2017 NFL Draft: 'Ballhawking' Safety Malik Hooker Could Be 'Steal' For Colts

Intro: Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke, in his most recent mock draft, has the Indianapolis Colts taking Ohio State safety Malik Hooker in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. What does Hooker bring to the table?

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INDIANAPOLIS — Could the Indianapolis Colts get a "steal" when they pick in the middle of the first round of this year's NFL Draft?

Sports Illustrated Chris Burke believes so — depending on how the first few picks take shape.

In Burke's most recent mock draft, he has the Colts picking Ohio State standout safety Malik Hooker, who could remind fans of another standout Big Ten Conference safety who played in Indianapolis: Bob Sanders.

You can read Burke's entire first-round mock draft by clicking here, but here's what he had to write about the Colts and Hooker:

"At this point, Hooker would be a steal—flip him into (LSU safety Jamal) Adams's spot at 6 (with the Jets) or (Michigan safety Jabrill) Peppers's at 10 (with the Bills), and no one would bat an eye. The Colts' defense in general has to become faster, more athletic. Hooker checks both boxes as a ballhawking threat at safety. A scary thought: For as great as he was this season, he played just 19 games at Ohio State. The best is yet to come."

That certainly sounds promising for whichever team is able to land Hooker.

A first-team All-American in just his sophomore season in 2016, Hooker ranked sixth nationally with seven interceptions and returned three picks for a touchdown, leading the nation in that category. He ranked third on a really good Ohio State defense with 67 total tackles, including 5.0 tackles for loss.

And, as Burke alluded to, it appears Hooker hasn't even begun to sniff his prime as a football player. After playing in all 13 games (with no starts) his freshman season, the 2016 season was Hooker's first as a full-time starter for the Buckeyes.

Hooker has also shown an ability to make big plays in big situations, as his 16-yard interception return for a touchdown over rival Michigan was one of the crucial plays in Ohio State's 30-27 victory.

Whether it's being compared to Sanders or other great safeties — NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah sees an Ed Reed comparison — Hooker is certainly viewed as the type of player who will make an immediate impact on whichever defense he ends up with.

Want proof? Here's more than 14 minutes of highlights from Hooker's sophomore season:

The Colts could certainly use Hooker's skills in Indianapolis, as the team sees veteran safety Mike Adams hit the market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Darius Butler, a natural cornerback, also excelled when pressed into duty at the safety position in 2016, and he, too, is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Set to return for sure for the Colts at safety in 2017 is 2016 second-round pick T.J. Green, who played in 15 games with four starts in Indianapolis in his rookie season, and the team could also elect to bring back undrafted rookie Matthias Farley, who led the team in special teams tackles in 2016 and played in all 16 games.

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