My, my, my. How things can change in a year.
Dial back one year ago to January of 2008. Fulmer was still searching for an offensive coordinator. We were still living large in the warm belly-glow after feasting on Badger meat in the Outback Bowl. Memories of scalded puppies and fried bacon were still dancing in our heads.
Arian Foster was considering going pro with a second-round draft projection.
I've never met the guy. I know very little about him personally, and I have reasons to distrust the portrayal he's received in the public limelight. Yet I wonder: if he had a chance to rewind the clock and choose all over again, would he still choose to return to UT? Would playing for his fourth year of eligibility in last year's crippled offense and missing the all-time rushing record and being involved in many unforgettable plays (of the forgettable variety) outweigh a second-rounder's contract? I don't know how he would answer that, but I imagine that most of us would prefer the latter.
Perusing the draft boards across SBNation, the scene is rather sobering. (Note: click the link below the poll to continue reading the story. There's more after the jump.)
On Foster's personal SBNation bio page, there are exactly four posts across SBNation that include Foster's name this year, not including posts on Rocky Top Talk. Of those four posts, three are written by styg50 from Mile High Report (though one was for Mocking the Draft) and one was for Turf Show Times. A brief summary:
- A comprehensive list of possible running backs available for the Rams, where Foster is in the "available in rounds 5 to 7" category.
- A writeup of Foster in a series on draftable running backs. It's one of the very, very rare posts on Mile High Report to have zero comments.
- A ranking of running backs by a star system, where Foster receives one star.
- A byline in a review of the 49ers draft needs, where Foster is seen as a candidate for a change-up back and available in the 4th round.
After last year's Clawfiasco compounded with the severest case of fumblitis, it should surprise no Volunteer fan that Arian's draft stock has slid so far. Players who are either late round prospects or fated to be undrafted do not get much attention at this time of year, and the guy who very nearly got the all-time rushing title at Tennessee has fallen into exactly that group.
The end of the season hasn't been the end of the draft slide for Foster, either. His pro workouts have been unstellar. Having run around 4.7 in the 40 and having dropped his weight to around 215, he is now neither the quick back nor the big back that teams tend to look for. The further you dig into his profile, the harder it gets to see him drafted: fumble problems, pterodactyl VEEK!!!, decreased speed, decreased weight, and last season in general all add up to a bad taste in the mouths of NFL scouts. As I've said before, the scouts look for any reason you might fail in the NFL because their jobs depend on it; when a guy busts, the scouts need to be able to make the case that you couldn't see it coming. Foster's rap sheet is about as far removed from "can't see it coming" as you can get.
The one thing working in his favor is that he played for four years and is the second-leading rusher in Tennessee history. Even for a career that spans both the 2005 and 2008 seasons, Foster did compile a lot of rushes and a lot of yards, and he did show flashes of brilliance in the process. If he does manage to get drafted, it'll be because of Tennessee's history of producing stud running backs under Fulmer and because of the overall body of work.
The eternal optimist in me hopes he gets a chance. I have nothing against the guy and I really do hope for the best for him. The pragmatist in me, however, feels that it's probably better if he doesn't get drafted. As an UDFA, he'll have the opportunity to try out for teams of his choosing, which would put him in a position of finding the best fit he can find. At this point, he'll need all the help he can get.