Jets desperately need a ball hawk in secondary ... hello, Malik Hooker

Malik Hooker can turn the tide of a game (0:37)

According to Mel Kiper Jr., ball skills and instincts make Ohio State safety Malik Hooker a valuable commodity in today's pass-happy NFL. (0:37)

This is the seventh in a series highlighting players who could be selected by the New York Jets with the sixth overall pick in the April 27 draft:

Player: Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Height/weight: 6-foot-1, 206 pounds

Scouts Inc. ranking: No. 9.

Draft projection: Third to 11th.

Scouting report: He's everything the Jets lacked in their secondary last season -- an instinctive, ball-hawking defender who covers more turf than a groundskeeper. Hooker has the innate ability to read a quarterback's eyes and get to where he's throwing better than anyone in this draft. At Ohio State, he played mostly as a single-high safety, which makes him a scheme fit for the Jets. He grew up in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where he received offers to play Division I basketball. Yes, he's that kind of athlete. When he gets the ball in his hands, watch out. He's a highlight waiting to happen. The concerns: He started only one year at Ohio State and his tackling is suspect. He's a third-year sophomore who played as a backup in 2015.

Key stats: In 13 starts last season, Hooker made seven interceptions, returning three for touchdowns. He had no holding or pass-interference penalties. He recorded 74 tackles (5.5 behind the line), but he struggled at times in run support. With 17 missed tackles, he ranked 136th nationally in tackling efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus. He has huge hands -- 10¾ inches.

Red flags: Durability. On Jan. 16, Hooker underwent surgery for a sports hernia and a completely torn labrum in his left hip. He said both injuries occurred in the Nov. 26 game against Michigan. He played in Ohio State's playoff game and had an MRI in early January, which confirmed the injuries. He wasn't able to participate in the scouting combine or his pro day. Just the other day, he went for a medical re-check by league doctors and he received all good news, the NFL Network reported. How soon he can be cleared for football remains unclear. Some teams might think twice before pulling the trigger, wondering how his body will hold up to NFL punishment.

In his own words: On his knack for interceptions: "Just having the mindset that any ball that's in the air, it's my ball. I feel like I'm a playmaker. Any time I had a chance to make a play or change momentum of a game, I took it upon myself to do so. ... I feel like it's just a mindset. Either you feel like you're a dog out there or you're not."

Scouts' take: NFL Network's Mike Mayock: "I love Malik Hooker. I think he's the best center-field free safety I've seen in a while on tape. I have two concerns: Number one is the durability. He's a one-year starter at Ohio State. He's coming off two surgeries after the season and you've got to worry about his durability. Number two, he's an inconsistent tackler." ... ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.: "He has a little Ed Reed in him. ... He's not a super-aggressive tackling safety and there's the medical question. Will he have to start on PUP? Without any injury concern, he’s one of the best five players in this draft. The [injury] is the only thing that could drop him down a little bit."