The San Francisco 49ers have not had a draft pick named Rookie of the Year in almost a decade. We try not to read too much into preseason but it’s also the best time to make bold predictions. Based on early impressions, Reuben Foster appears to be a marquee player with outstanding potential. Here is why we predict Foster will be named the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
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Talent: Prior to the draft, Reuben Foster was considered an elite prospect worthy of top 5-10 consideration in the 2017 draft and the best linebacker prospect. Injury, size and character concerns led to Foster dropping to the end of the first round, but 49ers general manager John Lynch had Foster as his number 3 overall prospect and was overjoyed to get him at 31st overall.
Based on early impressions, Foster was a steal at 31 and he has already begun to display the awareness, athleticism and play-making ability to be a force in the NFL and a strong Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. Aside from showing a nose for the ball that has led to multiple interceptions in training camp, Foster has also been impressive in identifying and moving quickly to the point of attack. The following videos show the awareness, power and closing speed of an elite NFL talent.
— Sean Jordan (@BaySean) August 28, 2017
Another monster hit for Reuben Foster. He’s the real deal. pic.twitter.com/IgD720Av99
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) August 28, 2017
LOL Foster is ridiculous. (sorry one of my favorite players to watch already.) pic.twitter.com/FbZWjRMc4J
— Ted Nguyen (@RaidersAnalysis) August 28, 2017
49ers defensive improvements: Even though the 49ers may not have much to show from the Baalke era, Reuben Foster is likely to benefit from years of the team drafting defensive lineman, including efforts this year to continue focusing on defensive talent. In addition to prioritizing first round picks on Arik Armistead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas, the 49ers have veterans Elvis Dumervil and NaVorro Bowman to help lead the defense. The 49ers defensive line’s depth and potential will help Reuben Foster optimize his talent and shine as a playmaker in 2017.
History: Over the last 10 years, the Defensive Rookie of the Year (DROY) was always been drafted in the first round, usually between picks 2 and 18. The DROY winner was a linebacker 50 percent of the time since 2007 and 65 percent of the time since 2000. Defensive tackles and defensive ends combined for a total of 5 DROY awards since 2000. Looking at the 2017 draft at the aforementioned positions, Myles Garrett, Taco Charlton and Reuben Foster have stood out with their play and poise. Some beat reporters are already considering Foster to be the 49ers marquee player, which also increases his chances of winning DROY.
What we learned from the 49ers game last night, including 1-Reuben Foster might already be their marquee player… https://t.co/khaUlQveWS
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) August 28, 2017
Prior to the draft, Reuben Foster was compared to Patrick Willis based on similar size and abilities. Three games into the preseason, Foster continues to be compared to Patrick Willis. Who was the 49ers most recent Rookie of the Year winner? Patrick Willis in 2007. While Myles Garrett is still likely the odds on favorite to win DROY, we are going to go out on a limb and predict that, barring injury, Reuben Foster will win the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year based on talent and how much he will stand out as helping his team.