Welcome to the third part of an ongoing series focusing on potential positional choices when draft day comes and the Dallas Cowboys are on the clock. Last week, we discussed the pros and cons between two defensive ends in Kony Ealy from Missouri and Dee Ford from Auburn. On Sunday, we explored the merits of UCLA OLB Anthony Barr versus Alabama MLB C.J. Mosley. If you missed either of these articles or would like to re-read them, here is a link to those columns:
Today, we’ll look at the safety position, another area of great need for the Cowboys, and compare two possible choices to find the better fit for this team. Unlike, defensive end and linebacker, the number one overall prospect at safety has a high possibility of being available at the sixteenth spot. Who that prospect is depends on your needs, schemes and point of view.
Aside from Barry Church, who had a statistically impressive year in 2013, this position is still a weak link for Dallas. That fact is going on ten years at this point. In ten years, the Cowboys have largely sent out some supreme garbage in the defensive backfield. Throwing out the three post Darren Woodson years (2005-2007) when Roy Williams was pretty good and last year’s pleasant surprise with Church, has there been a more depressing bunch of players than what Dallas has trotted out at safety?
Ken Hamlin, Keith Davis, Pat Watkins, Alan Ball, Gerald Sensabaugh, Courtney Brown, Danny McCray, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Abram Elam, Mana Silva, Charlie Peprah, Eric Frampton, Will Allen, Matt Johnson, J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath.
Every single one of those guys, (except Mr. Glass a.k.a. Matt Johnson) has started or played heavy minutes in the Dallas secondary at some point in time.
To say that the Cowboys are in the market for a safety would be a vast understatement.
Could help be on the way? Let’s compare Alabama’s Hasean (Ha-Ha) Clinton-Dix and Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and see which player best fits this team.
Clinton-Dix has all the intangibles and big game experience you could want. He played as a true freshman at Alabama on their National Championship team as well as the follow-up Championship squad in 2012. With all-SEC and consensus All-American selections in his junior year bestowed upon him, Clinton-Dix finished his career with all the possible team and personal accolades accomplished.
He possesses excellent size (6’1″ 208 lbs.) and speed (4.5 forty-yard dash time) and is definitely more of a coverage safety than a big hitter. In his three years at Alabama, Clinton-Dix nabbed seven interceptions, nine pass breakups and another fifteen passes defensed. (For those unfamiliar with the difference, a pass breakup is when the player knocks the ball away, while a pass defensed is when the pass is incomplete on the player’s coverage).
While his numbers at the combine were not through the roof by any means, he is certainly a gamer when you put on the film. The attributes that stick out most when watching Clinton-Dix are his awareness, decisiveness and the fluidity in his hips. He definitely has premiere straight line speed as evidenced by his forty time but he can also turn and close in coverage, getting to the play on time. When he gets there, either because of his exceptional instincts or pure ability, he usually makes the play. He will not be a huge help in the run game, but he is willing to lay the wood over the middle on opposing wide receivers.
Comparisons to pros such as Darren Sharper, Earl Thomas and Eric Berry, coupled with the fact that he comes NFL-ready playing for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide all should make Hasean Clinton-Dix a solid starter in the league for many years to come.