NFL Draft: Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A wrap-up of the Green Bay Packers' draft. Click here for a full list of Packers draftees.

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Jared Abbrederis is the first Wisconsin player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.
Best move: Even though much of the pre-draft focus was on improving the defense -- something general manager Ted Thompson did by taking Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round (No. 21 overall) -- he did not ignore the other side of the ball. He wisely added depth to the receiving core with the highly productive Davante Adams of Fresno State in the second round (No. 53) and later local product Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin in the fifth round (No. 176), and the small-school Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State in the seventh (No. 236). He then took a shot with developmental tight end Richard Rodgers of Cal in the third round (No. 98) and brought in competition for the starting center job with Corey Linsley of Ohio State in the fifth round (No. 161).

Riskiest move: Defensive tackle Khyri Thornton. Taking him in the third round (No. 85 overall) seemed too high. Even he didn't think he would be drafted on Day 2. "Khyri was an interesting one, kind of came up later in the process," said Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst. "But he had so much twitch, so much upside, it was something we couldn't pass on. The way he's able to run, a 4.9 guy for a 312-pound man, the kid can run. He's got a lot of upside. We felt fortunate to get him." You could also call Baylor cornerback Demetri Goodson a risk, although it's less of one in the sixth round (No. 197). Goodson will turn 25 years old next month and was out of football for five years. He played three seasons of basketball at Gonzaga before he transferred to Baylor in 2011 and played three years of football.

Most surprising move: For the first time in 10 drafts as the Packers general manager, Thompson did not make a single trade. He picked at his spot all nine times. By the time the draft reached the fifth round, it became clear this was going to be a different draft strategy for Thompson. He had never before made it that far into a draft without making a trade. Perhaps equally surprising was the fact that he picked a player from the University of Wisconsin -- and it wasn't linebacker Chris Borland, a player many thought might interest the Packers. Instead, he took Abbrederis, making him the first UW player drafted by the Packers since guard Bill Ferrario (fourth round) in 2001.

File it away: Next year, when Thompson tells you he doesn't draft for need, remember this: Among his first six picks were a safety (Clinton-Dix), a receiver (Adams), a tight end (Rodgers) and a center (Linsley). Not coincidentally, the Packers had an opening for a starting free safety, lost a receiver (James Jones) and a center (Evan Dietrich-Smith) in free agency, and have not re-signed last year’s starting tight end (Jermichael Finley).
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Some final thoughts from Day 2 of the draft:

Standing Pat: Once known as Trader Ted, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has not made a single trade in the first two days of the draft. Said Thompson: "There were phone calls like there always are. There were offers made by us a few teams, by the opposing teams a few times and it was more 'we'll see when it gets to our pick or we'll see when it gets to their pick,' and it just never worked out."

Third-round reaches: While there should have been little to quibble with when it came to Thompson's first two picks -- safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round and receiver Davante Adams in the second -- his third-round picks appeared to be reaches based on general evaluations and even where they expected to be picked. Southern Miss defensive tackle Khyri Thornton was ranked as the 17th-best defensive tackle yet he was the ninth one taken. Said Thorton, who went 85th overall: "To be honest with you I really didn't have high expectations of going high in the draft." Cal tight end Richard Rodgers, who went to the Packers at No. 98, appears to be a bit of a project, having switched from tight end to receiver at Cal before leaving school early.

Thornton's journey: In Thornton's final two years at Southern Miss, the team won only one game -- and he missed that lone victory because of an injury. And that's only part of Thornton's collegiate story. He first committed to Florida State but did not qualify academically. Then, he enrolled at South Florida, which also denied him eligibility. "It was frustrating," the 24-year-old Thornton said. "Learned about college football."

"The Play": Rodgers' father took part in one of the most famous plays in college football history -- the five-lateral kickoff return for a touchdown at the end of the 1982 Cal-Stanford game -- and he has seen it countless times. But never in the company of his dad, who made two of the laterals. "I actually don't think I've ever watched 'The Play' with my dad sitting next to me," the younger Rodgers said.

Finley's future: Thompson insisted the decision to draft Rodgers was not an indication that team has moved on from free agent Jermichael Finley, who still hasn't been cleared to return from his neck injury. "I don't necessarily think the two are tied at all," Thompson said. "We were just trying to pick a good player."

Looking ahead: The Packers still haven't addressed two of their bigger needs entering the draft -- inside linebacker and center. Thompson watched the top center, Colorado State's Weston Richburg, come off the board nine picks before the Packers' second-round selection. In the third round, he saw Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland go eight before the Packers picked Thornton. Even with five picks in rounds 4-7 on Saturday, the chances of finding someone who could compete for a starting job at either spot are minimal.

