Scouting Report: Mason Foster
Foster is a player that might not have been on the radar of many before the 2010 season, but after a great senior campaign and solid Senior Bowl performance, he is rapidly climbing up many draft boards. The versatile linebacker played and excelled at all three 4-3 linebacker positions in his career at Washington, but is best suited to be the weakside backer in a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. His natural instincts and tackling ability set him aside from others, and cover up for his relatively average physical attributes. I project him as a solid second round draft pick.
Foster is the type of player that you will find is always around the ball in the running game, as evidence by his 12.58 tackles per game, good for second in the nation. His pursuit angles and instincts in the running game are generally very good. He has the ability to shed blocks when needed and is an extremely sound tackler. He will occasionally get swallowed up by linemen because of his relatively small frame, but generally avoids these situations by reading and reacting so well. You won’t find Foster running many plays down from the backside with sheer speed, but rather the majority of his 14 tackles for loss came from taking good angles and beating the running back to a given spot.
Foster is good in coverage when asked to defend running backs or tight ends, but lacks the speed to effectively cover a slot receiver in space. In 2009 he was credited with nine passes defended and three interceptions when he was asked to cover more with Donald Butler playing inside. This past season those numbers fell to just three and zero, but he generally covered less and was asked to rush the passer more often. He reacts well when playing zone coverage and doesn’t allow many yard after the catch. He reads the quarterbacks eyes well and is rarely fooled on a play.
A relatively new piece to his game, Foster piled up a career-high 6.5 sacks in his senior season. For the most part his push rushing success came from blitz packages and broken plays. Foster is not a natural pass rusher and doesn’t find success blitzing off the edge that often. His ability is to read a play and blitz up the middle in zone packages where his great instincts are allowed to take over. I do not foresee Foster piling up big sack totals in the NFL.
One of the best aspects of Foster’s game is his tackling ability. He is a form tackler who absolutely loves to hit. He is tough and aggressive when it comes to tackling and can be vicious at times. He ended his career at Washington with eight forced fumbles, including six his junior season which was good for third in the nation. He understands leverage, does not miss many tackles and flows to the ball so well that he always seems involved in the play. This is the reason I feel he is best suited as a 4-3 weakside linebacker who can react to the play in front of him, flow to the ball and make the tackle. He is an absolute tackling machine.
Along with tackling, instincts are the other part of Foster’s game that is most impressive. He will not wow you with physical attributes like body-type, size and speed. He will not wow you with athleticism. What he does is make plays. He understands football and has an innate ability to read and react to what’s happening around him that can’t really be taught. Without this skill he would more than likely be an average player.
Foster is a little stiff in the hips, and turning and running in coverage is not his strong suit so he is often trailing faster players in coverage. He is not explosive laterally and won’t blind you with sideline-to-sideline speed. He makes up for this by using sound technique and being quick to react off the snap so as to put himself in favorable positions on the field.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
Again, Foster is not going to shock anyone with strength tests such as the bench press at the combine. But he understands leverage and how to tackle so he is explosive through the ball and a physical hitter. He dips his lower half well and uses his legs to his advantage. He has strong hands when tackling from behind and flashes the ability to drag a defender down. Foster has more than adequate speed for the position and displays excellent sideline-to-sideline ability. He’s a bit shorter than you’d like in an outside linebacker and has short arms.
Foster never missed a game in his college career, and this while playing a violent position. He fought through minor injuries throughout his career at Washington but played in all 50 games he was eligible to play in since his freshman season. Thus far in his career as a football player, durability has been a major plus for Foster.
By all accounts Foster is a person of high character who plays with a chip on his shoulder. He comes from a tight-knit family and has been spoken about in glowing terms by coach Steve Sarkisian and high school coach Al Avila. He was only a 2-star recruit coming out of high school and Washington was the only Pac-10 school that recruited him. He admits to playing with that chip on his shoulder and using it his advantage. His teammates love him as evidence by being voted captain for 2010.
You can’t question the toughness of a kid who never missed a college game all while playing a position that requires the physical demands that the linebacker position does. He is a tough player who loves to hit and it shows on film. He can be overmatched at times physically, but when that happens he always seems to bounce back up and get right back into the action.
Foster has all the ability and work ethic to become a solid starter in the NFL. While he doesn’t flash All-Pro type potential, he should be a contributor from day one. If put in the right position he can be a player that hovers around 100 tackles in the league year-in and year-out. He will not be a flashy player with many highlight reel type plays. He will be overmatched physically at times. He needs to continue to get stronger but his natural instincts and ability to tackle will take him a long way.
2010: Started all 13 games; totaled 163 tackles including 106 unassisted, 14 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, 6.5 sacks and 3 passes defended.
2009: Started all 12 games; totaled 85 tackles including 60 unassisted, 7.5 tackles for loss, 6 forced fumbles, 2 sacks, 9 passes defended and 3 interceptions.
2008: Started all 12 games; totaled 105 tackles including 58 unassisted, 12 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 3 passes defended and 1 interception.
2007: Played in all 13 games starting 4; totaled 25 tackles including 17 unassisted, 5 tackles for loss and 1 sack.
Majored in American Ethnic Studies
Awards & Honors
2010: Named first-team All-America by scout.com and rivals.com, also AP third-team All-American as well as SI.com honorable mention; Named to the All-Pac-10 first team; Named the defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl; Won UW’s Most Valuable Defensive Player award.
2009: Named honorable mention All-Pac-10; Named to The Sporting News’ All-Pac-10 first team; Won the Earle T. Glant Tough Husky Award.
2008: Named team MVP for defense.
Played quarterback and linebacker in high school and was not highly recruited.
Nothing of note.
Prospect Video Clips
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