Various media outlets have worked to assemble a list of players the Dallas Cowboys met with at last week's NFL Scouting Combine. They range from guys who look like high-first-rounders to guys who seem likely to be available at 28 to guys who will be available later. Some names:
TE O.J. Howard - Alabama
S Justin Evans - Texas A&M
WR K.D. Cannon - Baylor
DE Takkarist McKinley - UCLA
DT Dalvin Tomlinson - Alabama
WR DeDe Westbrook - Oklahoma
QB Brad Kaaya - Miami
RB Donnel Pumphrey - San Diego State
WR Greg Ward - Houston
UTEP RB Aaron Jones - UTEP
DE T.J. Watt - Wisconsin
WR Mike Williams - Clemson
DE Demarcus Walker - Florida State
TE David Njoku - Miami
TE Jake Butt - Michigan
But here's a name that didn't surface much in Indy: Malik Hooker.
He didn't participate in drills at the combine with the rest of the secondary guys as he had surgery Jan. 16 to repair a torn labrum in his hip and a sports hernia. But he did play through those injuries against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs, toughing it out while knowing that his draft stock may have been at-risk.
Ah, but no worries.
There is talk of Hooker going as high at No. 2, to the Niners. And inside Dallas Cowboys HQ? There is some salivating over Hooker as a "certain top-10 talent'' who "does everything you want at safety. ... He's everything.''
The Ohio State product, given this scouting report from Dallas, needs to go on that list of "guys you'd move up for.'' That's not a prediction of a Cowboys move, but rather, something to tuck away in the filing cabinet for when move-up gossip and speculation occurs and traditional wisdom insists that it's because Dallas covets a pass-rusher and a wide receiver.
Owner Jerry Jones hinted at those two needs on the bus in Indy. But he skipped safety, and in doing so, inadvertently conflicted with the views of his personnel department, who also view safety as a position of need -- especially with Barry Church and JJ Wilcox hitting free agency.
Hooker is drawing comps to Ed Reed, and obviously, that's hyperbolic. (We think.) But he's a centerfielder, a hitter, a tough guy and a smart guy. He has just one season as a Buckeyes starter but in that season Hooker had seven interceptions with three returned for TDs.
The Cowboys have interviewed a lot of players and as the NFL Draft approaches they will interview a lot more. But when you're watching the War-Room Cam on Draft Night and you see a grimace on the face of a Cowboys staffer when Malik Hooker goes very, very high ... now you'll know why.