With the selection of former Ohio State safety Malik Hooker with the 15th overall pick, the Colts were able to acquire some help for a much-maligned defensive secondary. More important, they were able to add a player who has a huge upside.
"He was the highest guy we had (rated) on our draft board," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said Thursday night.
Indianapolis officials didn't expect Hooker to be available when the team made its first-round pick. But an early run of offensive players allowed some of the draft's best defenders to slip farther down the round.
A 6-foot-1, 206-pound free safety with outstanding sideline-to-sideline range, Hooker recorded seven interceptions last season at Ohio State and returned three for touchdowns.
The New Castle, Pa., native was rated by some as one the top 10 players in the draft. Pagano was elated to get him with the 15th pick.
"A very rare athlete," Pagano said. "He's a center fielder, a ballhawk. He comes from a great, great program. He's a special athlete with rare ball skills. We get another piece to add to the puzzle. It was an easy pick. There was zero hesitation."
Greg Schiano was Hooker's defensive coordinator with the Buckeyes. Schiano and Pagano served on the same defensive coaching staff at the University of Miami, where they both worked with perennial Pro Bowler Ed Reed.
"Greg said that Hooker was the closest thing he's seen to Ed Reed," Pagano said. "He's got that rare ability to go after the football. We were able to add a unique and special talent to our defensive backfield."
Hooker underwent hip surgery in January and was limited in what he could do at the National Scouting Combine a month later. The Colts, though, aren't concerned with the injury.
"He probably won't be ready (to practice) until training camp. But we had no hesitation (to draft him)," the Colts' coach said. "He's got swagger. This guy is genuine. He knows football."
While general manager Chris Ballard wants to pump the brakes on any early comparisons to Reed, he feels fortunate that Hooker was available.
"I really thought when we came in here that we needed to add defensive playmakers," Ballard said. "(Hooker) has unique ball skills. We're excited to get him. I thought that he was the best athlete in the draft.
"Adding unique players who can make plays is what we needed for our ballclub. He's got a rare combination of size, speed and instincts. He's got a presence to him, an air of confidence. He's a high-ceiling player."
Hooker was happy with his selection by Indianapolis. Although he is from the Pittsburgh area, he became a Colts fan at an early age. His favorite player was former Indianapolis running back Joseph Addai.
"When I saw the Indianapolis area code pop up (on the phone), I got excited because the Colts used to be my favorite team growing up," the former Buckeye defensive back said.
He added that making the transition from college to the NFL should be a bit easier due to the coaching and schemes while at Ohio State.
"Some of the things that the Colts do are similar to what we did," Hooker said. "But I know that I have a lot of things that I still need to work on. I am my own worst critic."
The Colts' general manager didn't know Hooker was an Indianapolis fan growing up. He added that Indianapolis had brought the defensive back to the team's headquarters for a late pre-draft meeting just in case Hooker slipped down to the 15th spot.
"It was fate," Ballard laughed.