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2017 NFL Draft: Malik Hooker leads safety class with rare depth


Editor’s note: NFL.com analysts Lance Zierlein and Chad Reuter will provide overviews for each position group in the 2017 NFL Draft (April 27-29 in Philadelphia), continuing today with safeties.

Note: Click through the tabs above to see overviews for each position.

This is one of the deepest safety classes we have seen in a long time. This class has something for everyone, too. In fact, starters can probably be found in just about every round.

Looking for a sheriff to bring toughness and leadership? That’s Jamal Adams. Do you need a ballhawk to play centerfield? Might I suggest Malik Hooker or Marcus Williams? Looking for a feisty defender who can be deployed around the field? Jabrill Peppers is your guy. And if you simply want the biggest physical freak in the draft, then get in line for Obi Melifonwu.

Let’s explore the 2017 safety class.

Teams with greatest need at the position

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Los Angeles Chargers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Redskins

Top 5 players at the position

Note: Click on a prospect’s name for a complete scouting report.

1. Malik Hooker, Ohio State: Hooker is coming off of surgeries and has only one year of starting experience, but his instincts and ball skills are rare. Once the ball is in the air, Hooker takes it to the next level.


2. Jamal Adams, LSU: Possesses special leadership qualities and a wide-eyed approach as a hitter and tackler. Adams can be moved around the field, but is best near the line of scrimmage.

3. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan: Peppers isn’t a full-time linebacker and he’s just average in coverage, but he has the athleticism and talent to up his game if he finds the right coordinator. His offensive and return ability should not be discounted.

4. Budda Baker, Washington: Baker is a ferocious competitor who plays each snap like it could be his last. He’s a little undersized for the position, so teams could use him as a slot corner in sub package.

5. Josh Jones, N.C. State: He puts the “A” in aggressive and never passes up a shot to get his licks in as a hitter. Jones has the size and athleticism that teams covet, but he needs to improve his discipline to avoid giving up big plays in coverage.


Sources Tell Us

“Hook(er) is still so raw and you see him making all of those plays. He’s a player who will come in and look bad his first year and then be an all-pro by his third year. I think that’s his arc. No short-cut for experience.” — Personnel director for AFC team on Malik Hooker

Most overrated

Obi Melifonwu, UConn: I could end up being wrong on this one, but I think his rare physical traits and jaw-dropping combine numbers are driving his draft grade more than the tape. He could end up in the first round, but his instincts and anticipation are very average, in my opinion. A move to cornerback…

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