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A Reliable Safety Net: The Case For Malik Hooker

Discussion in 'Steelers Talk' started by AskQuestionsLater, May 4, 2020.

  1. AskQuestionsLater

    AskQuestionsLater Writing Team

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    Hello again fellow brothers and sisters of TheSteelersFans! AskQuestionsLater here, giving you all my opinion on a possibility of what the Steelers should do after the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft. Now that the dust has settled, the Steelers will now begin to prepare themselves as much as they can for the 2020 NFL Season..... assuming there will be one. However, let us assume there is one currently. Given the fact that the team still does not have a "Minkah Fitzpatrick Fail Safe" on the team, is there any way to alleviate this concern?! There is but it will have to come at a cost. Now, before I continue, as always, a disclaimer:


    "These written statements by the author do not reflect nor are shared opinions of members of TheSteelersFans Message Board, Staff Members and/or Site Administrator."



    Malik Hooker; The Overview Before Entering The NFL:



    The 2016 NCAA FBS I Football Season was one that featured many top quality safeties. For that matter, I personally had not seen an incoming NFL Draft class with so much safety talent since I started studying the NFL Draft and prospects back in 2010. However, even among the immense safety talent available, one player stood out to me as the "One Above All". That person was Malik Hooker. Despite 2016 being his first official season starting, he did have all the characteristics that are a foundation of impact safety play; athleticism, Football IQ and of course, instincts. Despite being a Sophomore, Malik Hooker lead the B1G in Interceptions and return yards. However, what caught my eye is that he lead the NCAA world in Defensive Touchdowns with three total to his credit. Such explosive playmaking ability was seldom seen in the world of College Football. As such, due to his ascending NFL Draft Stock, Malik decided to declare early. However, keep in mind that he had surgeries to both his torn labrum in his hip and a sports hernia; hence why he could not participate in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. That did not stop Mike Tomlin from seeing him though at Ohio State's Pro Day back in 2017 the same. Even with his injury woes, this would not stop the Indianapolis Colts from selecting him 15th Overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.




    Big Time Play Maker Marred By The Injury Bug:



    In his rookie debut, Malik Hooker had begun to make a name for himself, snagging three INT's to start out his NFL Journey. However, he would be lost for the season with a Torn ACL and MCL. He would return to the Colts in 2018; only to have more issues with his hip via a Inguinal Hip Strain. Despite this, he did amass 41 total tackles with two more interceptions and a fumble recovery to his credit. The same result could be said in 2019 where he had a career high 51 tackles, added another two interceptions and another fumble recovery as well. Despite this though, Malik could not increase his interception totals from his Rookie Season. That by no means makes him a bad player as seven interceptions in three seasons is nothing to scoff at. Only Marcus Williams of the New Orleans Saints and Eddie Jackson of the Chicago Bears have more INT's at 10 compared to Hooker's 7. Keep in mind that both have played longer than Malik Hooker; doubly so in Hooker's Rookie Season though. While it is difficult to say what Malik's Rookie Season could have been, given how well he started out in 2017, there is little reason to assume that he would have matched that total already.




    His Option Declined; An Opening For the Steelers?:



    Due to his rash of bad luck, the Indianapolis Colts have decided not to pick up Malik Hooker's fifth year option. That means he will become a Free Agent in the 2021 Season. However, here in lies the caveat; cost. Malik Hooker is slated to earn only $2.183 Million in salary this season. Pittsburgh currently has $5.7 Million in Cap Space to work with. Could a trade be possible for someone like Malik Hooker?! Well... it all depends on what the Colts demands are currently. If I am Kevin Colbert though, after hearing this news, I would be willing to listen to what Chris Ballard has to say. Now, I know the general consensus is that the team is set at Safety and there can be no wrong here. The natural inclination is that, given their collegiate history, both Cameron Sutton and/or Mike Hilton would be capable of playing that Second Safety role. Considering the team has plans to play Terrell Edmunds akin to what Mark Barron played via the hybrid role, having one of your best coverage options out deep is a sound stratgey. However, here is where a major problem develops; experience. Neither Cameron Sutton nor Mike Hilton have logged substantial time at the Safety position since being on the team. In addition, it is likely that either or will end up be the starting Nickel Back as that position is now just as important has having two rock solid boundary corners. Going three deep at the Cornerback position is critical in today's NFL. Sacrificing man power to have one of your Nickel Defensive Backs play a position they have little to no experience in the NFL is quite the leap of faith.


