Redskins Draft Preview: Ohio State Safety Malik Hooker

The NFL draft begins on April 27th in Philadelphia and the Redskins have the No. 17 selection in the first round. This is the 10th in a series of stories analyzing 15 players who could be a good fit for Washington at that position.

Malik Hooker

Safety

6-foot-1

206 pounds

Ohio State

The football factory that is Ohio State just keeps producing elite NFL talent. Safety Malik Hooker could be the latest after just one year as a starter for the Buckeyes. But what a year it was with seven interceptions. Hooker needed double hernia surgery after the season and had to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He was hurt in the win over Michigan, but played in the national semifinal loss to Clemson anyway even though he wasn’t at full strength.

How he fits: The Redskins haven’t had a safety that could cover the whole field since the late, great Sean Taylor. Few players have that much natural talent, but Hooker is a natural – among the best safeties in space the college game has produced in years. He has great footwork and instincts that make up for relatively modest speed. Hooker just always seems to be around the football. Maybe some of that comes from his days as a star high school basketball player. He’s almost a perfect fit for Washington, which at free safety has DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon, two converted cornerbacks who are over 30. They wouldn’t even be reaching for a safety since Hooker is considered a potential Pro Bowler and is likely still in consideration for a top 10 pick. But Jamal Adams will probably go first at that spot and other teams might pass on the position.

Questions: Hooker isn’t a great tackler in space, which is a tradeoff some teams are willing to make given his ability to cover the field and go get the football. But those ragged angles in the running game could lead to big plays he otherwise won’t give up through the air. Hooker missed 17 tackles for Ohio State. There is still a learning curve here so while you might get a Pro Bowl player it probably won’t be right away. His surgery was Jan. 16 and while he should be back on the field for rookie camp after the draft, it could take a full year to fully recover from the hernias and torn labrum. All of that could push Hooker down the draft board toward the Redskins at 17.

Hooker’s take: “Just having the mindset that any ball that’s in the air, it’s my ball. I feel like I’m a playmaker. Any time I had a chance to make a play or change momentum of a game, I took it upon myself to do so.”

What they’re saying:

Mike Mayock, NFL Network

“Hooker as a centerfielder is phenomenal. He’s got an instinct for the game and an ability to go around the football…. I love Malik Hooker. I think he’s the best center field free safety I’ve seen in a while on tape. But I have two concerns. Number one is the durability. He’s a one-year starter at Ohio State. He’s coming off two surgeries after the season, and you’ve got to worry about his durability. Number two, he’s an inconsistent tackler. And if you’re going to play him at single high safety, one of his main jobs is going to be tackling. He’s the last line of defense, and he’s highly inconsistent, which worries me.”

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network

“Traditionally those guys don’t go very high. If you’re going to take one up there, when you talk about quarterback, defensive end, left tackle, those premier positions, if you’re going to take a safety over guys at those positions, he needs to be special. This year is unique in that Malik Hooker and Jamal Adams are special talents. Malik Hooker, his ability, like Ed [Reed], to get you the football. To me, he’s pretty special with his instincts, range and ball skills.”

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