Chargers Draft

Chargers Fans: Meet safeties Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker

December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
December 31, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes safety Malik Hooker (24) celebrates after intercepting a pass against the Clemson Tigers during the first half of the the 2016 CFP semifinal at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
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Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker?

Mock draft season is in full swing, and the question above has been a popular one. The Los Angeles Chargers have the seventh overall pick in the NFL draft and many draft analysts have them selecting safeties Jamal Adams from LSU or Malik Hooker from Ohio State.

Adams and Hooker will be battling each other this draft season for the right to be the best safety in the draft. Either one could be the pick for the Chargers come late April, so let’s learn about both players since the Chargers do indeed have to upgrade the safety position.

Who is Jamal Adams?

Adams played three seasons for LSU and was a do-it-all player for the Tigers. Listed at 6-foot1, 213 pounds, Adams has ideal size for the position. When he is near the line of scrimmage, he is at his best. His ability to stop the run is fantastic, delivering big hits every game. The draft community has labeled Adams as a “big hitter”.

He is a true tone-setter for the defense, a human missile.

Adams doesn’t have the ball production, but that doesn’t mean he can’t man up receivers. When watching Adams on tape, he lined up all over the place, including in the slot or near the line of scrimmage. Adams has everything the Chargers are currently lacking at the safety position, especially versatility.

What could Adams be for the Chargers?

Adams projects as a strong safety. He is one of the top players in this year’s draft, and the Chargers may want to think about adding him to the secondary. He could become what they have been missing since the departure of safety Eric Weddle, a dynamic force in the back end. If drafted by the Chargers, I could see new DC Gus Bradley using Adams in a similar role as he used Kam Chancellor when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.

Draft experts have made strong comparisons for Adams. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network compared Adams to Eric Berry. Jeremiah had this to say:

“Adams reminds me a lot of Eric Berry, who was the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year last season. I don’t think he’s quite as fast as Berry was coming out of college, but he plays the game the same way. His combination of physicality, instincts and energy is very enticing. I love his aggression and passion for the game. He is one of the top defensive players in the country, and he will be a household name by the end of the upcoming season.”

Matt Miller, the NFL Draft lead writer for Bleacher Report, also compared Adams to Eric Berry. Miller also mentioned Sean Taylor as a comparison for Adams.

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Who is Malik Hooker?

Hooker is a true ball-hawking safety. Hooker had six interceptions in his lone season as a starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes, returning three of those six for touchdowns. Hooker is a threat to score every time he touches the ball.

Hooker is long and tall, listed at 6-2, 205 pounds, and can cover sideline to sideline. Hooker made highlight-reel interceptions during his time as a Buckeye.

Here is another angle of the same play to show his ability to anticipate the jump and high point the football.

Hooker has crazy range. He reads the quarterback’s eyes and takes it to the house for six.

Jeremiah had strong remarks when writing about Hooker, saying, “He has the best ball skills of any safety I’ve ever evaluated in college.” He also said that Hooker has “the potential to be one of the league’s best safeties very early in his NFL career.”

What could Hooker be for the Chargers?

With Bradley running the defense in 2017, we can expect a switch to a 4-3 defensive front, as well as a cover 3-heavy scheme. Running this style of defense like Bradley did in Seattle demands a free safety who is a true center fielder. Hooker fits that bill perfectly. He could be what Bradley had in Earl Thomas, a ball hawk in center field who can cover sideline to sideline. Hooker would play free safety for the Chargers, the position currently occupied by Dwight Lowery.

Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball.com reported the Chargers have shown interest in Hooker. Campbell had this to say regarding the Chargers interest in Hooker:

“A year ago in the Senior Bowl rumor mill, I wrote that the Chargers had interest in Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. Most projections had Bosa remaining as a base end in a 4-3 defense in the NFL, and the Chargers’ 3-4 defense didn’t seem like a logical fit for him, but San Diego sources felt Bosa was very versatile to do a variety of things up front. I mocked Bosa to the Chargers after that, but I wasn’t wise enough to stay with that projection in the months to come. This year, in speaking with Los Angeles sources, I get the impression that Ohio State safety Malik Hooker has caught their eye. They love his speed, range, and ball skills in the deep part of the field. They know there is some rawness to Hooker’s game after being only a 1-year starter. He hasn’t seen some route combinations yet that he will in the NFL, and he has room to improve his tackling, but his raw talent is undeniable. I think Los Angeles could easily take Hooker if he gets to their pick.”

It is worth noting the Chargers drafted two former Ohio State Buckeyes last year in DE Joey Bosa and LB Joshua Perry.

So… Adams or Hooker? 

NFL Network’s Jeremiah recently released his top 50 prospects. Hooker is his second overall ranked player, and Adams is his fourth overall player. That is high praise for both safety prospects from a former NFL scout.

Miller currently has Adams as his fourth overall player, and Hooker as his seventh overall player in the draft.

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So after reading, who would you rather the Chargers add to the secondary, Adams or Hooker? Personally, I think both Adams and Hooker are top-10 talents. If GM Tom Telesco and company have the decision to make at pick seven with both Adams and Hooker available and want to go the safety route, I would personally take Hooker. He has crazy range, ideal size and has proven he has the ball skills to potentially become an Ed Reed-type player in the NFL.

With that said, I wouldn’t be upset if they took Adams over Hooker. To me it’s like saying, who is more important to the Seahawks’ defense, Chancellor or Thomas? I would pick Thomas but it’s apples to oranges.

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