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NFL Draft 2017 Scouting Report: FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State

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NFL Draft 2017 Scouting Report: FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State 

FS/SS grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, Wonderlic test results leaked, etc. We will update info as it becomes available.

 

If you want to say Malik Hooker is the best free safety in the 2017 NFL Draft, I wouldn’t fight you too much on that. Jabrill Peppers is a better strong safety prospect, so is Obi Melifonwu (though he’s likely headed to cornerback). But Hooker is arguably the best free safety among them. The question then becomes – how much do you spend, draft-wise, on a free safety?

Some people have Hooker among the top 10 prospects in the draft. I like Hooker as much as the next guy but I’m not using a top 10 overall pick on the free safety position unless it’s a freak of a player (and then you’d move them to CB)…certainly not spending big on a free safety who is spending the offseason recovering from hernia and labrum surgery. No one knows how fast or agile, etc., Hooker is…so how in the world does any of that translate to top 10 overall?

He’s good, I get that. Hooker finally earned a starting job for Ohio State in 2016 and became an all-American. His only real season of play,  he picked off 7 passes and returned 3 of them for TDs. He has terrific tracking skills. He’s a bit of a natural. A basketball player playing defensive back. He has great, fluid acceleration to an airborne pass or towards a ball-carrier. I think there would be a temptation towards moving him to cornerback.

Hooker has excellent hands. I was watching a montage of his interceptions and returns, he’s like a wide receiver making catches and like a tailback with the ball after the catch. He really is a very gifted, natural athlete. A first round prospect, but not a top 10 overall pick. I guess that’s splitting hairs a bit, but I wouldn’t take him until later in the first…or maybe even just pass due to the ‘unknowns’.

The unknowns are always concerning. What if Hooker is a slower runner than the tape has convinced our minds of? It happens all the time in scouting. Is he fast but not overall athletic (poor vertical, bench press, and broad jump)?  Are injuries an issue ahead? He hurt his shoulder in high school, now two surgeries this offseason.

On top of physical questions, you have his background – he didn’t start at OSU until this season. He nearly quit the team a few years back, as he really didn’t love playing football. Did he find the love of football just in time for a $1-2-3M+ guaranteed payday via the draft, and will he quickly lose that passion again once the checks clear? It happens, sometimes. Hooker seems to have good character but until this year…he was a ghost.

Consider this… Hooker is very talented. He has the skills to be a two-way player but was not used that way. Jabrill Peppers and Adoree’ Jackson are DBs who saw their teams get them the ball any way they could. Hooker played great at safety for a year and that’s it. I only speculate about this because some team is probably going to pass on a freak of freaksObi Meifonwu to take a one-year starter that nearly quit football a few years back, and is coming off two surgeries. I like Hooker’s talent. He’s really gifted, however…there are questions.

 

Malik Hooker, through the lens of our safety scouting algorithm:

Five of his 7 interceptions in 2016 came against Bowling Green State, Tulsa (in a monsoon), Indiana and Nebraska. He did have picks against Michigan and Clemson to end the year.

14 tackles against Northwestern (8 assisted) but 5.0 tackles per game otherwise. Hooker is a pretty solid tackler, technique wise. His numbers/output in tackles are so-so. I think it foretells more of a free safety/cornerback mindset. He’s great in coverage and solid in tackling.

 

NFL Combine data…

6’1.0″/206, 32.3″ arms, 10.8″ hands (he has freakishly large hands for his size or any sized person). His massive hands helped him grab all those 2016 season interceptions. He has steel trap hands.

DNP on all the events at the Combine or Pro Day because of his injuries.

 

Hooker’s college stats on CFB Reference: http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/malik-hooker-1.html

 

 

The NFL Safety that Malik Hooker most compares with statistically in college, within our system:

It’s a good list. A next Reggie Nelson or Malcolm Jenkins…makes sense. I really like the Malcolm Jenkins call.

 

OverallLastFirstYrCollegeHTHTWeightTackle Strngth MetricsSpeed Cover MetricStrong SafetyFree Safety
8.099HookerMalik2017Ohio State61.02065.768.2238.4%61.6%
7.295NelsonReggie2007Florida511.31985.4010.1213.9%86.1%
7.204JenkinsMalcolm2009Ohio St60.12045.8310.7230.9%69.1%
11.802BerryEric2010Tennessee511.52119.709.5746.2%53.8%
8.628ByardKevin2016MTSU511.22127.138.6453.6%46.4%
7.416RandallDamarious2015Arizona St510.71966.158.5542.6%57.4%
6.982AllenNate2010S. Florida60.42075.666.6939.2%60.8%

 

*The ratings are based on a 1–10 rating scale, but a prospect can score over 10.0+ and less than 0.0.

OVERALL RATING — We merge the data from physical measurables, skill times/counts from the NFL Combine/Pro Days, with college performance data available on pass coverage/tackles, etc. and grade it compared to our database history of all college SS/FS prospects, with a focus on which SS/FS prospects went on to be good-great-elite in the NFL. We found characteristics/data points that the successful NFL SS/FS’s had in common in college, that most other SS/FS prospects could not match/achieve.

Scoring with a rating over a 7.0+ in our system is where we start to take a SS/FS prospect more seriously. Most of the future NFL-successful college SS/FS prospects scored 8.0+ in our system, and most of the NFL-superior FS/SSs pushed ratings more in the 9–10.0+ levels overall. Future NFL busts will sneak into the 8.0+ rating range from time to time.

TACKLE/STRENGTH METRIC — A combination of physical measurables and college performance, graded historically for future NFL profiling. In the simplest of terms, this is an attempt to classify the SS/FS as one more likely to be involved in a heavy amount of tackles, forced fumbles, and physical hits to separate a WR from the ball. It also gives some insight into the “toughness” of a player, if it is possible to quantify that (this is our attempt to).

SPEED/COVERAGE METRIC — A combination of several speed, agility, size measurements as well as college performance. A unique measuring system to look for SS/FS prospects that profile for superior coverage skills and abilities.

 

2017 NFL Draft outlook…

CBS and ESPN both have Hooker in their top 7 overall for the draft, as of this writing. I’m a bit shocked by it, but he’s a first-round talent so it’s not worth arguing too hard about where to take him. For me, I don’t take a one-year starter at free safety coming off two injuries in the top 10. He’ll likely go top 10.

NFL Outlook: If he stays healthy, he’s going to be a useful or good or great free safety. Injury could be the only thing that holds him back from a solid+ NFL career.

 

 

rcf@collegefootballmetrics.com

 

– R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. Read more of his work on FantasyPros and various football websites. His group also provides player projections for Advanced Sports Logic’s football software The Machine.

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