Apr 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; A general view of the NFL shield logo and main stage before the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Mel Kiper Jr. Thinks Cowboys Will Get Defensive

When talking about the best of the best in NFL Draft analyst, a handful of names come to mind. But the top name is probably ESPN’s draft veteran Mel Kiper Jr., who has just released his latest mock draft. And in it, Kiper predicts the Dallas Cowboys will use their first round pick to aid their inexperienced defensive backfield. Here’s his pick for Dallas along with his analysis of the selection:

With the 17th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys select…

HaHa Clinton-Dix, Safety – Alabama

 “Defensive line could also be a pick here, as the team has some age concerns up front, but safety is a major area of need. The Cowboys could use a free safety with range, good instincts and experience who can come in and play right away. Clinton-Dix provides the added bonus of being able to help out closer to the line of scrimmage. While he’s great in single high, you can bring him up and he won’t shy away from contact.”

Again, it’s not the Cowboys biggest area of need, but getting the top safety in the draft can’t hurt the worst defense in the NFL in 2013. Clinton-Dix combines a very physical play-style with top end athletic ability. CBSSports.com ranks him at #20 in their latest big board for 2014. Here’s how CBS’ Rob Rang analyzes HaHa’s strengths and weaknesses:

“STRENGTHS: Clinton-Dix changes directions fluidly and accelerates smoothly. He reads the quarterback’s eyes well and breaks on the ball, showing a late burst to close downhill. He has plus hands for the interception and shows vision and natural open-field running skills with the ball in his hands. Clinton-Dix anticipates the run well, attacking the line of scrimmage to make some impressive stops up close. WEAKNESSES: Doesn’t have the preferred strength, at this time, to break free from blocks and isn’t a consistently physical tackler, electing to grab and pull down ball-carriers rather than striking them forcefully.”

Along with starting free safety Barry Church, the Cowboys currently have three young safeties already on their roster. Their 2013 third round pick, J.J. Wilcox, will attempt to improve a upon a fairly disappointing rookie campaign. Undrafted rookie free agent Jeff Heath will look to build on a turbulent season that saw him struggle to make the tough transition from Saginaw Valley to the NFL. And oft-injured safety Matt Johnson will attempt to finally see some regular season action after being the Cowboys fourth round pick in 2012.

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