Bears Draft Watch: Iowa’s Hooker Could Be A Long-Term Option At Safety

By Ryan Bukowiecki (@ryanbski)

In 2018, the Chicago Bears basically invaded the open player market, picking up several potential starters to desperately upgrade a down offense and still youthful defense.

A year later, with a playoff berth behind them and a future firmly established as division and conference contenders in front, the Bears have been very calculated in the type of free agents they have signed since the NFL’s signing period began last week.

General manager Ryan Pace hasn’t been tried again the kind of big splash spending that fans have been accustomed to with him. Speaking of accustomed to, its not very often that the Bears first draft pick in a given year comes until the third round — which it is at the moment — unless Pace tries to move around the draft order (which he has been known to do so with regularity).

The key in the NFL is building your roster through the draft because of the amount of cheap talent available. Free agency usually means a lot of expensive contracts for players that may be over the hill and have likely seen their better days as a pro come and go. Which is why teams want to fill their roster’s holes with free agency then be free to select the best player available in the draft.

The Bears come into the draft with a handful of needs but none that are pressing other than perhaps place kicker. Place kicker is not an ideal position to draft as it usually brings back less value than the pick is worth. Another area of concern for the bears would be the safety position, mostly for timing’s sake.

Pace has two starters now after making a great signing in safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix to a one year deal last week. But Clinton-Dix is likely a short term answer without an obvious long term solution on the roster. Drafting a safety would make a lot of sense for the Bears and this class has some depth to it. One safety that is projected to go sometime around the Bears third round pick is Amani Hooker.

Hooker played ball at the University of Iowa, a school with a solid reputation in developing NFL talent. Hooker has been moving around draft boards and may go sooner than the Bears pick, but of course if Pace identifies him as his guy then don’t be surprised by a possible trade up. Let’s take a deeper dive scouting the top-ranked Hawkeye safety.

Combine results:

  • 40 yard dash – 4.48 (Tied fifteenth out of all defensive backs)
  • Bench press – 14 (Tied ninth out of all defensive backs)
  • Vert Jump – 37” (Tied first out of all defensive backs)
  • Broad Jump – 10’3” (Tied thirteenth out of all defensive backs)
  • 3 cone drill – 6.81 (Tied sixth out of all defensive backs)
  • 20 yard shuttle – 4.10 (Tied seventh out of all defensive backs)
  • 60 yard shuttle – 11.59 (Fifth out of all defensive backs)

Strengths:

  • Off the chart instincts
  • Good NFL size
  • Brings enough physicality in run support
  • Excellent vision, can be the guy that lines up the defense pre-snap
  • Has soft hands and good ball skills

Weaknesses:

  • Concerns with athleticism to be a true centerfield safety
  • Lacks recovery speed if beaten deep
  • Needs to improve tackling technique
  • Can be too aggressive and become vulnerable to big plays when undercutting routes

Fit with the Bears:

The Bears are pretty solid at safety this season, Eddie Jackson will be the star centerfield playmaking safety and paired up with his old college teammate in Clinton-Dix, who can also be the centerfield, playmaking type.

Behind Jackson and Clinton-Dix at the moment is Deon Bush, who filled in for Jackson after he had an ankle injury against the Packers in Week 15. Bush did a solid job filling in but he is more of the in the box hard hitting safety rather than the ball-hawking type using instincts and skills to create turnovers.

The Bears will need to acquire another safety before the start of training camp and a guy like Hooker makes a lot of sense for the team. Hooker seems to be more of a hybrid type that can play in the box as well as the deep zones. He will be more vulnerable in the deep part of the field but Hooker fits also what defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano likes to do with his safeties.

Pagano will want a safety paired with Jackson that can be a blitzer, run support safety and able to make plays in centerfield. The Bears will have other options in the draft to get another safety if Hooker is off the board or if the Bears select a different position player early on.

If Hooker is the pick for the Bears then don’t be surprised if he is a player used in specific situations this year before becoming the starter opposite Jackson the following season when it is likely that Clinton-Dix will move on to another team for a bigger contract.

The final safety spot on this team is an important spot to fill heading into this season, but its equally important to identify a safety that can be a potential every down starter after this year.

Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and professional football for WARR
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One response to “Bears Draft Watch: Iowa’s Hooker Could Be A Long-Term Option At Safety

  1. Pingback: Bears Draft Watch: Stanford’s Smith Could Bring Depth To TE Ranks | WARR - We Are Regal Radio·

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