As the 2014 NFL Draft talk begins to heat up, it is time to take a look at various prospects that could be on the New York Jets radar. While the Jets saw excellent improvement from young safety Antonio Allen this past season, adding a ball hawk in the draft would help the back end of the secondary. Lets take a look at a guy who is considered the best safety in the 2014 draft class – Alabama safety Ha’Sean “Ha-Ha”" Clinton-Dix.
Clinton-Dix stands at 6 feet, 1 inch and weighs 206 pounds. His long frame could use some more muscle mass, which I will touch on later. The Alabama product was the centerfield of their defense the past two seasons, one in which he won a national title.
He reeled in five interceptions his sophomore year (first as a starter) and two this past year, where he was first-team SEC. Clinton-Dix is a former five star recruit and was the number one overall defensive back in his class.
I started with tape from HaHa’s sophomore year and worked my way all the way through this past season. The most notable game on the stat sheet was the national title match up versus Notre Dame, where Clinton-Dix recorded an interception and seven tackles (one less than CJ Mosley).
After diving into the tape, Clinton-Dix’s strengths jump right out. He is a ballhawking safety that shows decent range. He has relatively long arms and can pluck the ball out of the air. When he was not a known commodity in his sophomore year, he ate quarterbacks alive.
He also has extremely good downhill speed (not great speed overall, just downhill). Clinton-Dix seems to quickly approach the line of scrimmage, specifically on outside runs where he can elude blockers. At times he finds his way into the backfield, often forcing runners to change direction.
HaHa is also quite dangerous with the ball in his hands. The former kick-returner from Orlando, Florida has really good vision. He seems to be quite intelligent in terms of where he is on the field and situationally as well (seen in the screenshot below, he keeps his feet back while controlling the ball).
Unlike many, I have noticed a lot of red flags in Clinton-Dix’s game. To describe it in simple terms, he just is not a very physical player. While the game has changed in terms of the hits safeties are allowed to make, they still need to display physical tackling.
HaHa is not a poor tackler by any means, but physicality on the defensive side does not just include tackling. Most notably are his deficiencies in block shedding. Many times, a team will run it up the gut and Clinton-Dix will get thrown out of the play, towards the sideline.
Fortunately, this is rarely a problem as he plays behind CJ Mosley, one of the best linebackers in all of college football. In the NFL, Clinton-Dix will be tested in big spots as the last line of defense. If he is thrown out of a play (and he will be facing much more physical blockers) the runner can easily take it the house.
While I did list him as having respectable range, I did notice a difference in his play when he was behind Dee Milliner versus any other corner. Milliner was very physical at the line in college, allowing Clinton-Dix to play more aggressive and towards the ball.
When helping less talented corners, Clinton-Dix was not able to get a jump on the ball which could be a reason for his interception drop off this past season.
How does he fit on the Jets?:
The Jets are actually only one of a handful of teams that I see as a good fit for Clinton-Dix. The problem is, a team that needs back end run support should stay far away from him, especially in the first round.
The Jets have a really stout front seven and one of the best run defenses in football. Adding a player like HaHa to the secondary would aid the coverage, especially if Rex Ryan let him roam free.
The Jets were hit over the top by the deep ball quite consistently all year and lacked a “deep coverage” safety. While Clinton-Dix is not a finished product, he does seem to excel in coverage.
As you have probably already gathered, I am not too high on Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. While he had a standout career at Alabama and still may be the best safety in this draft class, he does not warrant a top 25 pick.
In an NFL training regimen he might be able to bulk up and become slightly more physical, but that is a large risk for a team ready to invest a first round pick. The Jets should look towards the back end of the draft for safety help, while continuing to develop Antonio Allen, who looked quite promising this past season.
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