Ohio State S Malik Hooker looks like the real deal

DALLAS - The Dallas Cowboys have a ton of unanswered questions in their secondary ahead of the NFL's free agency period. Barry Church, Morris Claiborne, J.J. Wilcox and Brandon Carr are all set to become available as free agents later this month. It’s unlikely that all of them move on to different teams, but some will.

Carr is 30, and made $10.2M last season. It’s hard to pay a defensive back that kind of money at his age even though he played nearly every down for Dallas last season. Claiborne is a former top pick who was coming into his own last season before succumb to familiar injury issues.

Both Church and Wilcox spent time as the starting strong safety for Dallas and while Church has been a competent every down presence, Wilcox became known as the team's hardest hitter as the year progressed.

Many people see the defensive line as the area Dallas needs to improve on in the draft, and they aren’t wrong. But with the impending uncertainty of their secondary, the Cowboys may be forced to make a move in the draft.

Here’s a fun fact. Dallas was 27th in NFL in 2016 with nine interceptions. Malik Hooker of Ohio State picked off seven passes by himself last year. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Although he only started one season with the Buckeyes, Hooker is one of the top secondary options in the draft. He recorded 74 tackles in 2016, earning him first-team All-American and All-Big Ten honors.

At 6'2, 205 pounds, Hooker has the size and strength to go up against some of the biggest receivers in the NFL. His head is always on a swivel and his eyes are always fixated on the quarterback, which allows him to make ridiculous plays like this.

His basketball background allows him to be very fluid in space. Even when he is caught out of position, Hooker doesn't panic, and takes the shortest route to the ball to recover. Whether he plays strong safety or free safety, Hooker is a ball-hawk in every sense of the word.

He has a nose for the ball, and perhaps more importantly, the passing lanes. Hooker is comfortable playing the strong or free safety spots, and is adept at disguising coverages, be it man, zone or a blitz.

He also can make tackles at the line of scrimmage and get in the backfield. His ability to read offenses is one of his greatest strengths, allowing him to bust plays before they even develop. Have a look for yourself.


Unfortunately, Hooker's last collegiate game left a sour taste in his mouth. The Buckeyes were lit up by Clemson on New Years's Eve, 31-0 in the Fiesta Bowl. Deshaun Watson was 23-of-36 and threw for 259 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

One of those picks was courtesy of Hooker himself, who brilliantly played center field to snag the ball away. It's a testament to what he's capable of doing, even though his collegiate experience is limited. In summation, he is supremely athletic. It's borderline scary.

Don't believe me?

If he's still on the board when the Cowboys select at No. 28, he would no doubt be a perennial play-maker to pair alongside youngster Byron Jones. Don't get your hopes up, though. He won't be.

Want me draft talk? Follow Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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