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Chicago Bears Scouting Report: Ohio State S Malik Hooker

A detailed scouting report on Ohio State safety Malik Hooker, whom many consider the top athlete in this year's draft class, which makes him a contender for the Chicago Bears with the third pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

The Chicago Bears need safety help, badly. It's a familiar refrain, one Bears fans preach annually every off-season. 

The team cycles through safeties on an almost-yearly basis, using both free agency and the draft to stabilize the position, to no avail. 

On the current roster, there is still hope for Adrian Amos, although his coverage skills are still below average. Last year's fourth-round pick, Deon Bush, is still very raw and the rest of the team's safeties are better suited for special teams. 

As such, expect the Bears to once again be aggressive in addressing the safety position this upcoming off-season. 

That could happen through free agency, where there are a handful of appealing options, as well as in the draft. 

With that in mind, I broke down film of the consensus top safety in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

Malik Hooker, Ohio State (6-2, 205)

Career Highlights

One-year starter for the Buckeyes. He finished second in the nation with seven interceptions in 2016, three of which he returned for touchdowns. Added 11 pass breakups, earning him First-Team Big-Ten honors, as well being named a consensus All-American. 

Pros

-Elite burst and acceleration. Has speed to easily cover sideline-to-sideline. 
-Pure center fielder with great instincts and range on the back end. 
-Elite speed, allows him to close ground in an instant. 
-Very aggressive when the ball is in the air. Tracks the deep ball very well. Great hands. 
-Unbelievable body control when attacking deep balls.
-Very good at reading eyes of quarterbacks.
-Aggressive in coverage and willing to take risks in order to create turnovers. 
-Willing tackler. 

Cons

-Very raw as a football player. Played just two years in high school and started just one year at OSU. 
-Lacks good tackling form. Shoulder tackler. 
-Will take bad angles against the run and, in the open field, he's a 50/50 tackler at best. 

Bottom Line

The Bears have forced the fewest turnovers in the NFL the last two years combined and, in 2016, nearly set an NFL record for fewest turnovers in a single campaign. 

Turnovers are are game changers in the NFL and that is what Hooker does best. 

As a free safety, he's on a level all his own. His ability to fly around center field is unparalleled and it's hard to even find an adequate comparison at the NFL level. He can cover sideline-to-sideline on one leg. 

And when he was challenged deep, Hooker almost always made opposing teams pay. He uses great body control, vision, long arms and elite leaping ability to turn those deep pass attempts into interceptions. 

That, almost more than anything else, is what the Bears need desperately. Drafting Hooker means those days of watching Chicago safeties get beat deep would be long gone. With his long strides and acceleration, I don't see how it's possible to beat him deep. 

After the catch, Hooker always looks to score. He's extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands and runs like a running back, using his blockers to work his way into enemy territory. 

In terms of athleticism, Hooker is off the charts. He's raw and inexperienced but to me, that just means he has a ton of room for growth. If he's making highlight-reel plays now, imagine the types of plays he'll makes with a few NFL years under his belt. 

Hooker has all the makings of a multi-year All Pro who would have an immediate impact for Chicago's defense, in coverage. 

In run support, it's an entirely different story. Hooker likes to hit, that much is obvious, but his form is horrible. 

He's at his best working laterally but when plays are run right at him, he shows some hesitation and he lacks instincts, which leads to some bad missed tackles. 

While Hooker would upgrade the Bears pass defense from Day 1, it could take him a few years before he becomes a reliable tackler on the back end. 

Ideally, the Bears would find a way to trade back in the first round and still land Hooker. He's going to be a very good professional but he's not there yet and it's tough to justify using the third overall pick on a one-dimensional player who may not reach his ceiling for two or three years. 

Hooker is worth a hefty investment but not one of the top three picks in the draft. If GM Ryan Pace can trade back into the 8-12 range and still land Hooker, while adding draft picks in the process, Bears fans should consider it a successful first round. 


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