Malik Hooker could be the ball hawk the Browns need at safety

Former Buckeye, Malik Hooker could be the ball-hawking safety the Browns need

(As it stands now, the Browns have the first and 12th overall picks in the upcoming NFL Draft as well as the top pick (33rd) in the second-round. We've taken a consensus of the majority of mock drafts and will profile the players that have been most associated with the Browns in the upcoming draft.)

Malik Hooker  (6-1, 206) Safety, Ohio State

Pro Football Focus ranks him as the No. 2 safety ( overall 11th ranked player)

What experts say about Hooker's strengths: PFF's assessment: "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...Trust his reads and breaks earlier than any safety in the class."

What experts say are Hooker's weaknesses: "Doesn’t bring his arms to wrap up on tackles...Limited feel for inside running game – tends to run himself out of plays, gaps..Gets overly aggressive against both the run and pass, will overrun assignments...Leaves his feet too often, causing him to miss tackles...When he is the underneath safety playing zone, he struggles to consistently identify target...From zone coverage tends to attack the first thing he sees and leaves himself susceptible to being out of position...Must improve pedal technique for man coverage – gets upright, too far on his heels."

Who does Hooker compare to in the NFL?: Hooker has been compared to Reggie Nelson of the Raiders. He is a rangy free safety who is capable of making game-changing plays on the back end with his ability to outplay receivers for the ball in the air and net significant returns. Nelson has never graded significantly above-average against the run during his NFL career.

What Hooker thinks his best attributes are: "I would say I feel like I’m a special player capable of doing a lot of things. I had a great coaching staff as well behind me to get me to be the player that I am. I was playing with a lot of special players as well, and I feel like every day I went to practice I was competing against the best of the best. I give a lot of credit to the scout team players and also a lot of the starters on the offense, because without them, I wouldn’t get half the looks that I had throughout the year."

Hooker had seven interceptions in his only full season with the Buckeyes and feels interceptions are his mindset.

"Just having the mindset that any ball that’s in the air, it’s my ball. I feel like I’m a playmaker. Any time I had a chance to make a play or change momentum of a game, I took it upon myself to do so."

The Bottom Line on Hooker: "Hooker is very much a projection at this point, as he has the athletic skill set to be an impact player, but his all-around game is clearly undeveloped as of now. His ability to track the ball and outplay receivers in the air is unmatched, as evidenced not only by his seven interceptions, but the content of the plays. His athletic ability is such that he is capable of staying with virtually any slot receiver in the league in man coverage situations, and he has some experience with this from college."

How Hooker would fit with the Browns: The Browns very much need a ball-hawking safety in the back of the secondary. With the departure of Jordan Poyer in free agency, the Browns returning players are Ibraheim Campbell and Derrick Kindred and converted cornerback Tracy Howard. Hooker would be a big-time addition at safety. Most projections have Hooker being selected in the top 10, thus will unlikely be available to the Browns with the No. 12 pick.

Next Up: We'll take a look at Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes


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