Clinton-Dix asks Eagles to draft him

May, 8, 2014
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Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would be an intriguing selection for the Philadelphia Eagles when their turn comes up at No. 22 in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft.

Clinton-Dix believes it would be the perfect marriage, according to CSNPhilly.com.

CSNPhilly.com reported that Clinton-Dix sent a text message to Eagles director of player personnel Ed Marynowitz, a former Alabama football recruiter, to push for the team to draft him.

"He sent me an article and I was on the front of it, about going to Philly and what not," Clinton-Dix told CSNPhilly.com at an NFL Play60 event in Manhattan Wednesday involving the prospects invited to Radio City Music Hall. "I told him to tell them to come get me, please. Whatever it takes."

Clinton-Dix compared himself to former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, one of the most popular players in franchise history.

"Dawkins was the last hot head they had," Clinton-Dix told CSNPhilly.com. "I don't know if I could fill his shoes, but I'd definitely bring an impact to that team."

The 6-foot-2, 208-pound Clinton-Dix reportedly ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.

Clinton-Dix believes he can succeed at a high level in the NFL, much like Dawkins.

"I can do it all, from blitzing to covering, to playing the post, quarters," Clinton-Dix told CSNPhilly.com. "Whatever needs to be done, I'm doing it. Like I said, Brian Dawkins is a different breed, but I'm my own breed as well. You'd get a different feel with me."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last time the Green Bay Packers had four picks in the first 100 selections of the NFL draft, they came away with two quality starters and two players who never made an impact.

That was 2008, when they drafted receiver Jordy Nelson (No. 36 overall), quarterback Brian Brohm (No. 56), cornerback Pat Lee (No. 60) and tight end Jermichael Finley (No. 91).

General manager Ted Thompson will take a similar haul into this year's draft. With the addition of a third-round compensatory pick, the Packers have pick Nos. 21, 53, 85 and 98 in the first three rounds.

"It's good," Thompson said during his pre-draft news conference this week. "If we could, we'd have more. More is better. It gives you better odds. It wouldn't be any different if it were this year or last year or the year before or that sort of thing."

Can Thompson do better in the top 100 than he did in 2008? Nelson and Finley became major contributors while Brohm flamed out and Lee was only a short-term backup.

On Thursday night, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay went through the top 100, selecting players for teams as if they were in charge of the draft rooms.

For the Packers, they came away with this:
Kiper and McShay alternated picks, so it worked out that McShay made the Packers' first three selections, while Kiper picked their fourth.

Looking at the first round, the top two safeties were both off the board before the No. 21. Kiper had Louisville's Calvin Pryor at No. 14 to the Chicago Bears and Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gone two picks later to the Dallas Cowboys.

In picking Mosley, McShay said he had Mosley rated as the 12th-best player on his board and called him a relentless, tough playmaker. What isn't known is how the Packers feel about Mosley from a medical standpoint. There are concerns about a knee injury, which kept him from running at the combine, and other injuries during his college career.

If the Packers don't feel comfortable with Mosley's medical history but still want a linebacker at that spot, they could go with Ohio State's Ryan Shazier. McShay had Shazier at No. 31 to the Denver Broncos.

Nix has been described as a perfect 3-4 nose tackle.

"This is a value pick, as Nix merits late first-round consideration," McShay said. "Between first-rounder C.J. Mosley and Nix, we've now drafted the No. 12 and No. 30 players on my board, respectively, at No. 21 and No. 53."

Vereen and Fiedorowicz would fill clear holes at safety and tight end, respectively. However, waiting until late in the third round to address safety seems a little late considering that might be the Packers' greatest need in this draft.

Analyzing McShay mock: Packers 

April, 24, 2014
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No one knows for sure who Ted Thompson will pick with the 21st selection in next month's NFL draft. Even the Green Bay Packers general manager himself might not know yet.

But put ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay on the clock, and he's ready to make a pick right now. In his latest mock draft , McShay selected who he would pick if at the controls of all 32 teams.

Analyzing McShay mock: Vikings 

April, 24, 2014
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In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay made his picks as though he were the general manager for every team in the league. In other words, he's picking the player he thinks the team should take, not necessarily whom they will take.

That's an important distinction to make, because in this particular case, it illustrates how badly the Vikings need to address their quarterback position for the future.


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Odell Beckham Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsOdell Beckham's ability to separate quickly from press coverage would aid Ben Roethlisberger.
We spend so much time during the draft process talking about the potential top-10 picks that one thing with the potential to get lost about this year’s class is just how strong it is overall, particularly in its depth. Teams are going to be able to find some high-level talents later in the first round, as well as the second round and afterward.

