2019: The Year Of Malik Hooker

Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

"What have you done for me lately?" That's the kind of world we live in. As much as the older generation might lead you to believe, it's not just millennials who are impatient with things. Technology and the pace at which life moves here in 2019 have people of all ages looking for what's now and what's next. We want to be on the cutting edge, ahead of the curve, the first to know something, etc.

We've trained our minds to be very "here today and gone tomorrow." If you're not constantly at the forefront of whatever it is you're doing, people have a tendency to forget.

That mindset bleeds over into how we intake our sports. Though it's true that some players can fall off quickly, there are always players who either have a bad year or have an injury-riddle season that make you go "oh yeah, I forgot about them" a year later after they bounce back.

It's natural, and I don't blame you for it -- I do it, too -- but here's my friendly reminder to you...

Do not forget about Malik Hooker.

Coming out of Ohio State, the then redshirt sophomore safety was one of the best coverage players in the country. In just one season as a starter, Hooker recorded seven interceptions with three touchdowns and 5.5 tackles for loss. As a single-high safety, Hooker showed incredible range and instincts, not just for a player his age, but period, for any collegiate safety I had ever scouted.

His play at Ohio State earned him a Top 15 selection, as the Indianapolis Colts took him No. 15 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

When on the field in the pros, Hooker as been everything the Colts drafted him to be. Hooker earned his first start in Week 2 of his rookie year, and recorded his first interceptions in that same game. But the momentum for him was just starting. Hooker recorded an interception in each of his next two games, as well, giving him a takeaway in each of his first three starts -- not bad for a rookie. However, his stellar start to his rookie season was cut short, as he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 7 of the 2017 season.

Due to the fact that he missed the remainder of the 2017 season and the beginning of the 2018 season (where most of the hype for players begin) Hooker was an after thought to mainstream media for most of 2018.

His play was anything but.

According to PFF, Hooker averaged 131.3 snaps-per-reception yielded, which was best in the league. He also averaged a league-low 75 snaps-per-target, which speaks to not just how good his coverage was when the ball was thrown his way, but was the ultimate complement, as quarterbacks didn't even want to test him. Hooker allowed just 44 percent of the targets to him to be caught, which was the second best number for a safety in 2018, playoffs included.

Throughout the course of 13 games played in 2018, Hooker allowed just four receptions in 561 total coverage snaps. To this point in his career, he has taken the ball away (5) more times than he has given up touchdowns (4). For a safety whose assignment is the deep zone (often the end zone), that is incredible.

Despite missing 12 games in two seasons, Hooker has still been able to improve drastically all around. According to PFF, his run defense grade went from a 59.6 in 2017 to a 73.3 in 2018, and his coverage grade went from a 66.5 in 2017 to an 81.5 in 2018.

Hooker's injury history is tough to accept, especially since he had labrum surgery during the pre-draft process and a groin injury that sidelined him before the start of his rookie year, too. But, when he's healthy, there aren't many safeties who can do what Hooker can.

If we get 16 games of Hooker in 2019, I'd be willing to bet we'll see a first team All-Pro year from him.