Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports



Due to injuries, rookie linebacker Reuben Foster has only played in a handful of games for the San Francisco 49ers this season. When on the field, he has shown flashes of why he is considered to be among the steals of this year's draft. Through the last two games, which were his only complete outings of the season, Foster has 24 combined tackles (19 tackles, five assists).

On Thursday, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper released his updated Rookie Big Board, which lists his best rookies of the 2017 season. Injuries play a factor in the listing. Absent are first-round picks like Deshaun Watson, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Allen, and Malik Hooker. All four suffered season-ending injuries.

While Kiper writes, "Staying on the field is a measure of value," Foster, who has missed six full games this season, made the analyst's list despite his limited playing time. The 49ers linebacker ranks 12th in Kiper's ranking, which is one spot lower than first-overall selection Myles Garrett, who has also played in only four games.

Below is what Kiper had to write about Foster:

"Like Garrett, Foster has played in only four games because of injury, but he has been fantastic, particularly the past two games. He had 24 total tackles against the Cardinals and Giants. Foster was one of my favorite 2017 prospects and my top-ranked inside linebacker. He's the reason the 49ers parted ways with longtime stalwart NaVorro Bowman earlier this season. I though Foster might be picked in the middle of the first round -- I projected him to the Colts at No. 15 in my two-round mock -- but he dropped to No. 31 overall, in part because of some off-field concerns. He has a chance to be one of the steals of the early rounds."

Foster, who was ranked eighth in Kiper's Final Big Board in April, was not ranked in the top 25 within his last Rookie Big Board. A jump from not being ranked to 12th with such a small sample size of playing time is impressive.