INDIANAPOLIS – There are not many negatives when scrutinizing the game of
But when Hooker was drafted 15th overall by the Indianapolis Colts, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden highlighted tackling as something that the Ohio State safety had to improve on at the next level.
Watching the draft that night, Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer saw Gruden’s analyzation of his All-American safety.
Meyer, a fan of Gruden’s, disagrees with the opinion.
“He’s an excellent tackler, not a good tackler,” Meyer says of Hooker. “He had some bad angles on the video tape (ESPN) showed (during the draft).
“With experience, I think he’ll be a long-time safety in the NFL.”
During the draft process and evaluation of Hooker, the Colts also went deep into the tackling debate on Hooker.
Ballard had special teams coach Tom McMahon watch Hooker’s special teams film from his 2015 redshirt freshman season, when his role was primarily just on those units.
“He was dominant,” Ballard says of Hooker's 2015 season, before starting at safety the following year. “He was a dominant special teams player. So I see a guy, even though he only played limited time in high school and in college, we see a lot of upside and the arrow going up.
“The good thing about Malik is he’s a good kid. He works. He’s got great instincts for the game. That’s the one thing I don’t think you can teach, much like any sport. Either they’ve got a feel for it or they don’t have a feel for it. For his first year as a full-time starter, for him to do what he did I thought was pretty impressive.”
When Ballard looked into Hooker, he thought back to the 2016 Draft with the Chiefs.
In Kansas City, the Chiefs drafted Mississippi State Chris Jones (a third-year junior) after trading out of the first round, into the early part of the second round, even though he started for just one season and really only produced for a handful of games. The Chiefs kept thinking that if Jones had gone back to school, he could have been a top-five pick in 2017.
And what about Hooker, also a three-year player in college, with just one year of starting experience?
“I look at Hooker the same way,” Ballard says. “If he was in next year’s draft, where would Hooker go?
“Hooker would be a top-five pick.”
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