6.9 – 6.5 = Immediate Starter (4)
6.9 = Early 1st Round
6.5 = Mid to Late 1st Round Value
1. (rsSO) MALIK HOOKER–OHIO STATE–FS (M)
6010|206 lbs|3SO New Castle, Pa. (New Castle) 4/2/1996 (age 21) #24
YEAR (GP/GS) TKLS TFL SACK FF PD INT GRADE 1st Round
2014: Redshirted MEASUREABLES Arm: 32 1/4 | Hand: 10 3/4 | Wingspan: 77 3/4
2015: (13/0) 10 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 COMBINE N/A (injured)
2016: (13/13) 74 5.5 0.5 0 11 7 PRO DAY N/A (injured)
Total: (26/13) 84 5.5 0.5 0 11 7
Recent procedures to repair his labrum and hernia will prevent Hooker from participating in testing drills. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder has tremendous ability to track the ball and outplay receivers in the air. He is prone to over-aggression as an open-field tackler but has so much upside potential. He played with the injuries down the stretch, including the Michigan game which is arguably one of Hooker’s best…………True single high safety who could thrive in cover one or cover three, roaming sideline to sideline and creating plays via takeaways. Pure centerfielder with speed, athleticism, ball skills and tackling ability. Ed Reed-like upside safety with a penchant for delivering big plays between the hashes. He finished the regular season with seven interceptions, including three pick-sixes, while exhibiting terrific range and anticipation as a deep middle defender. Has the best ball skills of any defensive back in the country I have seen in quite sometime.
BACKGROUND: A three-star safety recruit out of high school, Hooker focused on basketball most of his life before trying out for the football team as a junior at New Castle High School – could have played basketball collegiately. He was better known for his abilities on the basketball court, leading his team to a perfect 31-0 record as a senior and the leading scorer, but once programs like Ohio State started showing interest in his football abilities, Hooker decided football was best for him long-term, committing to the Buckeyes. He redshirted in 2014 and struggled to adapt to the demands of major college football, almost quitting and transferring to a smaller college closer to home to play basketball – Urban Meyer credits Hooker’s mother (Angela Dennis) for not allowing him to quit. Hooker stayed in Columbus and trusted the coaches, playing in all 13 games as a special teamer in 2015 with plenty of hype coming from his performance in practice. With Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell leaving for the NFL, Hooker became a starting safety in 2016 as a sophomore and emerged as an All-American, leading the Big Ten with seven interceptions. He finished third on the team with 74 tackles and 11 passes defended to earn First Team All-American and All-Big Ten honors. Capitalizing on his breakout 2016 season, Hooker elected to skip his final two seasons and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
STRENGTHS: Gifted athlete with impressive blend of burst, body control and reflexes…outstanding play speed, covering a lot of green…magnet to the ball due to his cover awareness, field vision and range…transfers weight to smoothly open his hips, turn and run without gearing down…impressive lower body explosion and leaping skills…unique timing/anticipation to break on the ball and make plays most defensive backs don’t…elite ball skills with the innate ability to find, judge and disrupt the catch point…long arms and strong hands to finish interceptions – finished second in the FBS with seven pick-offs in 2016…playmaker with the ball in his hands with 181 yards (25.9 average) and three touchdowns on interception returns in 2016 (had another return for a score that was called back due to a phantom penalty)…explosive tackler and doesn’t need a runway to create momentum…fast angles working downhill with range to clean up plays his teammates miss…uses his length to lasso ballcarriers out of his reach…experienced on special team coverages…soft spoken personality and motivated by his family.
WEAKNESSES: Wild pursuit angles dent his batting average as a tackler…lowers his pads with an accurate strike zone, but needs to clean up his mechanics when breaking down to be a better finisher…trusts his eyes and follows the ball, but vulnerable to misdirection and play fakes…aggressive style in the secondary can lead to incorrect guesses…limited experience as a blitzer…room to get stronger and improve his functional strength…inconsistent physicality and leverage taking on blocks near the line of scrimmage…basketball was his first love and still young in football years – only one season as a collegiate starter…medicals require vetting after surgeries (Jan. 2017) to repair a torn labrum in his left hip and sports hernia “on both sides” – missed the entire pre-draft process.
SUMMARY: A one-year starter at safety, Hooker had a breakout sophomore season for the Buckeyes and quickly created NFL buzz, finishing with seven interceptions and three defensive touchdowns in 2016. When evaluating the safety position, scouts are looking for three main traits: range, instincts and tackling skills. And Hooker has the ability to be above average in all three areas. His change of direction skills, play speed and overall range jump off the film, both as a centerfielder in the deep half of the field and downhill in run support. His ball skills and ballhawking instincts to anticipate, read and break on the ball separate him from most college safety prospects. He needs to clean up his tackling mechanics and pursuit angles to be a better finisher, but he has the skill-set to develop into a reliable NFL tackler. Overall, Hooker has special traits to be a disruptive NFL playmaker in the secondary – one of the most talented prospects in the 2017 class and will be drafted top-10.