Malik Hooker is a skinny safety with issues against the run, recovering from a torn labrum and a hernia. He won’t even participate in this year’s scouting combine. However, if your team sucks at defending the pass- which, let’s face it, is about two thirds of the league- Malik Hooker is the man your franchise needs.

 

Hooker is special because he possesses a combination of tools that shouldn’t exist for a college prospect. Specifically, he has the two traits valued above all else for free safeties- range and ball skills. And he has them in spades. I’m talking Ed Reed levels of playmaking. This play against Clemson is the perfect example. Notice Hooker line up on the left hash, around the 25 yard line. Watch him read Deshaun Watson’s eyes, break on the ball, and intercept the pass at the OPPOSITE PYLON. That’s ridiculous. Hooker makes it look easy, but that’s something maybe ten people on planet Earth are capable of doing. If that’s not enough for you, watch this absolutely stupid interception against Bowling Green. Hooker comes over from the deep middle of the field, deflects the ball into the air, and catches it while on his back. Plays like that can shift momentum in games, and the make Hooker a top 5 talent in this class.

 

Most teams in the modern NFL run a Cover 3 defense, in which the free safety covers the deep middle of the field, and is responsible for taking away the deep ball from sideline to sideline. I cannot stress this enough, but Malik Hooker is literally the perfect prospect to play this role. It’s like needing an attractive, blissfully philosophical male lead role and having Matthew McConaughey walk through the door.

 

But what if your team runs more Cover 2 instead of Cover 3? What if instead of having one deep safety, you play two deep safeties and cut the field in half? Does Hooker still fit your team? Yes. Hell yes. Absolutely. By playing Hooker in Cover 2 (or Cover 4, though this is even less common), you restrict his ridiculous range. However, congratulations, because no team is throwing deep to that side of the field. I legitimately cannot envision a modern defense that Hooker would not excel in.

 

Earlier, I mentioned that Hooker had some issues against the run, but allow me to clarify. Hooker doesn’t have issues like Deion Sanders, whose run defense strategy was essentially “Screw that, I’m going to cover my man better than anybody and everyone else can stop the run”. Hooker is a willing and able tackler. His problem is that he tries to wipe people from existence on every hit. When offenses run tosses or stretch plays, Hooker sprints down from his safety position in full “I’m going to launch myself at you with the force of an acrobatic wrestler off the top ropes, lay the wood, and rhythmically strut away whilst flexing every muscle in my body and roaring like a wounded lion” mode. While this is undeniably badass and often leads to momentum changing hits and fumbles, Hooker also misses a lot of tackles. This trait is relatively common among college safeties, and is quickly corrected at the next level.

 

As the draft approaches, you’re going to hear one name associated with Hooker: the aforementioned Ed Reed. Normally, I hate player comparisons. I think they can be misleading, and set unrealistic expectations. However, in this case I think it’s absolutely fair to compare Hooker to Reed. Hooker will never possess Reed’s unholy dynamism; Reed was a force at blocking punts, and treated interceptions like kick returns, attempting to bring every one to the house. Hooker may never be as good as Reed against the run. But when it comes to ball skills, range, and instincts, Reed is the only player of this century to match Hooker’s upside. So if you’re a fan of the Bears, or the Jets, or really any team picking in the top ten, you better be hoping you get Malik Hooker. Because you damn sure don’t want to play against him.

Author Details
Grant Baker is an Arkansas native and fan of the Oakland Raiders. He covers the NFL and the NBA, but predominantly covers the NFL Draft. Grant belongs to the rare breed of people who love poring over game film of prospects from directional Missouri schools. He serves takes ranging in temperature from Steph Curry in Madison Square Garden to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
×
Grant Baker is an Arkansas native and fan of the Oakland Raiders. He covers the NFL and the NBA, but predominantly covers the NFL Draft. Grant belongs to the rare breed of people who love poring over game film of prospects from directional Missouri schools. He serves takes ranging in temperature from Steph Curry in Madison Square Garden to Lambeau Field in the playoffs.
Latest Posts

1 COMMENT

  1. Wasn’t really aware of this man’s existence, but that interception against Clemson was an incredible play and the Bowling Green play was one of the best defensive plays of the season. Really talented guy, for sure.

LEAVE A REPLY

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.