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Jamal Adams or Malik Hooker? 2017 NFL Draft could produce 2 'special talents' at safety

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah spent four years working in the Baltimore Ravens' personnel department. While he was there, he got a first-hand look at the impact safety Ed Reed, a nine-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, had on the organization and how the 24th overall pick in 2002 blossomed into one of the league's all-time greats.

"He would find us a way to get us the football, get us a short field, if not just take it and score it himself, said Jeremiah, who spoke on a Wednesday NFL Media teleconference previewing this year's draft. "I've seen a player at that position have a big time impact on games and seasons."

It's why Jeremiah would be comfortable with teams taking either LSU's Jamal Adams or Ohio State's Malik Hooker — both whom he described as "special talents" — early in the first round when the Draft opens April 27 in Philadelphia.

"Traditionally those guys don't go very high," Jeremiah said. "If you're going to take one up there, when you talk about quarterback, defensive end, left tackle, those premier positions, if you're going to take a safety over guys at those positions, he needs to be special."

Indeed, only six safeties have been taken in the top 10 since 2000, and it hasn't happened since the Chiefs tapped Eric Berry with the fifth overall pick in 2010 (Berry, of course, has emerged as one of the NFL's finest players).

This year's draft, however, could buck tradition as both Adams and Hooker are widely considered top 10 picks and, depending on who you ask, top five prospects. If the safeties were to both go in the top 10, it would be the first time since 2006.

"Those guys are impact players, guys that you can see having a tremendous impact from day one," NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said. "When you have those kind of guys that on a weekly basis can impact the game and lead your teams to wins based on how they perform in the back end, those are guys you value high, those are the guys you're willing to put big grades on."

Hooker, who had January surgery to repair a sports hernia and torn hip labrum, took the college football world by storm last year, leading the Buckeyes with seven interceptions in his first season as a starter.

"Malik Hooker, his ability, like Ed, to get you the football," Jeremiah said. "To me, he's pretty special with his instincts, range and ball skills."

Adams, a three-year starter and captain, is known more as a thumper who can play the run as well as the pass.

"Talk about a guy that can set the tone with his temperament on the field, his energy is fantastic. You hear great stories about him from a leadership standpoint. Talked to folks at LSU, they say he's the best leader they've had there in 20 years. All those boxes get checked."

That sentiment echoes that of NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, who described Adams as a "natural-born leader of men" in his draft profile. The All-American posted 76 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, four pass breakups and an interception last year.

"These are two of the best safeties that have come out in a long, long time," Jeremiah said. "You have to have special players at that position if you're going to vault them all the way up where we have them."

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