Colts Relish The Playmaking Ability Malik Hooker Brings To Defense

Intro: Malik Hooker’s seven interceptions in 13 games last season was exactly what the Colts wanted heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Hooker’s playmaking was a dream for Chris Ballard.

HookerLombardi.jpg

INDIANAPOLIS –
Six days before Malik Hooker was gift wrapped to the Indianapolis Colts, Chris Ballard detailed what he wanted in the draft.

Defensive rebuilding has been a major focus since Ballard was hired in late January.

But to achieve the true changes Ballard believed was necessary, the draft had to offer a particular player.

"We need guys on defense with speed and explosive playmaking---guys that can go get the ball," Ballard said on the Friday before the 2017 NFL Draft. Defensive players that can't catch the football, I have a hard time with because those are game-changing plays within a game. A dropped interception, that's a missed opportunity.

"The more possessions you can add by taking away the football is important."

Ballard was all but describing Hooker.

But in no way did Ballard think Hooker was actually going to be sitting there when the Colts got on the clock at No. 15.

Hooker's seven interceptions (third most in college football), three returned for a touchdown (Ohio State school record) is exactly the sort of guy Ballard was defining in his pre-draft interview

"I really thought coming in here we needed to add defensive playmakers," Ballard repeated after taking Hooker 15th overall in Round One.

"I thought Hooker was the best athlete in the draft. And he's got a unique skill set. He's got size. He's got speed. He's got great instincts and ball skills. And guys that can take away the football are hard to find, and we think he can do that at this level."

Hooker, 21, comes to a Colts defense desperately looking to improve their takeaways number.

Last year, the Colts had eight interceptions in 16 games (29th in the NFL). Hooker had seven picks himself in 13 contests.

"You just look at our ball production last year or lack thereof, it wasn't good enough obviously," Chuck Pagano says, expanding on the need for a player like Hooker.

"You've got to be able to take the ball away. Obviously, this kid can do that, returning three (interceptions) for touchdowns. You get a guy with that rare talent and that rare ability. It will help us."

Clearly, Ballard and Pagano are on the same page when it comes to how things need to change defensively.

Ballard's emphasis on defenders that do more than just stop the opponent began from his scouting days with Lovie Smith in Chicago.

"We would not take players if they couldn't catch the football at any position on defense, other than defensive line," Ballard said of the philosophy in Chicago. "If a linebacker couldn't finish on the play with a catch, if a corner didn't have ball skills, if a safety didn't have ball skills – we weren't going to take them.

"Those are extra possessions. Those are game-changing plays. You think of times in games when guys don't finish on the football and take the ball away, that gives the offense another opportunity. Unique athletes that make plays, that's what we need to keep adding to our team especially on defense right now."

The Colts are now looking to the second youngest player on their roster (behind Quincy Wilson) to create such chances.

The analysis from those producing content on Colts.com does not necessarily represent the thoughts of the Indianapolis Colts organization. Any conjecture, analysis or opinions formed by Colts.com content creators is not based on inside knowledge gained from team officials, players or staff.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Advertising