Crazy First Round Leads Malik Hooker To Defensive Hungry Colts

Intro: When seven offensive players went in the first 10 picks on Thursday night, the Colts were going to be gifted an elite defensive talent. Safety Malik Hooker was that guy at pick No. 18.

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INDIANAPOLIS – About a week and a half ago, Chris Ballard had a feeling.

The cement was drying on the 2017 draft board in Indianapolis, but Ballard wanted to bring in another prospect for a top-30 draft visit.

Had Mock Drafts caught wind of the Colts hosting Ohio State safety Malik Hooker for a draft visit, they probably would have laughed.

The due diligence and homework of Ballard paid off when seven offensive players were taken in the top 10 of Thursday's first round.

As Hooker kept on sliding, Chris Ballard, inside the Colts' draft war room, was in awe, not believing

*what he was seeing.

Even though Ballard was surprised by the defensive talent dropping to the Colts, it was a contingency plan he had addressed a little more than a week ago.

"I'm not going to lie, about 10 days ago, we were in there working through the draft board, and I kept asking, 'What if one of these guys falls? Would we be willing to pull the trigger and take him?' Ballard said on Thursday night, after taking Hooker at 15th overall.

"I said, 'Let's bring Hooker in just in case (for a top-30 draft visit). Just in case he falls, let's make sure we've spent our time with him other than the Combine. Have our medical people look at him again.'"

That feeling was a pretty good hunch once the unpredictable dominoes started falling for the Colts.

When Ballard initially met Hooker at the Combine, there was a bit of an aura that matched up with the All-American numbers the safety put up at Ohio State last year.

"He's got a presence to him," Ballard says of Hooker. "The Combine meeting was the first time I met him, and he's got an air of confidence and presence to him that the good players have."

On Thursday, Ballard would not reveal just how high up the Colts had Hooker on their draft board.

But judging by what Ballard was seeking in this draft---defensive game-changers---Hooker was much higher than the 15th ranked player.

"I really thought coming in here we needed to add defensive playmakers," Ballard said of the draft. "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.

"Is he a ready-made guy? He's going to need work, but his first year starting at Ohio State he picks off seven balls. He was one of their best special teams – played behind two seniors at Ohio State early in his redshirt freshman year, and was a great special teams player for them. We're excited to get Malik. We feel very fortunate."

Even though Ballard never expected Hooker to be there at No. 15, he swears the first-time general manager was relatively calm when the pick neared the Colts.

A trade back in Round One?

No chance with such a playmaker still on the board.

"We talked about it in the draft room, when San Diego took (Clemson wide receiver Mike) Williams and then Kansas City moved up to take (Texas Tech quarterback Patrick) Mahomes, I started really thinking it was a possibility to have a chance to get (Hooker)," Ballard said.

"There was a lot of attention for the pick but I just thought Malik was too unique. I've talked about this a few times, unique skill sets, unique athletes, unique players that make plays, that's what we need to keep adding to our team right now, especially on defense right now."

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.

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