Bears

Malik Hooker carries high-risk, high-reward question for Bears

Malik Hooker carries high-risk, high-reward question for Bears

With eight interceptions and three fumble recoveries, the Bears finished dead last in the NFL with 11 takeaways in 2016. That represents a glaring need the Bears began to address with a free agency overhaul of their secondary.

The prevailing thought has been that if the Bears draft a defensive back with the third overall pick on Thursday, it'll be LSU safety Jamal Adams. But there's another safety with top-10 hype that could serve the Bears' desperate need for takeaways: Ohio State's Malik Hooker. 

[MOON'S DRAFT PREVIEW: More secondary upgrades needed

Hooker picked off seven passes as part of Ohio State's outrageously good secondary in 2016. His elite range and knack for interceptions make him a tantalizing prospect, especially for a team that needs that center fielder-type safety. 

"Any ball that's in the air, it's my ball," Hooker said. "I feel like I'm a playmaker. Any time I had a chance to make a play or change momentum of a game, I took it upon myself to do so."

But while Hooker has that ballhawking skill (and returner-like vision once he has the ball in his hands) that Adams perhaps doesn't, he doesn't appear as "safe" a pick as Adams. 

Whereas Adams played all three of his years at LSU, Hooker redshirted 2014, barely played in 2015 and then exploded last fall. One year of tape isn't much — even if it's excellent tape — which makes Hooker more of a projection. 

And it's worth noting that Hooker played hurt at the end of the year and underwent hip surgery to repair a torn labrum and sports hernia surgeries on both sides in January, too. While Hooker said at the combine he's expecting to be ready to participate in rookie minicamp in mid-May, he carries risk for a team like the Bears picking in the top five. 

Adams, on the other hand, is one of six or seven prospects ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay described on their "First Draft" podcast as "clean" — as in, without injury-related red flags — among the top 20 prospects in this year's draft. Hooker and fellow Ohio State defensive back Marshon Lattimore have injury concerns, as does Alabama's Jonathan Allen, the defensive lineman who's been mentioned as a possibility for the Bears at No. 3. 

[Check out Malik Hooker's Draft Profile]

Hooker pushed back on questions about his health in Indianapolis, explaining that he elected to have the surgery with an eye on being healthy for his first football activities with whatever team drafts him.

"The film says what it says," Hooker said. "I feel like a lot of teams will want me to be healthy for the year coming in because surgery was my decision. It wasn't like I needed the surgery, I decided to do that because at that point of the season, I knew I made the decision I was going to declare for this upcoming draft. It was moreso preparing myself to get ready for rookie minicamp coming up."

Draft history shows it's rare for a safety to be a top-five pick, let alone a top-three one. But as the NFL continues to be more and more of a pass-oriented league, why not reach for someone who can command a defense like Adams or create game-changing turnovers like Hooker?

"I feel like we're both very good players," Hooker said. "I feel like we're definitely capable of going top 10, top 5."

If the Bears think a safety is worth their highest pick since 1972, then the prevailing question becomes: Would the payoff for Hooker be worth the risk?

LOOK: Nick Foles signs Bears contract

LOOK: Nick Foles signs Bears contract

The Chicago Bears struck quickly after the new league year kicked off on March 18 when they traded a 2020 fourth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for quarterback Nick Foles. The deal was agreed to during the legal tampering period but didn't become official until Tuesday when it was finally announced by the NFL.

Part of the delay in all of this offseason's transactions getting finalized is the social distancing required to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Team facilities are closed. As a result, free-agent deals and trades are taking longer to process.

But the wait for Foles becoming a Bear is finally over, and he shared the moment he put pen to paper on Twitter.

Foles, 31, is expected to compete with Mitch Trubisky for the starting job in 2020 with most in football media expecting him to ultimately win the duel. He brings a resume of playoff success to Chicago, including a miraculous Super Bowl run (and victory) during the 2017 season.

Foles' stint in Jacksonville lasted just one season after signing a four-year, $88 million contract in 2019. Foles started four games (all losses) and finished the year with 736 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was replaced in the lineup by Gardner Minshew, who took the league by storm as a mustache-wearing sixth-round pick from Washington State.

He'll get a fresh start in Chicago and if he has any sort of success in 2020, he'll be a Bear for a long time.

2020 NFL Draft Report: Jake Fromm

2020 NFL Draft Report: Jake Fromm

The 2020 NFL draft gets underway on April 23 and will look a lot different than it has in recent years. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced the NFL to audible its planned three-day extravaganza in Las Vegas and will instead likely hold a studio show without the fanfare that normally accompanies the realization of a lifelong dream for the more than 250 prospects who will hear their name called.

In this running series, we'll profile several of those players. Up next: Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm.

Fromm, 21, attended Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Georgia, where he threw for 12,745 yards and 116 touchdowns during his decorated five-star career. Fromm chose Georgia after originally committing to Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide. He was rated a top-10 quarterback in his recruiting class. While he goes by 'Jake,' his first name is actually William.

Fromm's career as Georgia's starter came in Week 1 of his freshman season (2017) after replacing fellow draft prospect Jacob Eason after Eason suffered a shoulder injury. Fromm would remain the starter for the rest of the year and threw for 2,615 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He was steady and consistent as the Bulldogs' starter the following two seasons. In 2018, he threw for 2,761 yards, 30 touchdowns and six interceptions and finished last season with 2,860 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was named Georgia's MVP in 2019.

Physically, Fromm meets the minimum requirements for an NFL quarterback. He checked-in at 6-2, 219 pounds at the NFL Combine and has a thickly built frame that should help him absorb the kind of contact that naturally comes with playing the position. 

Athletically, Fromm isn't the fleetest of foot. He won't be a dual-threat as a pro nor will he be the kind of quarterback who can keep plays alive for long once the pocket breaks down. He has enough lateral movement skills to side-step oncoming pass rushers and won't just crumble in the face of pressure, but he'll need an effective offensive line to maximize his skill set as a passer.

Fromm's best trait is his decision-making, which is something NFL teams will value. His accuracy is above-average too, but his lack of arm strength will hinder his ability to make window throws int he NFL. His passes hang in the air too long; harmless incompletions in the SEC will turn into interceptions in the NFL because of his lack of velocity. 

Fromm isn't an incredibly challenging evaluation. He's a smart and instinctive quarterback who does most of his damage before the snap. He'll make the right reads and he'll target the right receiver. He's an on-target passer who needs time in the pocket to allow his receivers to gain an extra step of separation to make up for his lacking arm talent. Fromm has starter's upside as long as the rest of the offense can compensate for his shortcomings; he'll need twitchy route-runners who can separate on intermediate routes. If Fromm is forced to throw into tight coverage or down the field (aside from an occasional home run shot or busted play), he won't last long with the first team.

Fromm appears destined to be a backup with spot starter's ability. I wouldn't entirely count him out, though. Guys like Fromm -- players who win above the shoulders -- tend to make it in the NFL despite their apparent physical limitations. If he lands in a system that plays to his strengths, he could be a surprisingly effective NFL starter. But he shouldn't be drafted to be that guy. Instead, his best chance for success is to join a roster as an unassuming backup with a chance to outwork and outplay an incumbent starter.

GRADE: 4th round