Typically, when you hear of a basketball player converting to the game of football, you think of a big man bringing his skillset to the tight end position. However, for Malik Hooker, he stood out at the Ohio State university as a safety. The Pennsylvania native was a coveted basketball recruit, and actually preferred that path over football, until he began his football career as a senior.

It’s a rare case when you see a player with limited experience like Hooker, transition so effortlessly and get himself into the NFL Draft conversation, let alone receive 1st round prowess. It’s just a testament to that individual’s work ethic, and pure talent.

Hooker started just one season for the Buckeyes, but made the most of it. The redshirt sophomore picked off 7 passes and displayed his abilities as one of the nation’s top ballhawking safeties. Still a raw prospect, but Hooker has all the makings of a Pro Bowl playmaker for a defense, and has even drawn comparisons to the likes of all-time greats Eric Berry and Sean Taylor.

Name: Malik Hooker
Position: S
Size: 6’2”/205
School: Ohio State
Class: Sophomore (RS)
Draft Grade: Top 15

Positives: Superb athlete with the acceleration you like to see zipping out of the defensive backfield. Elite ball skills and can make the highlight interceptions – even over the shoulder with his back to the ball. Good after the catch and possesses the ability to bring takeaways to the house. 3 of his 7 interceptions went for pick 6’s in 2016. Patrols the secondary like a centerfielder. Couples his insane ball skills with terrific range to close in on the ball when in the air. Rangy with long arms. Diagnoses run plays fairly quick and displays exceptional timing on occasion. Shows good reaction time on screen passes and can often break through traffic to initialize the gang tackle. Closes in on underneath passes well and can lay good sticks for no additional yardage. Sticks with man well in underneath man coverage. Willing tackler. Knows when he can lean with his shoulder to make a big stop. Shows potential as a blitzer and usually takes a good route to the quarterback. Good height and leaping ability for jump ball situations. Tons of upside and will only be 21 years old as a rookie. Showed marginal progression as the season went on and got better every week.

Negatives: Poor open field tackler. Will squat too low to the ground and fall/whiff completely without even making contact. Sometimes will side step laterally instead of attacking head-on. Especially struggles to make tackles in the 2nd level. Inept at avoiding stiff arms. Wasn’t a consistent factor in redzone personnel. Provides too much cushion in the endzone and needs to know when to play on his man. Too aggressive in man coverage and will charge towards his man allowing the receiver to blow right by him. At times will continue running downfield with receivers despite the handoff already occurring –  not sure if that’s assignment based or not, particularly on delayed runs. Struggles to show patience on extended plays and will sometimes leave his man in coverage to chase the QB. Hip transition needs some work. I would expect him to run a bit faster in pursuit in the open field. Still a raw player with lack of experience who is learning the position.

Outlook: There is a lot to like about Malik Hooker. A rangy, athletic ballhawk who is still young with a lot of upside. Hooker shows a lot of promise as he isn’t even close to a finished product. He displays great reaction time on plays close to the line of scrimmage. There are still a bit of kinks to workout, but none of which that can’t be fixed with more experience and good coaching. Hooker has gained a lot of steam in the past month or so and has even been mocked inside the top 10 which could stand true on draft day.

About The Author Jonathan Valencia

Jonathan has been investing his time in sports writing for the past decade. Breaking Football's lead writer covers anything from the NFL Draft to providing fantasy football insight. Born and raised in the Jersey Shore. Follow him on Twitter @JonValencia_WiB to talk anything football.