For this article, we’ve identified some perfect team-prospect matches featuring players who project to be taken outside the top 10 but could have a big impact in the NFL, particularly if paired with these specific teams.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU


Beckham isn’t likely to get past the first round, so outside of a trade situation, the Steelers would likely have to use the No. 15 overall pick to get him, and Pittsburgh could go in a number of directions with that pick. But Beckham feels like a really good fit with what the Steelers want to do offensively.

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IRVING, Texas -- So far Mel Kiper Jr. has followed the Dallas Cowboys' draft needs in his mock drafts.

In his first two mocks, he offered up Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. In his third, he went with Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. In his Grade A mock, he went with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

In Kiper's Mock draft 4.0 , he has gone away from the defensive side of the ball.


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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Pick after pick crawled across the bottom of television screens last April 25, 26 and 27 and those wondering when the Green Bay Packers would draft a safety got their answer when the 254th -- and final -- pick in the 2013 NFL draft was announced.

Three safeties went in the first round, but none to the Packers.

Two more came off the board in Round 2, but neither was a Packers pick.

[+] EnlargeHa Ha Clinton-Dix
AP Photo/Rogelio SolisHa Ha Clinton-Dix may be available to the Packers when they draft in the first round.
Seventeen more were drafted on the third and final day, yet the Packers still had not filled one of their biggest needs.

That's not to say they went into last year's draft wholly convinced that they didn't need help at the position. But when it came time to exercise each of his selections, there wasn't a safety sitting there that intrigued general manager Ted Thompson enough to make that call.

Thompson liked a few of the safeties in the draft, but the ones he was sold on were either already off the board or would have been a reach at the time of his pick.

So here are the Packers, nearly a year later, and Thompson still has not put pen to paper on a contract for a new safety of any consequence. (And no, street free agent Chris Banjo does not count.)

That has to change next month, when Thompson will take nine selections into the May 8-10 NFL draft, doesn't it?

If Thompson fails to land one of the top, say, five or six safeties in this draft -- be it Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama or Calvin Pryor of Louisville, both of who are locks to go in the first round; or possible second- and third-round picks like Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois, Deone Bucannon of Washington State or Terrence Brooks of Florida State -- then he will be handcuffing defensive coordinator Dom Capers in much the same fashion he did last season.

Last summer, Capers and coach Mike McCarthy opened the competition at free safety to a pair of second-year players, Jerron McMillian (a 2012 fourth-round round pick) and M.D. Jennings (an undrafted free agent the same year). It was a close competition, more so because neither one stood out, and when strong safety Morgan Burnett was unavailable for the season opener because of a hamstring injury, that duo started Week 1 at the two safety spots.

The Packers thought so little of their performances that they cut McMillian late last season and did not even bother this offseason to offer Jennings a restricted free agent tender, which would not have cost them any guaranteed money.

"Obviously we didn't get the production that we wanted from that [free safety] position," safeties coach Darren Perry said this offseason.

To be sure, the Packers need Burnett to show that Thompson wasn't misguided when he signed him to a four-year, $24.75 million contract last summer.

"I think he's fully capable of doing it," McCarthy said this offseason. "Morgan's going to do everything he can. He needs to be more assertive in play-making opportunities."

In order for Burnett to flourish, he can't be worried about the player lined up next to him. That player was supposed to be Nick Collins, the three-time Pro Bowl safety whose career was cut short in 2011 by a neck injury. At age 30, he still would have been in the prime of his career last season.

If the Packers don't find another Collins, they must at least come close.

Since the team's resurgence in the early 1990s, they have enjoyed a strong group of safeties -- from LeRoy Butler to Darren Sharper to Collins; all were Pro Bowl selections during their time in Green Bay.

The dynamic of the position has changed in recent years. Whereas Butler was a fierce hitter, today's safeties are judged just as much on speed and ball skills as anything else. What NFL teams need now are safeties than can cover chunks of yardage in milliseconds and knock passes away or, better yet, intercept them. The Packers were the only team in the NFL last season that didn't get a single interception from a safety.

"The intimidator isn't necessarily needed anymore," ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said. "The big hitters, you don't need that."

Kiper doesn't believe Clinton-Dix will be around when the Packers come up at No. 21 in the first round, but Pryor very well could be available.

Even if Pryor is gone or Thompson passes on him, he will have other options, says Kiper.

"Jimmy Ward from Northern Illinois you could make an argument is the best cover safety in the draft," Kiper said. "He's coming off the [foot] injury but he had a very good career, has great ball skills, real good hands for the interception. And Ward is a decent tackler, but he doesn't have tremendous size [5-foot-11, 193 pounds].

