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2017 New Orleans Saints Draft Targets: Malik Hooker

The Ohio State pipeline worked well for the Saints last season, and Malik Hooker would be a big boost to their secondary.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

We continue our NFL draft profiles series with Ohio State free safety Malik Hooker, who many consider as one of the best talents in this year's draft.

Measurables (Did not participate in the combine)

  • Height: 6-foot-1
  • Weight: 206-pounds
  • Arm Length: 32 1/4”
  • Hands: 10 3/4”

Analysis

Hooker is only a one-year starter, but he could very well be the most talented player in the draft. He has excellent size for the free safety position, and he combines that with sideline-to-sideline speed which allows him to stay back and cover the entire field.

To go with his tremendous physical abilities, Hooker has a great football IQ. He consistently reads receivers and quarterbacks, and he is extremely aware of any guy entering his zone. These traits allowed him to make a ton of plays on the ball as we saw in 2016, where he had 7 interceptions (3 for TDs) and 4 passes defended.

The glaring weakness in Hooker’s game is tackling. He doesn’t show the proper technique on tape, and too often decides to launch his body towards the ballcarrier's legs, which often leads to missed tackles (13 in 2016).

Hooker was hit by injuries late in the season and had to go through surgery to fix a torn labrum and a hernia issue. This shouldn't hurt his stock as he played extremely well despite having these injuries as Matt Miller reported.

Examples of Hooker's elite range and ball skills

How he fits the Saints

The Saints have lacked an elite free safety ever since Darren Sharper left town, and Malik Hooker could be the guy they have been looking for. He has all the measurables you look for (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) and he plays with Earl Thomas like speed and ball-hawking ability. He can easily get from sideline to sideline, and because of his big frame, he can challenge receivers in aerial duals.

We know by now that Hooker is a really good player, but what has me sold on him is how he fits with the defensive scheme. He looks like the perfect guy to match with the more box-oriented trio of Vonn Bell, Kenny Vaccaro, and Rafael Bush. That would not only allow Hooker to play to his strengths, but also help eliminate some of his tackling issues. Furthermore, it would also help the defense be more dynamic and fast-paced, which is something they desperately need.

It is very unlikely that Hooker will be available when the Saints pick at No. 11, but he could drop because of injuries. Teams have a tendency to shy away from players who can’t suit up the day after the draft, and if he were to drop, the Saints shouldn't hesitate to draft him.