    However, Malik Hooker does have that necessary experience for the Steelers. For that matter, he can help the Steelers in a two fold attack. Here is how.




    What the "Buckeye Boogeyman" Provides Mike Tomlin:


    Historically speaking, the Steelers have never placed a high emphasis on a Single High, Deep Centerfielding Safety.... ever. Even in the days of Troy Polamalu, having safeties play the Single High was not something that neither then Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau nor Tomlin would give a thought. Why would they?! Troy could do it all but his absolute best plays came lurking around and inside the box; terrorizing opposing Offenses. The team thought that such impact would strike twice in the form of Terrell Edmunds; the 28th pick of the 2018 NFL Draft. Naturally speaking, I was estatic about the move as Morgan Burnett would help Terrell be eased into the role of playing in the NFL as a complete safety. However, that did not happen as Terrell would end up starting all 16 games as a Rookie. Now, the natural expectation that was expected was to see Terrell develop from year one to year two in many areas. However, what I was hoping for was an increase in takeaways. No fear, no second guessing. Ultra aggressive with an attacking mentality of going towards the ball in the passing game as opposed to being conservative. Well... two games into 2019 and Mike Tomlin had seen enough; Minkah Fitzpatrick being his response to Terrell Edmunds' lack of splash plays. However, my frustration of Terrell would not happen until a Week 14 Contest against the Arizona Cardinals. On that day, what I had hoped that Terrell could improve upon turned out to be something he clearly cannot; make plays on the ball. While this is a harsh statement, let me remind you that Terrell Edmunds, throughout 2002 NFL Snaps, has only registered 1 Interception. One. That is it. Now, are interceptions a toxic stat to get too carried away by. Yes they are. However, did Terrell have his opportunities throughout all of 2019?! Without question. From blowing a coverage against Tyler Kroft in the Sunday Night Football Showdown against Buffalo, nearly costing the team the game against the Los Angeles Rams or mistiming his jump against the Arizona Cardinals, Terrell's inability to play the ball has been a very real issue. Keep in mind I said issue as problems can be solved where issues cannot.



    Enter Malik Hooker. While the "Buckeye Boogeyman" might be injury prone, he is not without his redeeming qualities. Let us start with the most obvious; ball skills. Again, Malik Hooker has ball skills that no other safety on the Steelers Roster has not named Minkah Fitzpatrick. With the inclusion of Malik Hooker, now Keith Butler can have his imagination run wild in terms of running three safety looks. Minkah and Malik would form a blanket of security that would be essentially next to impossible to penetrate as both players have the speed, Football IQ and Instincts to make plays on the ball. Kick Terrell closer to the line of scrimmage and have him take what is in front of him. Those underneath routes and rub concepts would not be too difficult for him. If not a three Deep Safety Look, how about a Two Deep Shell with a sub package?! Have both Devin Bush and Terrell Edmunds as the ILB's while having both Minkah and Malik play the deep half of the field. Again, teams would not even dare to cross either deep end as said zip code would not end too well for them. As for the middle, given the fact that Terrell's redeeming quality is playing what is in front of him, actually seeing the routes develop before him in the middle is something he can actually perform as he has the athleticism and explosiveness to act and react to what he sees when he is closer to the line of scrimmage. All in all, the combination of "M&M" would be a welcome addition to the Steelers and give the Steelers the most dynamic, athletic, Playmaking duo in the NFL and arguably in Steelers History. No other safety who came before Minkah was a Single High, Deep Center Fielder. Imagine two on the same. However, all of this is one aspect as to why Malik Hooker would be a wonderful trade. Here is the other; insurance.




    As it currently stands, Pittsburgh does not have a "Minkah Fitzpatrick Fail Safe" option currently on the team. Again and, as stated, counting on two players who have limited NFL Snaps at the position is quite the leap of faith. Once again, Malik Hooker provides the answer here. Now, even if Minkah is gone for an extended period of time, Malik can easily play that position for however long Minkah is out. In addition, the drop off between Minkah and Malik would be minimal at best. Again, Malik might have an injury history with him but he does have elite Ball Hawking traits one cannot teach the same. Even when or if Minkah does get injured in 2020, at least the team now has a proven commodity to rely upon. Keep in mind we are looking at the final years of Big Ben. No "speed bump" can happen on this "road" here. Taking the necessary "detours" is the safe play. Malik provides this. No other Steelers Safety or other Defensive Back can.




