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Cardinals GM Steve Keim loves Alabama LB Reuben Foster

Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster (10) indicates the TV cameras after a reporter jokingly promised not to tell anyone if Foster shared any funny info about Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who was in the other press room, during the Alabama defensive press conference for the Peach Bowl, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, at Hyatt Regency Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga. (Vasha Hunt/ via AP)
LISTEN: Steve Keim, Arizona Cardinals general manager

With just more than one week remaining until the NFL Draft gets underway in Philadelphia, the majority of mock drafts have the Cardinals choosing a quarterback with the 13th overall selection.

And after QB, the most often-named players are Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard.

None of this is to say there are not any analysts and prognosticators who believe the Cardinals will focus on the defensive side of the football, just that as of now, most see them addressing needs elsewhere.

But if the Cardinals do go with a defensive player, Alabama’s Reuben Foster seems like a pretty solid bet.

The linebacker who last season led the Crimson Tide with 115 tackles, including 13 for loss, along with five sacks, is widely viewed as one of the draft’s safer bets to be an impact player in the NFL.

Speaking with the media Tuesday, Cardinals GM Steve Keim was asked if he sees a comparison with Patrick Willis and Luke Kuechly, two of the better middle linebackers in NFL history, when it comes to Foster.

“Absolutely,” he said. “As a matter of fact, I thought about Patrick Willis quite a bit, (a guy) who had overcome a lot in his life coming out of Ole Miss.

“But just in terms of size, movement skills, how explosive he is on impact, I mean Reuben can do it all. He has three-down value, he has cover ability, he can match up on backs and tight ends with ease and he is as violent a hitter as I have seen in some time. Reuben is a fantastic player and certainly one of the better players in college football.”

This time of year is ripe with misinformation, and it’s possible Keim was not exactly being truthful with his analysis. Yet, he is not the first person to offer high praise for the Butkus Award winner and Bednarik Award finalist, so there may be at least a hint of truth in his professed admiration.

Asked again about Foster Wednesday morning, Keim told Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM he “loves him.”

“He’s explosive, he’s violent — he’s got all the skills you look for,” he added.

Willis was the 11th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft out of Ole Miss. His professional career lasted just eight seasons due to injury, but from 2007 until 2013 he was arguably the game’s best middle linebacker. In all, he amassed 950 total tackles along with 20.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries and eight interceptions.

The Cardinals would likely feel fortunate if they landed Foster and he had a similar career to the seven-time Pro Bowler who was also a five-time First Team All-Pro and the 2007 NFL AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Looking back at his Willis comparison, Keim said the similarities are there from a size and movement standpoint, but that Foster is looser through his hips, which allows him to be better in coverage than Willis was.

Noting Willis was a bit heavier and more of a thumper, Keim again compared the two.

“Both play like their hair’s on fire and are extremely explosive,” he said.

With Foster, the biggest knock these days seems to be questions about his attitude. He was sent home from the NFL Scouting Combine after a dust up with some medical personnel, which has led to some wondering about his character.

Keim, however, said he does not have an issue with all that.

“Those are things that we talked through with him, and I feel very comfortable with the answer he gave us,” the GM said.

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