3 best team fits for safety prospect Malik Hooker

Analyst Billy Moy identifies three landing spots for former Ohio State Buckeyes S Malik Hooker in the 2017 NFL Draft.

| 1 week ago
Malik Hooker

(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

3 best team fits for safety prospect Malik Hooker


There are two safeties right at the top of this year’s draft class: Ohio State’s Malik Hooker and LSU’s Jamal Adams. How your favorite NFL team ranks these two players on their respective big board largely depends on what it is they’re looking for out of a premier, top-of-the-draft safety. If a team is looking for a safety with a diverse skill-set, capable of playing deep or in the box while also lining up in some man coverage at times, they’ll likely prefer Adams. If a team is looking for a true centerfielder, though, a player who can line up as a single-high safety and just roam the middle of the field and make plays in pass defense, then Hooker is their guy. Here’s a look at the best fits for Hooker, with some nuggets from his PFF scouting report for added context:

What he does best

  • Has the natural speed, athleticism that can’t be coached
  • Has the agility, closing speed to recover even when he takes a false step or turns the wrong way
  • Elite range, tracking skills
  • When he picks one off he has the speed and vision to score from anywhere on the field
  • Trusts his reads and breaks earlier than any safety in the class

Malik Hooker Spider

Best fits

Los Angeles Chargers logo header

The Chargers are going to be re-shaping their defense this year under new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who implements a cover-3 defense the Seahawks (where Bradley was the defensive coordinator from 2009-2012) have made fans familiar with. Last season as head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bradley had a single-high safety (rather than two deep safeties) on 77.4 percent of passing plays; if his defense is going to have success stopping the pass, it’s imperative that they find somebody capable of locking down the middle of the field.

While the Chargers do have Jahleel Addae on the roster, who’s coming off of his highest-graded season (85.2 overall, ranked 12th among safeties last season), that shouldn’t prohibit the team from looking for an elite player to man the most important position in Los Angeles’ secondary. Hooker represents an opportunity for Bradley to go out and try to replicate what he had for all those seasons in Seattle with Earl Thomas, and the presence of Addae should not be what prohibits him from doing so. Addae’s previous season-high PFF grade came back in 2013, when he put up a 75.6 overall grade as a rookie; he then followed that up with sub-par play (65.0 in 2014, 57.9 in 2015) before bouncing back in a big way last season.

Chicago Bears

While I don’t expect the Bears to take Hooker with the third-overall pick in next weekend’s NFL Draft (they just went out and signed Quintin Demps this offseason and have major needs at other positions), that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a great fit. Vic Fangio deployed a single-high safety on 54.7 percent of Chicago’s pass-defense plays last season, and in an ideal world, when you have to face off against Aaron Rodgers at least twice per season, you want an elite safety back there with Hooker’s level of range and playmaking ability manning the middle of the field.

Buffalo Bills

Hooker is one of the few top-of-the-draft players that the Bills should consider if they aren’t going to go with one of the top wide receivers with their first-round selection. Buffalo is in desperate need of help at safety due to a lack of both talent and depth, with Jordan Poyer (70.4 overall, ranked 70th among 90 qualified safeties last season) slated as the starting free safety and not much else behind him on the roster.

If the Bills do end up selecting Hooker at 10th overall on draft day, he would provide an immediate, significant, upgrade to what Buffalo is currently trotting out there on the back end. Not only would Hooker be a major upgrade talent-wise, but he’s also a nice fit for what Sean McDermott tends to run on defense, as he also likes to make use of the single-high safety — though not quite as much as Gus Bradley. McDermott used a single-high safety on 46.3 percent of Carolina’s (where he was the defensive coordinator last season) pass-defense plays last season.