    All in all, for me, Malik Hooker provides the Steelers multiple ways of improving an already elite defense. Having two playmaking, ball hawking, instinctive safeties on the roster is much better than having merely one. In addition, you are only trading him for a one year rental assuming the price is right.



    Conclusion:


    This is all come down to both Kevin Colbert and Chris Ballard on both fronts. For Kevin Colbert, does he trust that Cameron Sutton and/or Mike Hilton can actually play Free Safety in a pinch?! In addition, assuming they cannot, who else is on the Free Agent market currently?! As for Chris Ballard, you have already shown the lack of faith in Malik by stating that he was "solid but not great". Even more so is that you have declined his fifth year option. Now, it will come down to price. How much is Chris Ballard willing to give up for Malik Hooker?! Will Kevin Colbert be willing too?! Keep in mind that Kevin has already pulled off something the Steelers have not done since 1967. While I am 100% certain that Kevin will unlikely do that for Malik, assuming Chris wants something as high as a Third Round pick, I would entertain that offer. If a second, it would have to be Malik and another pick that Indy has. Again though, these are ideas and nothing is set in stone currently. For that matter, it is likely that such a trade will not happen now.




    However.... just because a trade will not happen now does not rule out the possibility of one in the future. :)




    That is it for me everyone for now! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Until next time everyone, take care and stay safe! :)






    Go Steelers! :steelflag:
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2020
  2. Blast Furnace

    Blast Furnace Staff Member Mod Team

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    I voted yes but only for a 3rd rd or less. His injury history can’t be ignored.

    Talent wise, hell yes, sign me up. It’s night and day without Fitzpatrick back there not to mention how much better they’d be with them both of them on the field.

    Nice write up :drinks:
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. thesteeldeal

    thesteeldeal Well-Known Member

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    @AskQuestionsLater ...Thanks for bringing this to the table. Admittedly I only skimmed through so I may have missed the seriousness and regularity of Hookers injuries. As of now I’ve read we are due to receive a 4th and 2 6ths as compensation picks next season based on the guess of someone who has a good a grasp of the mystery formula the NFL uses. That being said I doubt two 6s would be enough but a 4th round comp should be more than enough to get it done. If not I would pass even though he is better than what we have as a fail safe. I would also have minor reservations due to the fact the lack of preparation time the team may have because of the virus may pose serious issues in acclimating new players to our scheme. Not that I wouldn’t still want to bring in a FA I’m just not sure I want to use a pick for one. Mostly because of the uncertainty ahead. After all he will be a FA next year and that could leave us in a position where we lose a pick and a player much like the Vannett situation.
     
  4. Steel_Elvis

    Steel_Elvis Staff Member Mod Team

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    My guess is that the Colts will want a fairly high pick for him. They’re aiming to win in 2020 (see Buckner trade) and Hooker is very good when healthy. If I were them, I would plan to keep him in 2020 and hope to get the most out of him - unless someone offers a price that I simply can’t refuse.
     
  5. bigbenhotness

    bigbenhotness Well-Known Member

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    I would take him and just go all in. Time is running out and that was in 2016...
     
    • Hilarious Hilarious x 1
  6. SteelersFanIrl

    SteelersFanIrl Well-Known Member

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    I voted yes but I think a deal is very unlikely. They will probably bring in a camp cut or a veteran like Reshad Jones as a backup safety option. Jones has already played with Minkah as it happens
     
  7. Brice

    Brice Well-Known Member

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    I do not see them spending big money on a backup for Minka; Hooker is going to want a big multi year deal with his new team if he goes anywhere.

    I voted no because we had to learn something from Vannett's 1 and done season.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. jeh1856

    jeh1856 Hello

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    I’m waiting for hooker jokes ;)
     
  9. AskQuestionsLater

    AskQuestionsLater Writing Team

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    I myself am wondering if Chris Ballard is indirectly using Minkah Fitzpatrick as a benchmark. I would hope that is not the case. While Malik Hooker has been great overall, he has only been so in limited action. Minkah has yet to have an issue injury wise.
     
  10. AskQuestionsLater

    AskQuestionsLater Writing Team

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    One final aspect everyone! Far be it from me to doubt someone of Minkah's preparation and conditioning regimen. Keep in mind that, among the Alabama Defensive Players selected in the First Round in the 2010s, only Rolando McClain has exited the Alabama Program without suffering at the program. Minkah is the other.



    That said, while part of injuries is no doubt about being prepared and conditioned, the other factor is luck. So far so good for Minkah. However, that is still quite the leap of faith to go towards heading into 2020.
     
  11. DukeDukeDaDaDa

    DukeDukeDaDaDa Well-Known Member

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    I had a good one but I deleted it as it might be too dirty for this board.
     
  12. mac daddyo

    mac daddyo Well-Known Member

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    Good but........ Tuitt. I still think hilton will be used if. He's been practicing there since 2017. His teammates have said he's quite good at it. I'm more worried about ILB. :cool:
     
  13. Steel Hog

    Steel Hog Well-Known Member

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    No. What makes someone think that if he joins the Steelers all his injures go away? The Colts are doing what they are doing for a reason. I assume that a minimum of 31 GMs already know about this and are pondering what, if anything, they plan to do.
     
  14. Formerscribe

    Formerscribe Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. Just because the Colts don't want to invest long term doesn't mean they don't want or need him for this season. That was one thing I don't see in the OP, the Colts' situation at safety. Do they have the depth to trade a starting safety? A quick glance at their depth chart on ESPN.com makes me think they don't. Julian Blackmon, a rookie they drafted in the third round this year, is their backup behind Hooker at free safety. The Colts didn't just trade for Buckner. They also signed Philip Rivers to be their quarterback. That indicates to me they feel like they can contend in 2020.

    The idea also assumes the Steelers want to move Edmunds into Barron's old role. I would certainly prefer that to using him as they did in 2019 because he really is a major weak link in deep coverage, but the team may not see it that way.

    AQL did a good job laying out Hooker's potential value to the Steelers, but what do you give up for him? The injury history isn't the only drawback. Hooker would be a one-year rental. Maybe the Steelers could sign him long term, but without a deal in place, they risk giving up a pick for a guy who is gone in a year. He is nowhere near the value of Fitzpatrick when they got him. Fitzpatrick wasn't an All-Pro yet, but he was a younger, better prospect who the Steelers would be able to control for three more seasons after 2019. If the Steelers would start him at safety, I still wouldn't go higher than a third-round pick, and I don't think that would be enough to entice the Colts into disrupting their secondary. A fourth-rounder would be a more comfortable price, but also one likely to draw very little interest from the Colts.
     
  15. Stone

    Stone Well-Known Member

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    We know that you don't pay a hooker for sex, you pay her to leave after an hour. Too bad we can't work out something like that with Futchner.:hehehe:

    Or in my case, ten minutes.
     
  16. SDOT

    SDOT Well-Known Member

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    So are we going to address the elephant in the room? I saw a lot of people wanting to draft a safety and now we are looking at Hooker. Edmunds was a bust of a 1st rounder.
     
  17. Stone

    Stone Well-Known Member

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    Okay

    Hellooooo mister elephant.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  18. thesteeldeal

    thesteeldeal Well-Known Member

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    Well it depends on if he should be allowed the same amount of leash as Dupree was. If so he has a little more time. My opinion is well known. I believe his best future is at ILB like Barron. I’ve been promoting that for 2 years now and there has been talk from the team of such a move at least part time. Either way we can use another Safety that can cover.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  19. groutbrook

    groutbrook

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    Was there talk from the team about this move? I only remember opinion articles. I like the idea, btw.
     
  20. groutbrook

    groutbrook

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    Malik Hooker came out of college injured and never really recovered to be the player he was for that one great season at Ohio St. It might not be too late for that to happen, but the cost to find out would have to be minimal. The 2019 version of Malik isn't worth a top 100 draft pick(imo).
     
  21. steelersrule6

    steelersrule6 Well-Known Member

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    I knew somebody was going to post this, after his 5th year option was declined.
     
  22. thesteeldeal

    thesteeldeal Well-Known Member

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  23. AskQuestionsLater

    AskQuestionsLater Writing Team

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    Okay. So?!
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  24. groutbrook

    groutbrook

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    I wasn't doubting you Darkness. I wanted to read up on it, if the news came from the team and not the opinion of a bored writer.
    I vaguely remember it being mentioned when he was drafted, but I chalked that up as damage control.
     
  25. Formerscribe

    Formerscribe Well-Known Member

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    I don't think people realize that just because a team doesn't pick up the player's fifth-year option doesn't mean they want him gone immediately. I just don't think the Colts have the depth at safety to move Hooker right now.
     

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