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Houston Texans

AFC South: Four exciting breakout candidates for 2019

AFC South
Photo Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
AFC South

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Indianapolis Colts

Aside from Mack, the other Colts’ 2017 draftee I think is ready to blow up is safety Malik Hooker. Much like Cunningham, Hooker had a very solid, respectable second season. Also like Cunnigham, he has the potential to be much, much more.

The former Ohio State standout has prodigious talent. The kind of talent that all but removes the ceiling for a player. Hooker is the rangiest collegiate player I can remember on the backend since Earl Thomas. His awareness and ball skills are also top of the scale. He has even vastly improved his tackling and run support technique. What was once thought of has his major weakness (only 5 missed tackles in 2018, PFF) has become a strength.

Thus far, the biggest thing holding Hooker back from reaching his potential has been his health. Issues that date back to his time at Ohio State. The former first-round pick missed drills and testing at the 2017 NFL Combine due to torn labrum and sports hernia surgeries. He would then lose more than half of his rookie season after tearing his ACL and MCL in week 7 of 2017. He even struggled with hip and foot injuries that cost him 3 games in 2018. It has been nothing but rotten luck for the 2016 consensus All-American safety.

The bright side of all of this doom-and-gloom is Hooker is only 23-years-old. While he did get a bit banged up last season, he still managed a damn solid effort on the field despite coming off major knee surgery just 10 months prior. If Hooker’s luck changes and he can manage to stay out of the trainer’s room, we are looking at a perennial Pro-Bowler and All-Pro.

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