"The days of that big, intimidating safety are just about over. Terrence Brooks from Florida State would fill that void at that point as a safety that could come in and help you right away."

No matter what Thompson does in the draft, Capers and McCarthy plan to work cornerback Micah Hyde at safety this offseason. Perhaps the fifth-round pick out of Iowa last year will be the full-time answer; he certainly showed enough as a rookie to warrant more than the 39.4 percent playing time he got last year. But if the Packers think Hyde can allow them to concentrate on other areas of need in the draft, they'd better be right.
The Steelers have the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft after finishing 8-8 last season, and taking a cornerback, wide receiver or defensive lineman with their first-round pick would make a lot of sense.

Todd McShay’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft is out today and he has the Steelers addressing arguably their biggest need with their first pick, taking Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and making the 5-foot-11, 199-pounder the first cornerback taken in next month’s draft.


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The Detroit Lions are in the midst of a somewhat public lovefest with Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins -- a player they would certainly have to trade up for to acquire.

But until they make that trade -- if they make that trade -- the best we can project is what Detroit will do if the team stays at No. 10. And considering the Lions are not in need of a quarterback (or an offensive tackle, really), they have a bunch of options.


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The Green Bay Packers' greatest needs would seemingly be on the defensive side of the ball.

Even with the addition of pass-rusher Julius Peppers, they likely need to upgrade a few more spots in order improve on its 25th overall ranking last season. With that in mind, it might come as a surprise that in ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's latest mock draft , version 4.0, he has the Packers taking offensive players not only with their first-round pick but also with their second.


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Clinton-Dix leads the '14 safety class 

March, 25, 2014
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Ha Ha Clinton-DixAP Photo/Rogelio SolisAlabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the top safety prospect in the 2014 draft.
When prospects and teams leave the scouting combine in Indianapolis in late February, it always marks the start of a lull within the draft process. Teams focus on the free-agency period as well as sending coaches and scouts all over the country to cover the pro-day circuit during March.

As for us at Scouts Inc., this is a period when we get some time to dig deep into the coaches' copy tape to write new evaluations and clean up old ones from the preseason. With that said, here is a quick review of some prospects and positions that have jumped out during this period along with some buzz from a few NFL personnel coaches or evaluators.

Clinton-Dix headlines the safety crop

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DETROIT – Over the past week, the Detroit Lions draft needs have changed a little bit.

The team brought in Golden Tate to be the No. 2 receiver and re-signed Brandon Pettigrew as the team's tight end. While the signings don't mean those needs have evaporated for Detroit – the Lions need receivers still and could use a stretch-the-field tight end – it made both of those spots less important to draft in the first round.

It also gives Detroit some flexibility, as does not have to draft a quarterback.

The Lions would potentially consider trading up in May's draft or dropping back from the No. 10 slot in the first round. Team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew recognize that every option needs to be available.

"It always sounds good on paper to trade up or trade back. The old adage is it takes two to tango and sometimes opportunities present themselves for trades on draft day or outside of draft day and sometimes they don't," Lewand said Monday night at the MGM Grand in Detroit. "Our position is we always have to be ready to improve our team in whatever way is possible.

"Sometimes we search those things out and they don't materialize and sometimes they are presented to us and we take advantage of them. We have to be ready, no matter what the opportunity is, if there's a chance to improve the defense by trading up or trading back, we'll look at that and if it makes sense, we'll do it."

May's draft offers some intriguing opportunities there. But who would be worth the Lions making a move from No. 10 -- either up or back -- for? That depends somewhat on how the draft falls and somewhat how the Lions final board ends up being set up.

This also focuses mostly on defense.

WORTH MOVING UP:

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Watkins is the top receiver in the draft and the only offensive player that would be worth making a move higher into the Top 10 for, although even then, it would be questionable how much Detroit should be willing to give up for him. Watkins is a special talent, but having grabbed Tate in free agency, that alleviated receiver from being the No. 1 need. But if Watkins ends up still on the board at No. 8, it might be worth exploring jumping over Buffalo to ensure Detroit grabs him.

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Just putting him here in case the inexplicable happens and he drops beyond the third or fourth pick. If he does, the Lions should trade whatever possible to go and select him. But it would be very, very, very unlikely to happen.

Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo: Mack may be the best non-Clowney defensive prospect in the draft and for a little while, it appeared he might end up falling to No. 10. If he did, Mack would almost be a no-brainer selection for Detroit as long as Watkins was no longer available. If Detroit determines Mack is the best player in the draft, it could be worth investigating a move higher for a linebacker that could end up being an All-Pro.

