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Making the Case: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

| April 14th, 2017

Any pass thrown in Malik Hooker’s general direction has a good chance to be intercepted. Do I really need to say more than that?

He has better range than any safety I’ve seen coming out of the draft and showed incredible hands in his one season at Ohio State. According to Pro Football Focus, 41 passes were thrown to guys he was covering. He either intercepted or defended 11 of them. He returned three interceptions for touchdowns while only giving up one score himself. His interception against Clemson was one of the best plays you will ever see a safety make.

For the Bears, that could be huge. They play in a division where two of the quarterbacks — Sam Bradford and Aaron Rodgers — avoid putting the ball in harm’s way at all costs. With Hooker on the field, the ball would almost always be in harm’s way if they threw near him.

Injuries & Inexperience

Hooker played only one season at OSU and had two surgeries, including one for a torn labrum in his hip. Perhaps he’ll recover 100 percent, but he’s on the small side so I don’t think it’s irrational to be concerned about his ability to hold up.

As good as he is against the pass, he tends to miss quite a few tackles and takes some really bad angles. I’m not sure he’s better in that area than Chris Conte. He’s not going to step into the box and be effective, nor would any team want him to, but it could limit his team’s defense.

The positional value stuff detailed for Jamal Adams exists for Hooker too, of course. He’d be the sixth-highest paid safety in the league, based off of one year of collegiate production and after a fairly significant surgery.

Overview

The biggest difference between Adams and Hooker is upside. I think Adams is going to be a very good player for a long time. Hooker just might be a special, generational talent. But the bust factor is also higher.

What I don’t know and can’t really speculate about is health. Hooker should be ready to go by the start of the season, but hip surgery for a defensive back is scary to me.

If the medicals check out, I’m all for the Bears picking him third. Takeaways are so important and he can essentially erase an entire chunk of the field.

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