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The Sports Daily > Colts Authority
What to Expect: Malik Hooker

Welcome back to What to Expect.

What to Expect is a long-running series that seeks to set reasonable expectations for Colts’ draft picks based on historic performance by players picked at comparable positions in the draft. These are not predictions, but rather baselines that are useful for determining if a player has over- or under-performed their draft position.

New general manager Chris Ballard spent his first-ever first-round pick on a safety from Ohio State, Malik Hooker. Hooker fills a specific need for the Colts, but has also battled injuries throughout his career.

First-round Safeties 2007-2016

Since the 2007 draft, there have been 17 safeties taken in the first round. 12 of them started at least 10 games, and more than half of them started at least 14 games. 14 of them played in all 16 games. It’s clear that when a team drafts a safety, they have a reasonable expectation that the player will be a Year One starter.

It’s difficult to gauge production based on metrics because of variances in how safeties are used. Strong safeties will hopefully ring up bigger tackle numbers than free safeties. In this case, 12 of the 17 players picked up at least 50 tackles, with more than half picking up 60 tackles.

13 of the 17 had at least one interception, with the great Earl Thomas pulling in five at the top end. Pass defenses were numerous as well with more than half the players taken in the first round batting down at least seven passes.

First-round safeties have virtually no ceiling, with some of the best names in the game today having been taken in that slot. Earl Thomas has five Pro Bowls and three first-team All Pro awards, and he was taken with the 14th-overall pick.

Colts History 2000-2017

The Colts have had 20 safeties come through as rookies since the turn of the century. They range from the memorable (Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea) to the mediocre (Idress Bashir and Mike Doss) to the unproven (Clayton Geathers, T.J. Green).

Indy has seen four players start at least 8 games as a rookie safety, but that was no guarantee of future success. For every Bethea, there’s a David Caldwell, who only played one year.

Reasonable Baseline

It is perfectly reasonable to expect a first-round safety to make a rookie-year impact.

If Hooker plays any fewer than 16 games with fewer than 10 starts, his season can rightly be seen a something of a disappointment, though it’s fair to note that rookie-year injuries are not necessarily a death knell for future productivity. Bob Sanders, who dropped to the second round because of his pre-existing injuries, only played in six games his rookie year.

When he’s on the field, Hooker can be expected to produce 60 tackles and an interception or two.

In the long term, the Colts are rightfully hoping for a player to develops into a Pro Bowl-caliber player. If other first-round safeties are any benchmark, that could happen very early in his career.

When you take a safety early, you expect him to be good and to be good immediately.