JACKSONVILLE – Malik Hooker is far from an easy selection at No. 4.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah understands that, but he also believes Hooker is a player very much worthy of being selected by the Jaguars next Thursday.
Jeremiah, one of the more respected NFL Draft analysts, joined Jaguars.com LIVE Wednesday and detailed why Hooker – a safety from Ohio State University – makes sense for the Jaguars with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
"I would not rule out Malik Hooker," Jeremiah said. "I know they brought over [safety] Barry Church from Dallas [as an unrestricted free agent last month], but Malik Hooker is a rare, rare talent as a high safety."
While Jeremiah in his latest (April 4) mock draft projected Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett to Cleveland at No. 1, Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas to San Francisco at No. 2, Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore to Chicago at No. 3 and Louisiana State running back Leonard Fournette to Jacksonville at No. 4, he said Wednesday he now projects Garrett to Cleveland, Lattimore to San Francisco and Thomas to Chicago.
In that scenario, he said Fournette and Hooker make sense.
Hooker is widely considered the best free-safety prospect in the draft, but analysts haven't mentioned him as prominently in Jaguars pre-draft conversation as players such as safety Jamal Adams of LSU, defensive end Jonathan Allen of Alabama or Fournette.
"You can bring him in there, and you have Malik Hooker and [second-year cornerback] Jalen Ramsey for the next decade?'' Jeremiah said. "I'd sign up for that."
Jeremiah also on Wednesday addressed the quarterbacks in the draft, saying that if the Jaguars opt for the position at No. 4 he considers Deshaun Watson of Clemson the best option.
"That would be my choice," Jeremiah said. "I ended up with him as the top quarterback. He's not perfect by any stretch, but when I list it out and say what are the pros and cons here … when I look at the pros side, he has enough size, plenty of arm strength, toughness, poise and competitiveness, the fact that he's big on big stages …
"All of that stuff is overwhelming to me, and it overcomes the fact that he's not the purest passer when it comes to accuracy. Decision-making is an area he needs to improve. He obviously comes from a different offense that's going to take an adjustment.
"You buy into the kid. You say, 'We can get there. It might take a little time, but I'm buying Deshaun Watson the person and hoping the player comes along with it."
Also on Wednesday:
*Lerentee McCray, a defensive end who signed with the Jaguars as an unrestricted free agent in March, joined Jaguars.com LIVE and discussed the optimism around the team two days into the 2017 offseason program. "We're ready to win right now," McCray said. "That's how everybody is handling it – from the top down – the general manager, the owner, the coaches … top down, we're ready to win right now and that's the statement they've made with the players coming in." …
*McCray, who played collegiately at Florida, is considered a front-line special teams player and is part of the team's offseason focus to upgrade that area. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, an NFL special teams coach since 1988, was brought in to oversee that upgrade and McCray played for DeCamillis in Denver in 2015. "Joe D. is Joe D.," McCray said. "If you know Joe D., you've got to love him. … He's very passionate about what he does. He loves his craft. He loves football. Most importantly, he loves special teams and making the special teams unit better because that's one third of the game that people tend to forget about. … His resume speaks for itself. He caters to his players and puts his players in the best position to be successful. He always creates matchup problems for other teams.''