Amani Hooker Entering NFL Draft

By RossWB on January 5, 2019 at 7:16 pm
Godspeed, Amani

© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

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Amani Hooker has played his final game in an Iowa uniform. Saturday Hooker announced that he plans to enter the 2019 NFL Draft and pursue his future in the professional ranks: 

Hooker will be entering the NFL Draft off the back of a breakout junior season. He led Iowa with seven pass break-ups, tied for the team lead in interceptions (four), and was second the team in tackles, with 65. That performance made him the unofficial MVP of Iowa's defense and the official Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year when the league handed out honors at the end of the season. He earned second team All-America honors as well. 

At Iowa Hooker also pioneered a new role in Iowa's defense, serving as a hybrid strong safety/outside linebacker in the new "star" role. His proficiency in run support, his ability to provide strong pass coverage, and his unerring defensive instincts allowed him to excel in that role. His departure means that Iowa will be without the two most experienced members of its secondary next season, with Hooker leaving Iowa early to pursue NFL dreams and Jake Gervase using up his eligibility. Geno Stone will be Iowa's only returning safety with experience and we'll have to see if Iowa opts to continue using the "star" role even in Hooker's absence, or if they revert to their more orthodox defense with three traditional linebackers and four defensive backs. 

It's not clear where Hooker projects to be drafted in the upcoming NFL Draft; unlike Noah Fant (a fellow early entrant) or T.J. Hockenson (another potential early entrant), Hooker hasn't been tipped as a first or second round draft pick. But even if he's not selected that early, it still could make sense for him to enter the NFL Draft now, instead of waiting to do so in a year. As his former teammate Desmond King can attest, returning a year can give scouts a chance to nitpick your film and emphasize your flaws. The average NFL career is so short that there's some logic behind getting it started as soon as possible, too, especially since the current rookie pay scale makes it so that most players need to sign a second contract (if they can last in the NFL long enough to do so) in order to cash in. 

Regardless, it was an absolute pleasure to watch Amani Hooker play in Iowa City for the last few years. I once tagged him as the player I was most excited about in Iowa's 2016 recruiting class; I think it's fair to say that Hooker more than lived up to the hopes I had for him. And no matter what, we'll always have the Ohio State game, where Hooker lit the fuse on what became a legendary win: 

Best of luck in the NFL, Amani. 

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