We’re ecstatic that we got him with the 31st pick. I don’t think he wants to let anyone down here.”
Perhaps no one is more ecstatic than Peters, whose excitement over Foster began to build last year when he was trying to study Alabama’s other inside linebacker.
Said Peters: “For me, that was the first time I was like ‘Holy cow. This guy is really good.’”