Malik Hooker didn't participate in drills at the NFL scouting 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.
At least not worries on the field.
There has this spring been talk of Hooker going as high at No. 2, to the Niners. And inside Dallas Cowboys HQ? There has been 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 ... or, when a star player "inexplicably'' slips.
So what's up in the case of the talented Hooker?
The Cowboys personnel department views safety as a position of need -- especially with Barry Church and JJ Wilcox leaving 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.
If and when on Thursday Malik Hooker goes very, very high ... you'll know why.
But starting with this TV report from Cleveland ...
... And continuing on Tuesday morning, when an NFL source confirmed to be that teams are scrambling for info in the hopes that the TV story is false, that the allegations are false, that rumors of Hooker's involvement are false. ... There is unfairness, and even danger, in reporting that "a player with Ohio ties'' might be in trouble. That's a broad brush that paints a negative picture of too many innocent people. The only fairness is to investigate the rumor -- and those cogs are moving now, to the point where I'm told the concern has moved from Hooker to Gareon Conley, the Ohio State cornerback. And that leads to a journalism discussion: Is it fair to name names only after the police investigate? Is it enough once teams launch their investigations? Is it fair at all?
Reputations are at stake. So are millions of dollars. The only easy answer reverts to the hope that the TV story -- as it relates to any player, any person -- is false.