The 49ers traded back into the first round to take linebacker Rueben Foster with the 31st overall pick last week and said they would have considered taking him with the third overall pick if Solomon Thomas had gone to the Bears at No. 2.
As illustrated by the fact that Foster was available at the end of the first round, they didn’t have much company when it came to teams willing to take Foster in the first round. The state of his shoulder was the biggest reason for their reticence as Foster had shoulder surgery early in the offseason and some teams believe that the operation didn’t solve the problem.
During an interview with KNBR on Thursday, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said the team does not believe that the injury is a long-term concern but couldn’t rule out the possibility that it will impact his availability during his rookie season. Shanahan called that the “worst-case scenario,” although even that seems somewhat uncertain.
“You never know who is going to end up being right,” Shanahan said.
The conflicting opinions about Foster’s health call to mind the way things played out with Bills linebacker Shaq Lawson after he was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. The Bills said they were comfortable when other teams had concerns about Lawson’s shoulder and he wound up having surgery that caused him to miss the first six games of the regular season.
The two cases are unique, but it doesn’t sound like anyone is ruling out a similar absence for Foster as he starts his NFL career.