NFL Draft

2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Ohio State S Malik Hooker

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Malik Hooker/S/Ohio State — 6’1”, 206 Lbs

The Good

-Great in coverage and appears most-comfortable as a single high safety
-Shown the ability to play man coverage lined up in slot
-Tremendous ball skills for defensive back
-Sound technique as a tackler when coming up to play run
-Gifted athlete for safety position
-Explosive lower body that leads to high-end leaping ability

The Bad

-Not overly physical coming downhill against the run
-Tends to freelance in coverage at times and is susceptible to play fakes
-Just one year of playing time at Ohio State
-Very raw defender that is still learning the position
– Struggles with angles at times trying to fill lanes

 Bio

-First Team AFCS, Associated Press, FWAA, Walter Camp, USA Today, The Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and CBS Sports All-American
-First Team All-Big Ten as voted on by coaches and media
-Thorpe Award semifinalist
-Ranked sixth nationally with six interceptions and led the FBS with three INTs returned for TDs
-Ranked second nationally with 181 INT return yards and he was third on the team with 67 tackles, including 5.0 tackles for loss
-New Castle, Pa product

Tape Breakdown

Malik Hooker burst onto the scene in 2016 with a bang, becoming one of the most dangerous defensive backs in all of college football for the Ohio State Buckeyes, who reached the College Football Playoff for the second time in three seasons.

Hooker reeled in six interceptions defensively for the Buckeyes, serving as a versatile safety that could play in the box, single-high and in the slot, matching up in zone or in man coverage while serving as a steady run defender.

Despite being steady against the run last season, Hooker needs a ton of work in that department, which is understandable considering how raw he is as a defender at the collegiate level.

Starting off in the box against the Sooners, Hooker reads run quickly and starts to slide into position, but while sliding into position he overpursues slightly, allowing Joe Mixon to cut back to his right, causing Hooker to fall helplessly to the turf.

There are times throughout the season that Hooker takes poor angles to the football when coming up into the box to support against the run, but that can be cleaned up at the next level.

What really stands out with Hooker and has his stock as high as its ever been is due to his incredible ball skills for a defensive back, which has most draftniks mentioning Ed Reed when talking about Hooker’s ability to create turnovers as a safety.

Look at the amount of ground that Hooker eats up before then coming up with a spectacular grab while falling to the ground for the interception.

Sure, the one-handed play on the ball before having the hand-eye coordination to make the play while falling is quite impressive, but his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and close on the football from the far hash is absurd.

In fact, Hooker did something similar in the final game of the year, picking off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson in the College Football Playoff semifinal in Arizona.

Same style of play, just from the opposite side of the field.

No throw is really safe when Hooker is lined up at safety. When he’s able to play deep and read the quarterback’s eyes from a centerfield-type role, he’s deadly.

When he’s able to sit there and read what’s happening in front of him, he’s able to react quickly, putting himself in the best possible position to make plays on the ball, even if it’s a ball carrier.

Hooker reads the tight end screen quickly, allowing him to dip under a block from a Wisconsin lineman to make the stop near the line of scrimmage.

You can see Hooker taking a few steps downhill at the snap, looking to play the run, but from there he shows the patience to read the play, exploding forward to get in the best position possible to make the stop, shutting down a potential big play on the tight end screen.

Despite being so raw as a defender when it comes to identifying formations, reading plays and showing patience from the safety position, Hooker is no doubt one of the top talents in the 2017 draft, simply because of the best ball skills for a defensive back in the group, as well as his incredibly high ceiling once he figures it out at the next level.

Although there’s a very strong possibility that the redshirt sophomore struggles in his first year in the NFL, there’s not a doubt in my mind we’re looking at a future All-Pro safety at the next level.

Projection:  Early Day One

Games watched:  vs. Bowling Green (’16), at Oklahoma (’16), at Wisconsin (’16), at Penn State (’16), vs. Nebraska (’16), at Michigan (’16), vs. Clemson (’16)

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Fred Ross Jamaal Williams George Kittle Ejuan Price Chris Wormley
Jeremy McNichols Joe Mathis Derek Barnett Amba Etta-Tawo Gareon Conley
Taco Charlton  Elijah McGuire Ryan Switzer Tanoh Kpassagnon Tre’Davious White
Brian Hill Matthew Dayes Donnel Pumphrey Josh Reynolds Nazair Jones
De’Veon Smith Davis Webb Obi Melifonwu TJ Watt John Ross
Jerod Evans Vince Biegel Josh Carraway Josh Malone Kevin King
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JuJu Smith-Schuster Josh Jones Davon Godchaux Lorenzo Jerome Quincy Wilson
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu Mike Williams Ahkello Witherspoon Dede Westbrook Tedric Thompson
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Rasul Douglas Marcus Williams Devonte Fields Justin Evans Kenny Golladay
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Amara Darboh
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