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Mel Kiper Jr.'s first mock provides surprising help for Redskins

Ohio State safety Malik Hooker could make an immediate impact in the NFL according to Mel Kiper Jr. Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire

The Washington Redskins' quest for an impact safety is over. At least according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s first mock draftInsider, which gives the Redskins a safety they’ve long been seeking.

Thing is, it’s hard to imagine Ohio State's Malik Hooker falling all the way to 17, but if he did then he’d do more than just fill a need. It depends on who the Redskins hire as a defensive coordinator, but if, say, they hired Gus Bradley then Hooker would be an excellent fit as a single-high safety.

Yes, it's only Jan. 19. The draft is still more than three months away. But there will be intrigue for the Redskins, because they’re picking high enough to find someone who should provide immediate help.

Like Earl Thomas in Seattle -- a perfect fit as a single-high safety -- Hooker is able to cover a lot of ground. Whether Hooker could become as good as Thomas remains to be seen. Kiper called Hooker the best center-field safety he watched this year. Very hard to disagree.

It takes more than speed to make a great safety. But Hooker has skills to reach a certain level, which is why he was able to turn pro after his one full season as a starter at Ohio State. As an Ohio State alum, I was able to watch quite a bit of Hooker. I’m also not a Buckeyes apologist. There have been Ohio State players in the past I thought were way overrated (Vernon Gholston for starters; the Jets should have called me). That said, Hooker is one of the better defensive backs to emerge from there in a while, which is saying something for a school that has produced quite a few secondary players in the NFL.

He plays with excellent anticipation, instincts and awareness. He’s not a big hitter, but Hooker covers a lot of ground to either make a play or break one up. The Redskins safeties who have had speed all are transitioning from cornerback; it takes time. Their pure safeties in recent years weren’t fast.

The Redskins’ primary need absolutely is finding defensive line help, which could come in free agency. Without improving the line, it’ll be hard for the defense to make a big jump no matter who’s coaching. If not in free agency, then they have to address the line high in the draft. However, it’s uncertain that there will be a lineman available at 17 who makes sense.

It also happens to be a safety-rich draft -- Kiper projected four safeties in the first round, with Hooker going third.

Kiper projected LSU’s Jamal Adams fourth to Jacksonville and Michigan's Jabrill Peppers 16th to Baltimore. If Hooker actually fell to 17, the Redskins should waste no time turning his name in and then celebrating.