Miami Dolphins vice president Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier made it clear during their pre-draft press conference that they will remain flexible in this week's NFL draft. Their shining example was one year ago when Miami unexpectedly selected offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil with the No. 13 overall pick after Tunsil’s draft stock plummeted due to his “gas mask” incident after his Twitter account was hacked.
Last year, Miami’s front office proved it isn’t afraid to take risks early in the draft. Could history repeat itself for the second year in a row with embattled former Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster?
Like Tunsil, Foster is a potential top-five talent who is sliding down the draft board late in the process due to off-field issues. Foster tested positive for a diluted sample at the NFL combine, an event he also was sent home from due to “heated altercation” with a hospital worker. These red flags that have teams in the top 10 thinking twice.
Former NFL general manager and current Fox Sports analyst Michael Lombardi went even further regarding Foster’s current draft stock.
Teams picking between 33-45 will need to make sure they are comfortable with R. Foster, cause he will be there.— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) April 21, 2017
The Dolphins have the No. 22 overall pick in the first round. Foster’s expected slide could provide Miami with another Tunsil-like opportunity to buy low on a very talented prospect with some character questions.
On the field, Foster is a strong match for Miami. Linebacker is arguably the team's biggest need, and Foster, in terms of pure talent, is arguably the best linebacker in the draft and would provide an immediate impact at the position in the same way Tunsil did last season for Miami’s offensive line. Miami recently signed Lawrence Timmons in free agency, and the potential trio of Timmons, Kiko Alonso and Foster would be the significant upgrade the team needs to fix its 30th-ranked run defense.
Here is another thought to consider: Dolphins head coach Adam Gase began his coaching career as an assistant under University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban while both were at Michigan State. The two have a longstanding relationship, and Gase certainly can tap into that resource to get quality intel on Foster.
If Gase and the Dolphins are comfortable with their background check on Foster and the talented linebacker slides to them at No. 22, this is a surprise draft move worth considering.