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Colts Draft Player Profile: Malik Hooker

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NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Malik Hooker — Safety — Ohio State

Selection: 1st Round — 15th Overall

Height: 6’1”
Weight: 206 lbs.
Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Games Watched: vs. Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, Clemson (all 2016)

Strengths

  • Very good athlete who can change directions extremely quickly and fluidly.
  • Outstanding coverage skills as he reads and reacts to the quarterback’s eyes well.
  • He has fantastic instincts in coverage. He seems to be one step ahead of the quarterback and reacts extremely quickly to the ball in the air. He has a nose for the football.
  • Quarterbacks rarely threw to his side or to his vicinity of the field, especially if he was on the same side as Marshon Lattimore.
  • He is very patient with his reads. He is rarely out of position in coverage and never takes any false steps.
  • His closing speed is fantastic. He comes downhill very hard.
  • He has good tackling form (shown when he actually breaks down and is in the proper tackling position) as he wraps his arms around the ball carrier’s hips and keeps his head outside and twists with his body to bring the ball carrier down. This is the rugby tackling form taught by the Seahawks.
  • He can cover slot receivers and tight ends well. He can play effectively in man coverage in the short to intermediate portion of the field and has shown a relatively handsy (but not excessive) style of coverage.

Weaknesses

  • He lacks experience as he only spent one season as as starter.
  • He’ll often miss tackles in the open field and that’s due to not properly breaking down. He has a tendency of lunging towards ball carriers, which needs to be fixed.
  • He needs to take better angles when he’s chasing down ball carriers. He can get overly aggressive and he’ll fail to cut off a ball carrier’s path.
  • He must do a better job of shredding off blocks.

Other Notes

  • He is coming off shoulder surgery (February 2017).
  • He has only one year of experience as a starter. Spent his redshirt freshman season as a special teams player.

Summary

Hooker improved as the season went on. He looked a bit hesitant and out of place at times at the beginning of the season, but by the Penn State game he looked very comfortable and much better in every facet of the game.

Hooker is nearly flawless in coverage. In fact, he is the best coverage safety I’ve ever scouted. His instincts, ball skills and patience are on another level. He tracks the ball down in the air and high points the ball. He reads the quarterback’s eyes well and is rarely out of position. He comes downhill very fast and has great closing speed. He can cover in the slot against tight ends and slot receivers, and has a good, relatively aggressive style of coverage.

Hooker’s main issue comes in the running game. He misses a lot of tackles (missed 17 total tackles last season) and can be seen on numerous occasions whiffing in the open field. He can be overly aggressive at times and take bad angles towards the ball carrier. He is also weak when attempting to shred off blocks as he cannot disengage from a blocker, especially if that blocker is a good tight end.

Overall, Hooker looks like an instant starter in the NFL and should have an immediate impact in the passing game. He’ll be exposed as a tackler, but if a team is wiling to live with some missed tackles, they’ll be rewarded with a true game-changing cover-first safety.

NFL Comparison: Reggie Nelson (Raiders) & Haha Clinton Dix (Packers)

Fit/Role with the Colts

Hooker will have some growing pains early on. While he won’t be utilized as a run stopping safety because of the presence of Clayton Geathers, he’ll still have issues early on in his career making tackles against NFL runners. It took Ed Reed a few years to overcome his tackling issues and it will take Hooker at least a year to fix his errors in the tackling game. Because of his issues as a tackler, Hooker will mostly be utilized a center-field type safety on the boundary side of the field (a true free safety role). He’ll most likely be used as an over-the-top type safety who the Colts could use to shut down the other team’s top receiver (especially if that particular receiver is on the boundary side of the field). He’ll have a relatively similar role to that of Mike Adams.