Man-coverage ability on slot receivers and tight ends
Could get some play at nickel corner
Can hit hard when he needs to
Fluid athlete, can flip his hips to run
Covers a lot of ground
Always around the ball
Skilled at picking up receivers in off-man coverage
Natural zone-safety skills
Experienced, dominated good competition
Doesn't have elite speed
Suspended for accepting an illegal loan
Summary: The Alabama program has been a factory for NFL defensive backs in recent years, and Clinton-Dix is the Crimson Tide's top prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. The NFL is a passing-driven league and is in search of safeties with great coverage skills. Clinton-Dix fits the bill and showed in his two years of playing time that he's a weapon in pass defense.
After Mark Barron left for the NFL, Clinton-Dix stepped into the lineup, and Alabama's defense didn't miss a beat in pass coverage. In 2012, Clinton-Dix totaled 37 tackles with five interceptions, four passes broken up and a forced fumble while sharing snaps with Robert Lester and Vinnie Sunseri. Clinton-Dix made some clutch plays to help the Crimson Tide win its second-straight national title.
In 2013, Clinton-Dix was an every-down player and perhaps the most consistent player on Alabama's defense. He recorded 50 tackles, two interceptions and four passes broken up in 2013. Clinton-Dix played well against Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, LSU and Mississippi State. He was also suspended for two games for taking a loan from a Crimson Tide assistant. While Clinton-Dix didn't have a huge statistical season, he made a ton of clutch tackles as the last line of defense and prevented points from going up on the scoreboard.
Clinton-Dix projects to the NFL as a free safety who will be an asset in pass coverage. He is a superb center fielder who picks up receivers running deep and prevents long pass completions. Clinton-Dix has the size to cover big receivers with the quickness and athleticism to run with speed targets. With his coverage ability, he can play some man coverage and should be a good safety to cover receiving tight ends and slot receivers. Those kind of safeties are in demand and Clinton-Dix fits the bill.
Clinton-Dix has good ball skills and should produce good interception totals as a pro. Head coach Nick Saban groomed Clinton-Dix well as he is very intelligent. Clinton-Dix doesn't get caught out of position and knows which receivers to pick up. He's instinctive and has play-making ability.
For run defense, Alabama mostly used Sunseri and Lester as the program's in-the-box safeties with Clinton-Dix lined up deep. That should stay the same for him as a pro, but he has the size and strength to tackle in the box. In run defense, Clinton-Dix made a lot of clutch tackles for the Crimson Tide to stop runs at the second level rather being busted downfield for huge gains. He kept a lot of points from being scored for his team.
Clinton-Dix is an extremely well-rounded safety. Scouts said that he is a lock for a first-round pick. WalterFootball.com reached out to sources to see if they saw any weaknesses in his game. Sources said the only thing they could think of is Clinton-Dix lacking elite speed. League contacts also felt that Saban's defensive backs enter the NFL with a lot of hype, but the vast majority have never realized their individual potentials or become as good as they were billed to be. It will be interesting to see if Clinton-Dix can break that trend.
After a strong performance at the Combine, Clinton-Dix looks like a lock to be a top-25 pick and could easily go in the top-16 picks of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Eric Berry. Berry (6-0, 211) and Clinton-Dix have a similar skill set and style of play. Both are superb center fielders who keep plays in front of them. They are great as the last line of defense and each one is tremendous in pass coverage. They also are reliable tacklers who can contribute well in the run game. They both have size, length and ball skills. The only real difference is Clinton-Dix lacks Berry's speed. Berry was a high first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, and Clinton-Dix is likely to go in the top 20 this year. In the pros, it wouldn't be surprising if Clinton-Dix is a Pro Bowl safety like Berry.
NFL Matches: St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, New York Jets, Chicago, Arizona, Green Bay, Philadelphia
There are a lot of teams that could consider drafting Clinton-Dix in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The most likely landing spot: St. Louis. The Rams have a huge need at safety. They need a free safety with coverage skills to pair with T.J. McDonald. Clinton-Dix would be a perfect fit. It makes a lot of sense for St. Louis to take him with the 13th pick.
Elsewhere in the NFC West, Arizona got a good season out of Yeremiah Bell last year, but the Cardinals will need to get a long-term starter.
Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said that improving the safety position would be a goal of the offseason. Clinton-Dix and Matt Elam could form a tremendous tandem.
The Steelers could use a young play-making safety. They drafted Shamarko Thomas last year, and adding Clinton-Dix should set the organization up for many years to come.
The Jets need to improve their safeties, and Clinton-Dix would be a good fit for Rex Ryan.
In the NFC North, the Bears could look for an upgrade over Chris Conte and Major Wright. Clinton-Dix would fit Mel Tucker's defense well.
The safety position was a weakness for the Packers last year. They need to find a partner to go with Morgan Burnett. Clinton-Dix fits their type of defensive backs as they prefer longer, rangy athletes with ball skills. His coverage ability to prevent big plays downfield would come in handy for a defense that suffered a lot of busted coverage last year. Green Bay would be thrilled to land Clinton-Dix.
The Eagles have a huge hole at safety, but it seems unlikely that Chip Kelly will have Clinton-Dix fall to him. Philadelphia would have to trade up for Clinton-Dix.