Malik Hooker Would Transform Secondary

Tale of the Tape Malik Hooker Would Transform Secondary

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In the 2017 Russell Street Report Mock Draft in which fellow RSR writer Paul Lukoskie and I made selections in a “what we would do” fashion, I opted for Ohio State safety Malik Hooker for the Baltimore Ravens with the 16th overall pick.

A relatively unknown name heading into the 2016 season, Hooker burst onto the scene with seven interceptions, spearheading a stellar Buckeyes defense and earning All-American honors. The redshirt sophomore established himself as a true ballhawk on the back end of the defense, and enters the 2017 draft as one of the more intriguing “raw” prospects.

Hooker is undeveloped in the sense that he only has two years of experience, and just one as a starter. Sure, Hooker was one of the nation’s best defenders in coverage in 2016, but the sample size is small enough to warrant concerns about his NFL potential.

The lack of experience, as well as surgeries that will keep him out of next week’s Scouting Combine, lead to the realistic possibility that he is still on the board when the Ravens are on the clock with the 16th pick.

With an aging Lardarius Webb (who played well in 2016 as a safety for the first time), it would behoove the Ravens front office to invest in some youth at free safety.

Having Webb and Eric Weddle on the back end gives the Ravens some security in taking a less-developed prospect with plenty of upside, mainly because said resource would not need to start in Week 1 of the 2017 season.

[Related: Williams Would Ignite Ravens Pass Rush]

Nonetheless, using a mid-first round pick on a prospect means the player is expected to at least contribute as a rookie, which Hooker is surely capable of.

Let’s take a look at why Hooker is such an intriguing prospect.

At the free safety position, instincts, closing speed and ball skills are three of the most important attributes for success. Hooker checks all three of those boxes.

From an instincts perspective, Hooker has an innate feel for the game, and can process the play in front of him and jump to where the ball is headed.

Oftentimes the Ravens secondary struggles with being a step too late in pass defense, and with being able to seal off plays. Hooker could help in both of these areas.

Along with the natural ability to diagnose plays, Hooker regularly displayed Grade-A range on in 2016.

For example, here Hooker recognizes the deep route downfield, and takes the proper angle to close off the top.

He does not make a play on the ball here, but what should be noted from this play is how quickly Hooker goes from point A to point B to gain positioning as the last line of defense.

With this ability to display sideline-to-sideline range, Hooker often finds himself in perfect position over the top to make a play on the ball.

Here, by covering ground and gaining position past the receiver, Hooker sets himself up for an easy interception.

After the pick, Hooker flashes his game-changing ability with the return for a touchdown.

Hooker is far from a finished product, and quite frankly is one of the bigger risks of the first round due to concerns mentioned above. But with his ability to change the course of a game with a well-timed interception, Hooker would create hope for a Ravens defense that seemed unable to force turnovers when needed down the stretch.

Hooker has been compared to the likes of Ed Reed and Earl Thomas, which is wishful thinking, as it is hard to justify comparisons to two likely Hall of Fame inductees. (Though granted, Hooker’s tackling can be just as bad as late-career Reed’s at times).

Realistically, if Hooker reaches his full potential, he will land himself somewhere in the range of Jairus Byrd and Reggie Nelson in their primes. For a free safety, that is pretty darn good and well worth the 16th overall pick.

Hooker still has a long way to go in order to reach his potential, but his ceiling is high enough that he just may be worth the risk for an ailing Ravens secondary.

GIFs c/o DraftBreakdown.com

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Kyle Casey

About Kyle Casey

Kyle's love of football centers around analytics and the NFL Draft. He has held season tickets at M&T Bank Stadium since 2004, and currently resides in Section 243. A 2016 Mass Communications graduate of Towson University, Kyle now works in the IT staffing industry. He tries to find the balance between being rational and being a contrarian through writing. More from Kyle Casey

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