STAY PUT IF THIS PLAYER IS HERE:

[+] EnlargeAnthony Barr
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions should address their needs on defense by taking linebacker Anthony Barr in the first round.
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA: The Lions are clearly intrigued by Barr, who has extreme athleticism and could improve a good but not great linebacker group immediately. Mayhew was out at his Pro Day to watch him perform. His speed/size/frame combination makes him extremely intriguing.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M/Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: They are both options for Detroit at this spot, but both positions are deep in this draft and are no longer massively pressing needs due to the signings at the top. But if Mayhew and Lewand wanted to go offense, these would be two likely targets.

IF THIS IS THE TARGET, TRADE DOWN AND TAKE A CHANCE:

There are teams below Detroit with needs and other than the defensive backfield, there is not a major pressing need for the Lions in the first round. So the Lions could make a smart play depending who is available and who is interested and try to trade down to stockpile picks in a deep draft. These four potential targets could merit a trade down.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: He has already come in for a visit with the Lions and is one of the top safeties in the draft. He is rated as the No. 16 overall player and has long, rangy arms. He'll almost definitely be available at No. 10, but if the Lions covet him, they could probably drop down a few places and still nab him.

Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: Similar situation to Clinton-Dix. He's a little bit shorter than his Alabama counterpart at 5-foot-11, but he was listed as 6-foot-2 in college. He's rated one spot ahead of Clinton-Dix as the No. 15 overall player and should be available at No. 10, too. For either safety, Detroit could probably trade down as low as No. 14 or No. 15 and still be able to take either player.

Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State/Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The top two cornerbacks in the draft are both of first round value and should almost definitely be available when Detroit is picking. If the team decides corner is the area they want to go in the first round, they could drop a couple of places and select one of these players.

IF PICKING TODAY, I'D TAKE:

Barr. Offense may be sexy, but the Lions need to focus on and improve their defense from back to front. They have two strong running backs, two dynamic wide receivers and can add in the draft. But to find an impact starter in the first round, Detroit would benefit from going defense with its first pick and Barr could be the best available. (Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press agreed with this earlier this week)
He played defense under Nick Saban in college and really, nothing else is going to prepare a player for the transition to the NFL as much as playing under the one of the best coaches in college.

This is part of the thinking for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, the now-former Alabama safety who visited with the Detroit Lions on Monday, the first recorded visit of any college player in this cycle. Considering the need-based focus at safety for the Lions, bringing in Clinton-Dix for a long look makes complete sense.

He is one of the top two safeties in the draft along with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and as of Monday, Detroit is still in need of a starting safety to pair with Glover Quin after releasing Louis Delmas last month. While the Lions are likely to also sign a veteran -- former Baltimore safety James Ihedigbo was in for a visit last week -- it wouldn’t be surprising to see the team look at a defensive back early as well.

“I feel like I’m prepared for the next level,” Clinton-Dix said at the NFL combine last month. “I’m a fast learner. I play fast. I study a lot of film. I study the opponent a lot.

“And that’s about it. I fly around.”

That is Clinton-Dix’s verbal pitch and his film and statistics would back that up. Clinton-Dix, the No. 16 overall player by ESPN.com and the No. 2 safety, had 52 tackles last season and defended six passes -- breaking up four and intercepting two. His ability in coverage could be an asset to the Lions, who would ideally like to keep Quin as a safety they can bring down into the box to give run and short-pass support.

If the 6-foot-1 3/8, 208-pound Clinton-Dix can play free safety and excel at it early, that would be a benefit for a Detroit defense that struggled in coverage last season. Part of the reason came from the defensive line not reaching opposing quarterbacks fast enough, but the other part came from the Lions’ corners and safeties not being strong enough in coverage.

Clinton-Dix did both at Alabama. As a sophomore, he became the Crimson Tide’s last defender back, expected to help in coverage and make big tackles. Last season, he played down more, helping in run support. His height also fits the mold of what the Lions are looking for in their defensive backs. He said at the combine it took him most of his freshman year to pick up Saban’s system and that allowed him to play deep as a sophomore and down low as a junior.

It also made him potentially ready for the NFL from the beginning of his rookie year, an intriguing proposition for the Lions if he is still around at No. 10.

“I feel like a lot of teams use the pro-style offense in college,” Clinton-Dix said at the combine. “Like I said, playing for Coach Saban’s defense, we did a lot of things. We played nickel, dime, Cover 2 situations.

“We played a lot of different defenses.”

That’s something he’ll have to understand in the pros, wherever he ends up playing.

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