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Scouting Report: FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State

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Today we take a look at an elite playmaker in the secondary and one of the top players in the 2017 Draft: FS Malik Hooker.

Michigan v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Sometimes, when going through film on prospects, you come across a player that is so impressive that he demands your attention. A player so dominant or so athletic that they distract you from the player you were originally trying to scout. Malik Hooker out of Ohio State is one of those elite players.

Hooker is one of the most natural, instinctive, and rangy safeties I’ve scouted in recent years, despite being only a one-year starter at Ohio State. Read on for an in-depth breakdown of Hooker’s game.


FS Malik Hooker

Height: 6’2
Weight: 205

Strengths

Hooker is an elite FS prospect with incredible range and downright impressive closing speed. He's a smooth, effortless athlete in coverage, with fluid agility and great movement skills. Hooker is an effective "eraser" that keeps big plays from turning into TDs. He looked like the fastest player on the field at times, and was able to chase down players who broke out into the open field. Hooker is also a solid tackler, generally getting his man down despite subpar technique.

Hooker really shines when he's left as a lurker in the secondary. He has exceptional instincts for a player his age and is an expert at reading the QB's eyes. Always seems to be around the play even if he doesn't make the stop himself. Proved himself as a phenomenal ball-hawk with 7 interceptions during the 2016 season. Clearly has great hands and is a playmaker in the secondary. Played both center-field/single-high and in the box at OSU, but projects best as a rangy single-high FS in the NFL.

Weaknesses

While Hooker is a phenomenal athlete and smooth coverage safety, he's not a physical player. He doesn't seem to shy away from contact but his form is poor: tends to lead with his shoulder and go low on bigger opposing players. Susceptible to whiffing on more agile players, or getting run over by larger RBs. Could take better angles against the run and will sometimes overshoot players. Limited tape and starting experience show themselves as Hooker often bites on play-action fakes and trick plays.

Hooker's athletic ability and fluid movement skills often cover up his relatively raw coverage technique. In the NFL, he'll be facing better athletes and more savvy route runners and will need to work hard to improve. With only one year of film and starting experience, Hooker gives scouts a very limited sample size to evaluate.

--INJURY--Hooker had surgery in early February to repair a torn labrum and a sports hernia he suffered during the 2016 season. This will cause him to miss 4-6 months, including the NFL Combine and Pro Days. The belief is that he will be ready to go for training camp, but will not participate in any athletic testing prior to the NFL Draft.

Grade: 1+ (elite 1st round)

Analysis

Hooker is one of my favorite prospects in the draft. He’s an elite FS prospect, and some have compared him to Ed Reed and Earl Thomas. While I’m not quite going that far yet, he certainly has the potential to affect games in the same way those two players do. His range and instincts are two things that simply can’t be taught, and they make him an ideal fit for a team that runs a lot of single-high looks (like the Falcons).

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Hooker is almost assuredly a top-10 pick. However, with the recent news of his surgery and the fact that he will not be taking part in any athletic testing prior to the draft, there is a slight chance that he could fall into the teens or early 20s. In that case, if Quinn believes Hooker can be his “Earl Thomas”, the Falcons may try to trade up for him.

While I don’t view that scenario as particularly likely, it is a possibility. Few expected Myles Jack to go outside of the top-10 last season, if you’ll recall. But, at the heart of it, FS isn’t the biggest need for this Falcons team. Atlanta is much more likely to stay put at 31 and draft a player on the offensive or defensive lines.

But, dangit, wouldn’t it be cool to get an elite playmaker like Hooker in a Falcons uniform? We can dream, can’t we?

What say you, Falcons fans? Is there any chance Hooker could end up a Falcon? Would you even want him with our first round pick?