The New England Patriots wanted to draft Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Badly. But they wanted a 2017 4th round pick more so instead of taking Reynolds at the top of the 5th round, they crossed their fingers and hoped that Reynolds would be available in the 6th round.
It wasn't meant to be.
Pretty much every front office person and coach with the Patriots had spent time with Reynolds, from head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, to tight ends coach Brian Daboll and special teams coach Ray Ventrone (per ESPN's Mike Reiss). There's no way those visits were a mere smokescreen to help out the Navy football star.
But the Ravens, just down the road from Annapolis, pounced before the Patriots could make the pick. Reynolds set the NCAA record for touchdowns (88 rushing touchdowns) and was projected to become a gadget player on offense, with some value as a returner.
If the Patriots couldn't get the versatile Reynolds, they might have gotten the next best thing in Arizona State's D.J. Foster.
Reynolds stands at 5'9 1/2, 190 lbs, runs a 4.57 40 yard dash (1.62 10 yard split) with a 37 inch vertical and 10' broad jump. He pulled his hamstring before he could show off his three cone time.
Foster is 5'10 1/4, 193 lbs, runs a 4.46 40 yard dash (1.50 10 yard split) with a 36 inch vertical and a 9'9 broad jump. He also added a fantastic 4.07 20 yard shuttle and 6.75 three cone. He's appeared in all 53 games during his college tenure. So Foster is a slightly bigger, slightly faster version of Reynolds. That's a good place to start.
Foster is also the only player in the College Sports Reference database dating back to 2000 to collect more than 2,200 receiving yards and 2,200 rushing yards in his college career. He collected 1,081 rushing yards and 688 receiving yards in his electric 2014 season.
But then the coaches moved Foster from running back to slot receiver in 2015 because the team had back-up running backs to spare, while the receiver position was devoid of talent. Wide receiver Jaelen Strong graduated and #2 receiver Cameron Smith needed knee surgery and was out for the season. Foster was the only returning player to post more than 205 receiving yards in 2014- so the coaches asked him to be the top receiver.
""D.J. Foster is our prime guy," head coach Todd Graham said via ArizonaSports.com prior to the season. "He's the guy that's going to get the ball more than anybody else because I think he's our best football player."
But the production didn't follow easily. Foster gained 116 yards from scrimmage against Oregon, but he only gained 121 yards from scrimmage over the final three weeks of the season- that happened to align with the three weeks that Patriots 7th round pick Devin Lucien collected 534 yards and 5 touchdowns, so perhaps Arizona State was just running with the hot hand.
Regardless, Foster saw a decline in usage over his final season and that allowed the Patriots to bring him into camp to compete for a roster spot, but Foster thinks the year of experience as a slot receiver will help him in the NFL.
"A lot of people that I talk to, for me to go on to the next level, they said [the move to receiver] would be more beneficial to my career in the NFL, when I get to that point," Foster said at the time of his position change. "At the end of the day, I see how long running backs' career are in the NFL. I know I'm more of a slot receiver, and I'm perfectly OK with that, so it's time to make a transition. And it's not much. I've been doing it."
Foster will be competing with the likes of Danny Amendola and DeAndre Carter in the slot, and maybe even Donald Brown and James White as the versatile running back to back-up Dion Lewis and complement LeGarrette Blount.
Versatility will be Foster's key to making the roster. He has the athleticism and, when given the opportunities, he's had the production. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick loves players that can add wrinkles on the field that can dictate how defenses have to react and Foster is a quality chess piece.
Perhaps missing out on Reynolds and taking the more experienced Foster in free agency will work out for the Patriots.