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Cowboys draft prospect: Safety Amani Hooker

An intriguing safety prospect the Cowboys could land in the draft.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Mississippi State vs Iowa Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Name: Amani Hooker
School: University of Iowa
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 210 lbs

2018 stat line: 13 games, 65 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 interceptions, 7 passes defensed

Combine results: 4.48 40-yard dash, 14 bench press reps, 37” vertical, 123” broad, 6.81 3-cone, 4.1 short shuttle, 11.59 long shuttle

The University of Iowa has produced some pretty solid defensive backs the past few years, and there’s another intriguing prospect this year in safety Amani Hooker. His combination of football IQ and technical acumen might make him a perfect candidate for the Cowboys as they look to find a partner for Xavier Woods in the secondary.

Hooker has a good size and frame, but he isn’t exceptionally big or long. However, he uses every inch to his advantage, especially in man coverage. In 2018, Hooker played in press man coverage at a surprising frequency for a safety, and he did very well; arguably better than some cornerbacks in this draft. He does a good job of timing his contact on the receiver and jamming the route, which is an important factor in the style that Kris Richard teaches here in Dallas.

There weren’t a whole lot of examples to see Hooker in man coverage that wasn’t press, but he seems adequate in that role when asked. On a coverage basis, Hooker thrives in zone. His processing of the play is really special, and Hooker is able to quickly diagnose plays and get to the right spot to make a play. He rarely gets tricked by crossing routes or double moves when in zone, and does a good job being patient and paying attention to the quarterback’s eyes.

This high level processing also allows Hooker to flash his ball hawking skills. While Hooker isn’t an exceptional athlete, he compensates for that with his football IQ by getting to where the quarterback is throwing earlier than most would be able to figure out. His four interceptions and seven passes defensed in 2018 are evidence as to how dangerous he can be when the ball is in the air.

When playing the run, Hooker ranges from good enough to effective. It largely depends on where he is prior to the snap. When Hooker has been up high in the defensive backfield, his lack of elite athleticism delays him in coming up to stop the run. But in the box, Hooker flies around and can make some big stops. He’s not an overwhelmingly efficient tackler, and he sometimes takes poor angles, but Hooker still manages to do a good job when wrapping up the ballcarrier.

The biggest knock on Hooker is something I’ve already mentioned: his athleticism. His combine performance didn’t do him any favors either, although it also didn’t hurt his stock. Hooker likely can’t be trusted as a single high safety, and any defenses that rely on pure athleticism from their safeties will likely shy away from Hooker. But the Cowboys could see tremendous results from putting Hooker in the box and letting Woods do his thing as a single high safety.

Athleticism concerns aside, some team is going to fall in love with Hooker’s tape. It’s possible that the spending spree on safeties in free agency pushes Hooker, and other safety prospects, down the draft board. Right now, Hooker is likely to be a third-round pick, and if that push down happens, then he could very much be in play for the Cowboys at the 90th overall pick. If that were to happen, Dallas would be getting a quality player who could potentially start right away.