Why the 49ers Should Take FS Malik Hooker with the No. 2 Pick

Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, the 49ers will have a lot of options with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. With Myles Garrett widely expected to go No. 1 overall to the Cleveland Browns, who should John Lynch consider?

NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah has the 49ers taking Stanford DE Solomon Thomas, while Bleacher Report's Matt Miller has San Francisco selecting LSU RB Leonard Fournette.

With the 49ers releasing SS Antoine Bethea and moving FS Eric Reid to fill that need, there's a hole at free safety. John Lynch did mention that the 49ers would consider moving DB Jimmie Ward into that role, a position he played at Northern Illinois.

But in 2016, Ward did a solid job manning one of the outside corner positions and I think he'll continue to improve there in 2017. With the 49ers looking to install a Seattle Seahawks-esque defense under new DC Robert Saleh, the free safety position looks even more important.

Imagine what Earl Thomas is to the Seahawks' defense; that is one major piece that the 49ers are missing currently.

Here's where Ohio State's FS Malik Hooker comes into picture.

According to CBS Sports, Hooker ranks as the No. 3 overall prospect heading into the NFL Draft and so taking him at No. 2 is completely justified for the 49ers.

Standing at 6-foot-1, weighing 206 pounds, he has all the raw physical tools to develop into exactly what Earl Thomas has become for the Seahawks.

Let's take a look at his numbers from his two years at Ohio State to further validate why he's worth the second overall selection.

Checking Out Hooker's Numbers

Taken from Sports Reference, Hooker, in his two seasons at Ohio State, managed to rack up 84 tackles, seven interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. He also had four passes defensed in his limited action as a primary cover guy.

He was third in interceptions in the FBS, according to CBS Sports, trailing only West Virginia's Rasul Douglas and Florida State's Tarvarus McFadden.

Hooker was a ballhawk at Ohio State and if drafted by the 49ers, would immediately help San Francisco get more turnovers than they did in 2016.

Let's take a look at some his game film to see why he's a perfect fit for the 49ers at No. 2.

Checking Out Hooker's Tape

Taken from Draft Breakdown, in the game against Michigan, Hooker follows the quarterback's eyes and drops into space for the interception.

In the same game, Hooker shows off his solid run defending ability and tackles RB DeVeon Smith one-on-one in open space.

In a game against Clemson, taken from Draft Breakdown, Hooker picks off QB Deshaun Watson, showing off his true center-fielder ability.

Now, in the same game, he shoots the hole against RB Wayne Gallman and makes the sure-handed tackle.

Next, Hooker shows off his quick closing speed on receivers, not giving up any yards after the catch.

There are some weaknesses in his game that are a result of his raw athletic ability and lack of experience playing the safety position. Hooker overplays the offensive player a lot and misses on tackles a lot. He uses his athleticism to chase down guys, rather than reading the play and using his instincts.

In this game against Michigan, he overruns Smith and misses the tackle, allowing for more yards.

Bottom line is that Hooker has tremendous ball skills, closing speed and the ranginess to be a star free safety for the San Francisco 49ers. He still has some room to grow, with his tackling and instinctual play-making, but this will come as he plays more.

Checking out Scouts' Take on Hooker

According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Hooker is an ultimate lurker. He's always around the ball and has the potential to be a high-impact starter in the NFL. Zierlein also goes on to add that Hooker will need to work on his tackling consistency to become even better.

Hooker does have some injury concerns though, as he had surgery on a torn labrum and hernia. Although he didn't participate in the NFL Scouting Combine, he should be ready to go by training camp.

Per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, those injuries won't hurt his draft stock one bit.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the game film shows that Hooker is an outstanding prospect, being a huge reason for the success that Ohio State had defensively. He put up the numbers and it came in the biggest games of their season against Michigan and Clemson.

With the 49ers' new 4-3 defense under Robert Saleh, this pick would fill a huge need. With a variety of prospects being considered, the 49ers should choose Malik Hooker with their second overall pick.

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