Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Green Bay Packers were the last NFC North team to go on the clock in Round 1, and at least two of their divisional rivals -- Detroit and Chicago -- could have swiped Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before they got there.
But the chips fell into place for the Packers, who headed into Thursday with a need at safety, and left it with a prospect who had top-10 talent. Clinton-Dix should be a Day 1 starter for Green Bay.
Strengths: Clinton-Dix has the two things every NFL free safety needs — great feet and impressive quickness. He backpedals and redirects smoothly and with little trouble, which allows him to stick and stay on all kinds of routes. And he’s remarkably quick when it comes to driving down in run support, as well as moving to either sideline. Keeps the action in front of him, and does his best to avoid getting shaken on any kind of misdirection, despite his generally aggressive playing style. Has the size (6-1, 208) and speed to square up on running backs and receivers and bring them down. Understands how to deal with blockers — will rarely take a hit straight on and bounces off to make a play. Tackles with excellent form; looks to wrap more than he goes for the kill shot, and he does a terrific job of extending his body to catch quicker opponents. Gives tremendous effort at all times; he’s never really eliminated from a possible tackle as long as the play is still going. Can play well everywhere from true center field to the slot.
Weaknesses: Though he’s a generally disciplined player, there are inevitable aftereffects of Clinton-Dix’s style that show up on tape. He will flat-out miss tackles at times because he’s trying so hard to get where he needs to be, and better play-fake quarterbacks might have a field day with him at the NFL level. Will occasionally lose track of his target on quick angle routes unless he’s in position to redirect.
The Packers are as proficient as any team in the league at building through the draft, and gifts like this one will help them stay on that path. Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor were neck-and-neck as the top safety in the 2014 class, and Clinton-Dix probably is a better fit for the Green Bay defense anyway (Pryor was selected at No. 18).
Alabama prospects have drawn a bit of a stigma recently, with several of them struggling to make the transition to the NFL after taking on heavy workloads in college. Clinton-Dix should help put an end to that opinion. He gives Green Bay a rangy, smart defender on the back end of its defense, in a division filled with passing offenses and talented tight ends.
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