Malik Hooker Selection Graded 'A' By NFL Network

Intro: In his instant analysis of the Indianapolis Colts’ 15th-overall pick in the first round of Thursday night’s 2017 NFL Draft, NFL Media’s Bucky Brooks gave the selection of safety Malik Hooker an “A.”

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INDIANAPOLIS — He's yet to play a down in the National Football League.

Heck — he's yet to step foot in Indianapolis as a member of the Colts.

But the immediate reactions are in, and the Colts' selection of Ohio State safety Malik Hooker as the 15th-overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft has brought with it an overwhelmingly positive vibe.

Case in point? Just listen to NFL Media's Bucky Brooks.

Tasked with assigning immediate grades to the teams' first-round picks on Thursday night, and Brooks legit seemed stoked for the Colts:

"Oh, I'm going to give this an 'A,'" Brooks said. "I'm going to give this an 'A' because my buddy Greg Williams is the secondary coach for the Indianapolis Colts. My little brother took him in at North Carolina. And he talked about their need to be able to stop the big plays. They've got to stop the ball from flying over their heads. The best way to do it? Get a center field player; a guy with outstanding ball skills; a knack for pulling down those errant throws; and also a guy who can put the ball in the paint. One year, seven interceptions. You're going to see remarkable ball skills. Outstanding hands. Range from the middle of the field to the numbers. He is going to erase a lot of those big plays that plagued the Indianapolis Colts. This is a team that wanted to play a lot of single-high safety defense — a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3. Well, you now got a centerpiece in the middle of the field that can stop some of those big plays."

The Colts, of course, are likewise stoked to land a player with Hooker's upside.

Projected by many to be a Top-10 pick, many teams early on elected to go with more skill-oriented offensive players to fit their needs (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers), and while Hooker certainly fills a need for head coach Chuck Pagano and his defense, the team was elated that the No. 1 player on their draft board was there for the taking when they went on the clock on Thursday night.

The "knocks" on Hooker primarily have to do with his injury history, his inexperience and his tackling kills. But as NFL Media's Lance Zierlein pointed out on Thursday night, Hooker has earned some serious comparisons to some serious players, so one might imagine he can overcome those knocks sooner rather than later.

"So, the knock on him — and the reason he's probably fallen a little bit — he played one year of college football, and had to have two surgeries after that," *Zierlein said. "So the question is durability. Let me tell you something: Daniel Jeremiah made the comparison early on to Ed Reed, and that's a big deal if you compare somebody to Ed Reed. And anytime you do that is if a guy has just phenomenal ball skills and instincts. And he does. And I'm sure Bucky saw it on tape, too. There are so few false steps in his coverage. He doesn't get fooled, he's disciplined and he doesn't let quarterbacks just move him around easily. And as Bucky said, his ability to range around the field — you know, it's one thing to have great ball skills, but if you can't get there, it's irrelevant. He can get there, he can finish, and then his instincts to lead him in that direction before the quarterback even releases the ball, it's huge. And Chris Ballard, one of the things that he wants to do is just go best available. He said, 'Look, when you have to re-do a roster, forget your needs — and keep them in mind — but just go get football players.*"

Brooks compared Hooker to another big-time safety.

"Earl Thomas," *Brooks said. "Earl Thomas being in the middle of the field, being able to make plays, being able to erase a lot of the big plays that the Colts have given up. When you look at Malik Hooker, I think it's important to note: he has only played five years of organized football. Started playing his junior year, redshirted and didn't play. And I'm so surprised and impressed with his skills. I got a call on the road early in the fall, 'Hey man — Ohio State has a safety that's going to be the real deal.' Big-time basketball player … a guy that had legitimate hoop dreams and offers. Love his athleticism. He has to clean up the tackling; has to be a more dependable tackler at the point of attack, but in terms of playing against the pass, in that division, it's Tom Savage and Blake Bortles overthrowing all over the place, he might get 10 picks his rookie season.*"

So, yeah, he's yet to step on the field in a Colts jersey. But in a time when everybody needs an immediate reaction, Hooker appears to have been the right choice for the Colts.

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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