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IDP Prospect Chat Transcript: Safety Malik Hooker, Ohio State

Date:
February 28, 2017
Updated on:
January 2, 2018

IDP analyst JWolfe and I are looking at some of the top defensive prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft and having an informal scouting chat on what we see. We will post the transcripts as we complete them. Please forgive typos, etc. — it’s just an informal discussion about what we are seeing on tape, etc.

— RC

RC: Never seen him play.

Not much action as a freshman in 2015…and then 74 tackles with 7 picks and 3 return TDs in 2016. Not sure if he’s lucky or awesome.

The tackle numbers don’t look that great game-by-game. We’ll have to see if he has lucky TDs or turnovers he’s creating.

You know anything about him or have any opinion going in?

 

Might as well watch him in the playoffs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KGCb9zV0vw

Vs. Oklahoma: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jyu3PZztTII

Highlight Reel (I’m sure all the INTs will be on here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2DoflTGW58

Looks like an interesting 3+ min bio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taH4x9K8gM4

 

JWolfe: Fortunately a majority of my friends and family are Buckeye fans so it’s the one team I see and know the most about. To be honest the defense was pretty bland for OSU beside the LB McMillan kid who I loved.

I’ve seen Hooker play and wasn’t very impressed by him whatsoever. Compared to what I saw from Adams it was day and night. Hooker I know is really young and inexperienced only being a one year starter and coming out early but he’s really going to have to learn how to tackle. He looked really fast and had good size.

Wanted to send this before I watch anything and study it just because I don’t think I’ll be swayed much at all.

 

JWolfe:   Just finished watching all games plus highlight package and my impression is 180 degrees different.

The ball skills and return ability are elite. The only guy i could think of at that size who favors comparably is Patrick Peterson. It seems that Hooker played exclusively in a free safety deep role and wasnt really used ever in man coverage so I can’t speak to his ability to man cover or in the slot. However the closing speed jumped out and is definitely a legit 4.4 or lower. Good size and was an aggressive tackler. But the ball skills and play making ability really are elite. I definitely think the masses so far are right with Adams and Hooker as 1 & 2 at safety.

I also think there’s returner upside plus some flashes of Ed Reed to his game and some Polamalu with the play making. This is the type of guy who makes huge game winning plays and behind an elite front 7 and pass rush (cough Rams cough) could be a really really nice fit to roam and make plays all over the field.

 

RC: I was a little sketchy on Hooker at first. I watched the Clemson game, and I was worried because all I was seeing was him gunning low for tackles…and missing too many because he’s often in the act of turning his head away and lunging…and he gets burned by ballcarriers making a move. He’ll wipe them out when he has the chasing angle, but he’s a bit of trouble when coming at a ballcarrier head on.

That aside, all the other boxes check. He has legit NFL speed. When he was covering receivers he was glue. I’d love to see him as a 6’1”/200 (losing 5+ pounds) cover corner. Because you’re right – his closing speed is terrific. His change of direction ability is great too.

You want a moment that just jumped off the tape and grabbed me – 8:55 mark of the Oklahoma tape. Humans don’t run/close in on people that fast and then just stop on a dime like it’s nothing.

My issue would be that I didn’t see enough of that skill…more him flying in and diving with his head down at people’s ankles.

I’d say he reminds me of Quinten Rollins…if Rollins was a lot faster afoot.

 

So you have to pick one – do you go Adams or Hooker.

I’m still with Adams, I’m thinking you’re a Hooker man (don’t tell anyone).

I’m with Adams as a safety…with the thought of them in coverage, it’s closer. I like Adams in coverage as well. Both of these guys move better than any WRs I’ve seen this year. The era of great cover DBs may have been spawned by all the passing in high school and college!

 

JWolfe: I fully agree on Hooker, one of the biggest critiques is his tackling and aggressiveness. You would will never confuse him with a Deone Bucannon type strong safety who can play in the box but I think as long as he is at least mediocre as a tackler the athleticism and ball skills and play making abilities all trump this.

I honestly don’t think either Hooker nor Adams are what I would consider great tacklers. Both are similar sizes and tend to shoot low and knee-bombing out ballcarriers. Both had a small amount of missed tackles (2 each by my count) but both have great closing speed and burst and did well in pursuit so they are able to get to a lot of plays. Hooker never was burnt, a few plays he made where he broke on the ball and made a break-up like the play you mentioned below are jaw droppers.

Given the choices between the two all things being equal I would definitely go with Adams. The ability to have the versatility to move all over the formation and matchup in man coverage 1-1 is something that Adams showed he could do while Hooker was not afforded the opportunity to do.

Adams is definitely more polished, experienced and NFL ready and the additional playing time and experience more than makes up for the equal athleticism.  Assuming the testing numbers are somewhat close, Adams to me is the guy but I think Hooker is definitely in the conversation as the DB2 assuming he tests decently. The ball skills, play making and the vision once he has the ball are skills that I don’t think anyone else in the draft brings to the table and can’t be taught as only a handful of players in the league have the ability to make those type of plays in a consistent basis.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>