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Home / Draft / 2017 IDP DRAFT PREVIEW: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

2017 IDP DRAFT PREVIEW: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

What a difference a year can make.

Twelve months ago at this time, Malik Hooker was a little-known young defensive back set to enter the starting lineup at The Ohio State University. Now, after an outstanding season in which the 6’1″ 206-pounder tallied 74 tackles, seven interceptions (tied for second in the nation) and returned three of those picks for scores Hooker is a consensus top-10 pick as an early entrant into the 2017 NFL Draft.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports went so far as to compare Hooker’s game to a future Hall of Famer in Ed Reed of the Baltimore Ravens. “When it comes to range and ball-hawking instincts at the safety position, Reed is the supreme prototype,” Brugler said. “And while high praise to mention such a young player in the same breath as the future Hall of Famer, Hooker’s skill-set is very similar with his athleticism, anticipation in coverage and ball skills. The comparison doesn’t mean that Hooker is destined to have the same career as Reed, but the talent is very comparable.”

Brugler isn’t the only draftnik to make that comparison. NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah did so as well. “He has the best combination of range and ball skills that I’ve ever seen in a college safety,” Jeremiah said. “His anticipation and awareness is off the charts. I wasn’t in Baltimore when Ed Reed was drafted, but I arrived the following year to scout for the Ravens and spent four years around the future Hall-of-Famer. Hooker is the closest thing I’ve seen to Reed seen since I’ve been scouting. He is also very effective in the run game. He takes proper angles and he’s a reliable tackler.”

As Conor Orr of NFL.com reported, Hooker is blown away to be mentioned in that sort of company. “It’s definitely an honor,” Hooker said. “It’s a great thing for me personally to be named in the same sentence as a great like Ed Reed. It’s a humbling thing. It tells me I gotta keep working until people say that I’m a great. It’s just shocking, man, a great thing for me.”

However, there are a couple of red flags with Hooker. He had shoulder and hernia surgeries just after the season, so as he told Orr his “workouts” this draft season have been limited to sit-downs with potential NFL suitors. “(Talking to scouts,) that was mainly the whole thing from my end. They asked me about my injury, what I know about football and stuff like that. That was basically my whole process, meeting with scouts from teams.”

“I’ve never been in this process before, but I’m just sitting back and enjoying the ride,” Hooker said. “I’m taking the leadership from some of the older guys who have been through this before and going off that. The guys just tell me not to worry about it, get healthy and things will work out in my favor.”

Also, as one AFC Executive told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Hooker’s status as a one-year starter could lead to some growing pains early in his NFL career. “Hook(er) is still so raw and you see him making all of those plays,” he said. “He’s a player who will come in and look bad his first year and then be an all-pro by his third year. I think that’s his arc. No short-cut for experience.”

In short, there’s no question that Hooker will be drafted in the first round on April 27. The only question is how early and by whom.

His IDP future, on the other hand, is less clear. It’s not a matter of talent. Hooker has plus instincts and a nose for the football that can’t be taught. Wherever the ball winds up on a given play, Hooker won’t be far behind. He’s more than capable of holding his own in slot coverage — a trait that’s highly coveted in today’s NFL. And he’s not even the least bit shy about getting his hat dirty in run support.

However, Hooker will likely play a role at the NFL level that will probably lead to high-variance fantasy production — something of a cross between the more classic center field of Reed and the “hybrid” role of Tyrann Mathieu with the Arizona Cardinals.

Both of those defensive backs have been to the Pro Bowl and posted top-10 fantasy numbers over the course of a season. But their reliance on big plays for much of their production has made those numbers more difficult to replicate, whether it’s year to year or (in some cases) even week to week.

Hooker is going to be an excellent NFL player. And he may prove to be more than worth a roster spot in IDP leagues. For that to happen though more than a few dominoes will have to fall the right way, so talented though he may be Hooker isn’t a player I’d consider targeting until very late on fantasy draft day.

About Gary Davenport

A member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America who resides in Columbus, Ohio, Gary has been featured on a number of fantasy websites and in nationally circulated publications. These publications include the USA Today Fantasy Football Preview and the magazines distributed by Fantasy Sports Publications Inc., for whom Gary is a both a contributing author and associate editor. Gary is an eight-time FSWA Award finalist and two-time winner who has been a finalist for that organization's Fantasy Football Writer of the Year award each of the last three years. He won the honor in 2017. Gary also appears regularly on Sirius XM Radio (including live from Radio Row at Super Bowl XLIX) and over-the-air stations across the country. Gary was one of the co-founders of, and Head Writer at, Fantasy Football Oasis before joining Fantasy Sharks as an IDP Senior Staff Writer in 2011. He knows football. Or so he's heard.