Shutdown Corner is counting down the top 50 prospects in the 2017 NFL draft with a scouting report, quotes from NFL evaluators and a projection where they might be drafted.
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7. Ohio State Malik Hooker 6-foot-1, 206 pounds
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Key stat: In his one season of starting for the Buckeyes, Hooker logged 74 tackles (5.5 for losses), 11 passes defended and tied for third in NCAA with seven interceptions (184 return yards and three of those picks run back for touchdowns).
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The skinny: Prep star in basketball had strong Division-I attention in hoops and won two state championships in the sport. Only started playing football as junior in high school but was heavily recruited and committed to Ohio State, where he redshirted in 2014. The following season, Hooker primarily was a special teamer, playing behind Vonn Bell, a 2016 second-round pick of the New Orleans Saints. Once Hooker earned a starting role in 2016, there was little stopping him as he earned first-team All-American and first team All-Big Ten honors.
Hooker declared for the 2017 NFL draft following his redshirt sophomore season. He had surgery to repair a torn labrum and a hernia on Jan. 31 and was medically excused from performing at the NFL scouting combine and could not work out at Ohio State’s pro day. He turned 21 years old recently.
Best-suited destination: Any NFL team wanting to roll the injury dice on a player who has immense talent — he might have been our No. 2-ranked prospect had he been fully healthy and played a bit more before this past season — would apply here cheap jerseys. Hooker is inexperienced and could use time to get healthy and fully acclimated to sophisticated NFL passing offenses. So he might be best suited to land with a team that can afford to not have him start immediately if need be, but scheme-wise Hooker’s range, size and instincts lend him to any type of defense teams want him to run. Teams that could be especially interested in Hooker include the Los Angeles Chargers, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Arizona Cardinals — but again, Hooker’s raw talent has mass appeal around the NFL.
Upside: Immense ceiling. In a league where teams are always seeking defensive backs who have the range to cover, the instincts to make plays on the ball and the size to be forces in the run game, Hooker’s skill set is an absolute dream. Terrific height, length and some of the biggest hands (10 3/4 inches) you’ll ever see in a defensive back. Moves around with ease, like you’d expect a quick basketball guard to. Absolutely ideal height-weight-speed numbers for a safety when you consider that he likely can add 5-10 pounds easily and not lose anything in the process.
Ninja-like in his ability to read the quarterback’s eyes, react and pounce. Has extreme confidence in his own diagnostic skills and the makeup speed to correct mistakes quickly when he makes them. Want to see range, instincts and playmaking — all in one play? This is early in Hooker’s first college start, mind you, as he comes all the way from the far hashmark in a single-deep safety-look, traverses more than half the field (off the quarterback’s three-step drop), tips the pass to himself and hauls in a memorable first collegiate INT against Bowling Green (and he later made another terrific pick in the same game):
Reads screens and draws well, even front center field position, and can come downhill to erase them before they get started. Good last-line defender — takes good angles to the ball, doesn’t get beat deep and can be counted on to prevent touchdowns. Home-run threat with the ball in his hands — averaged 26.3 yards per INT return and had TDs off picks against Tulsa, Nebraska and Michigan and almost housed his second INT in the Bowling Green game.
Also served as the Buckeyes’ punt-team gunner and the defensive end on the field-goal block unit. Arrow is pointed up — way up. All Pro potential is obvious when you watch where he is after so little football.
Downside: Still learning the game. Offenses with more sophisticated passing concepts slowed him down a step. Can bite on play action (see Indiana and Penn State games) and also get fooled by a savvy quarterback’s eyes (see Clemson game). Will arrive a hair early trying to make a play on the ball — got away with a few of these on non-calls last season. Has man-coverage ability but appears to be best in deep space. Still a bit of a guesser who gets some wrong.
Injury could keep Hooker out for the start of offseason training wholesale nfl jerseys. Might be best served with a rookie season where he’s not expected to be a game changer right away. Could use more bulk on his frame — especially in his upper body. Not a forceful run defender yet. Will make tackle attempts at the ankles and will let a few slip through his grasp. Also can overshoot gaps and leave his feet too much. Will run around receivers’ block attempts at times. His vision is much better in space — the closer Hooker is to the line of scrimmage and the more traffic there is, the less he’s able to diagnose plays.
Scouting hot take: “I can look at 13 games of a one-year starter at safety and project what he’s going to be a lot easier than I can a quarterback … He’s a special one. Mark my words: I love [LSU’s Jamal] Adams, but Hooker will be the better player in five years.” — AFC college scouting director
Player comp: There’s a little Sean Taylor and a little Earl Thomas in Hooker’s game, but we’re still projecting here in a big way for a one-year starter coming off a notable surgery. Some on the Buckeyes’ staff even invoked the name of Ed Reed — that’s how special Hooker could be.
Expected draft range: Top-15 pick
Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad cheap jerseys Davis No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky No. 15: Washington WR John Ross No. 14: Clemson WR Mike Williams No. 13: Western Michigan WR Corey Davis No. 12: Temple LB Haason Reddick No. 11: Ohio State CB Gareon Conley No. 10: Alabama TE O.J. Howard No. 9: Stanford RB-WR-RS Christian McCaffrey No. 8: Alabama LB Reuben Foster
Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter!