Emma: Malik Hooker Or Jamal Adams? Bears Could Face Daunting Decision

By Chris Emma–

(CBS) When the NFL Draft arrives April 27, the Bears could face a pivotal decision phrased like this — would you rather have Brian Dawkins or Ed Reed?

The top of this draft class features two elite safety prospects in LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, each of whom projects to be selected in the top 10. Either could end up among the first five. Both should be strongly considered by the Bears.

While it remains to be seen in what direction the Bears will move with their third pick, the possibility of selecting a safety is certainly in play. And the pick between Adams and Hooker isn’t simple. Adams and Hooker both look to be tremendous prospects, and it’s hard to imagine being wrong with either. But who fits best for the Bears?

Adams has drawn projections to Dawkins if his upside becomes a reality, and Hooker compares to Reed. The Bears are looking for difference-makers for their defense, and Adams and Hooker make their impacts differently.

Adams seems to be more of a strong safety, with an excellent ability to man center field and play in space. He can flip his hips quickly and streak toward the point of attack. Adams’ instincts are clear, as he seems to have a trigger allowing him to make the play.

Leadership is among the strongest traits of Adams, who was a captain at LSU. His intelligence is outstanding, as the film exemplifies. While Adams had just one interception and one forced fumble as a junior last season (compared to four picks in 2015), he’s viewed as a Dawkins-like complete safety.

Then there’s Hooker, who boasts uncanny ball skills. Without question, he projects as a free safety who can cut off both seams and can take away a deep ball. Hooker had seven interceptions last season, and that number is no fluke. To the naked eye, only one pick seemed to be gift-wrapped for him.

Hooker’s ability to cover so much ground allows a defense to utilize its strong safety against the run or with help elsewhere.

The comparison of Reed for Hooker is natural given their each’s ability to find the football and change a game. Reed had 64 interceptions in 174 NFL games, including nine in 2004 and 2008. He took seven interceptions to the end zone. Hooker returned three for scores last season.

So, if the Bears choose to select a safety next Thursday night, which would it be?

Adams could give the Chicago an all-around impact for the back end of its defense. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio has often been left moving parts around his unit in a cautious move to avoid surrendering a big play. With Adams dropping back, the Bears could be confident in his ability to monitor the field.

Hooker would be an excellent choice if not for his struggles in the box. He often takes poor angles in pursuit and can be a liability in that respect. However, his angles to a pass are never to be questioned. He has a knack for finding the football.

Projections vary between scouts, but you would be hard-pressed to find someone not enamored by the skill sets of Adams and Hooker. The links to Dawkins and Reed make the decision even more daunting.

Both have the potential to be outstanding NFL players. The Bears can only pick one, and such a decision wouldn’t be easy.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

More from Chris Emma

More From CBS Chicago

News Via Email
Podcast Network

Watch & Listen LIVE