2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: Malik Hooker
School: Ohio State
Ht: 6'2" Wt: 205
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Every year there are underclassmen that put their names into the draft when they still have room to grow as a player. Hooker definitely fits into that category, but with his upside, I understand the decision. He may have only started one year at Ohio State but that year was a sensational one. He's joining a crowded list of first-round talent at safety with Jamal Adams, Budda Baker, and Jabrill Peppers already in the mix, but his skillset is what sets him apart. While we may have the others ranked higher on our board, Hooker is the only one in the group with the ability to be a single-high safety. Because of that, teams with a need at safety may covet him because they are looking for a player on the backend.
Now as I mentioned, the lack of experience is going to be the biggest question about Hooker. A basketball player in high school, he only started playing football as a junior when they turned him into a receiver. At Ohio State, he transitioned to safety but redshirted as a freshman and was used primarily on special teams the following year. At times you can see that inexperience in his game. His instincts are still developing, and it is obvious on plays where he reacts late to what is happening. There are some snaps where he is never involved because he doesn't read run quickly enough. As the deep safety, it is important that he not bite on run fakes, but some of these instances are far beyond being cautious. There are also occasions where he doesn't read quick throws and react in time to be a factor. Still, there are times in both scenarios where he reads the play and flies downhill. Those are the snaps where scouts understand how truly special he can be. Also, his instincts are much more advanced on deep passes. He just looks comfortable playing that "centerfield" role where he takes proper angles and times his jumps well.
The other area I worry about him is as a tackler. He has a slender build that makes him look more like a corner. At times he flies around and punishes the ball carrier, but those instances usually involve smaller players or defenseless ones. Against bigger running backs or tight ends, we see a much different player. He has to add bulk to his frame and improve as a tackler in general. He doesn't always wrap up and even when he is in position against a bigger player, he doesn't always slow them down. Technique is crucial in this area which always involves wrapping up and slowing the player's momentum. Even if he doesn't add the weight, he has to develop that resourcefulness that smaller players use when becoming better tacklers. Grab an arm, tangle their legs, or even jump on their back just as long as it results in getting the player to the ground. Earl Thomas is a prime example of a great tackler that is undersized.
Thus far, I have chosen to point out areas where he needs to improve, but there is plenty to like about him. He has very good speed for the position and closes on the ball well. He has terrific ball skills and collected seven interceptions as a redshirt-sophomore. On the backend, his basketball skills help him when he transitions from his backpedal to turn and run. He shows loose hips and gets to full speed quickly. He also occasionally lines up in coverage against receivers. He needs much more work with his technique in man coverage, but it appears he has the athleticism to have success there. He also has the size (6'2") and arm length to matchup against tight ends. On film, he showed a knack for making plays in the backfield as a blitzer. He also showed the ability to take a turnover to the house which is a plus. He may lack some of the finer points of playing the position, but the physical traits of an NFL safety are clearly there.
Overall, Hooker appears to be very coachable and displays good character. I do not see him jawing with his opponent which is also an admirable trait. The hard work that it will take for him to reach his potential appears to be within him, and the only questions will be how long it takes to achieve it. Another year in Columbus would have done him good. In fact, he could have been a top 10 candidate had he returned. Still, if he displays the kind of elite athleticism for a safety in his pre-draft workouts, his stock will be in the first round.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Mike Mitchell (Pittsburgh) or Reggie Nelson (Oakland Raiders)
- Terrific size for a deep safety
- Quickness and closing speed are expected to be near the elite level
- Outstanding leaping ability
- His angles and timing make him ideal on the backend
- Good ball skills with the ability to take turnovers to the house
- Added value as a blitzer or matching up against tight ends
- Still learning the position
- Slender build
- Tackling needs improvement
1)   The sudden, unexpected greatness of Ohio State's Malik Hooker: Bill Livingston (photos)   - Cleveland.com |
2)   Ohio State's Malik Hooker stays humble in Fiesta Bowl preparation   - WKYC.com |
3)   Ohio State safety Malik Hooker goes from almost gone to breakout star   - USA Today |
4)   Malik Hooker Twitter|
5)   Malik Hooker Instagram|