Sometimes, safeties can be pigeon-holed into one specific role—whether it be as an in-the-box strong safety defending the run or a deep coverage free safety reading and reacting to the play.
Other times, a safety has the versatility to carry out both roles. Alabama safety Hasean Clinton-Dix (nicknamed "Ha Ha" by his grandmother) falls into that category and has experience playing both positions.
"At the next level, you've gotta know both," he said. "You gotta be able to play in the box and play deep. If you know both, you'll be fine."
We know he has the size, and on Tuesday in Indianapolis at the scouting combine, he showed the world he has the athleticism to go with it.
Here is a complete rundown of his performance:
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Bench press||Vertical jump||Broad jump||3-cone drill|
|6'1"||208 pounds||32 3/8"||9"||4.58||11 reps||33"||119"||Pending|
Clinton-Dix's 40-yard dash time wasn't the fastest among defensive backs or even in the top 10, but he has great instincts and his range shows up when you watch him play. Besides, for a man of his size, a 4.58-second time is acceptable.
His athleticism is not the only thing he has going for him, though. Three years under the tutelage of Alabama head coach Nick Saban should help Clinton-Dix in his transition to the NFL.
Alabama DB Ha Ha Clinton Dix: "I'm a fast learner, I play fast. I study film. I fly around."— Josh Katzowitz (@joshkatzowitz) February 23, 2014
Film study and attention to detail have helped him make plays all over the field at Alabama, and his play recognition allows him to get in on a lot of plays other safeties may not be able to make. Paired with his size and speed, he's capable of carrying out just about any role you could ask of him.
CBS Sports' scouting report breaks down his positives:
Possesses a lanky, athletic build with light feet, excellent fluidity and straight-line speed to handle deep and nickel coverage responsibilities. Good awareness. Tracks the action well, showing impressive key and diagnosis skills to get a jump on the ball or when attacking the line of scrimmage in run support. Decisive. When he sees the play developing Clinton-Dix doesn't waste time debating, instead exploding towards the ball, showing explosive closing ability. Very good ball-skills. Can climb the ladder and extend outside of his frame to pluck the ball. Physical defender, who looks to deliver the intimidating shot.
In his own words, he was asked to play more deep coverage as a sophomore in 2012 and spent more time playing down in the box as a junior in 2013, which only helps his status as one of the more versatile safeties in the NFL. He can also line up in man coverage in the slot and on tight ends, qualities that will make him a valuable commodity to just about any NFL team in these days of spread offenses and athletic, big-bodied pass-catching tight ends.
He does, however, have his weaknesses.
Although he is a student of the game and has those aforementioned play recognition skills, he is sometimes fooled and therefore caught out of position due to his aggressive style of play. Whatever team lands him will have to be sure it keeps a leash on him to prevent big plays over the top or being gashed on the ground.
Via CBS Sports:
Highly aggressive and therefore will occasionally be fooled by misdirection and play-action. Barrels towards the line of scrimmage and leaving cut-back lanes for nifty athletes to exploit. Lowers his shoulder to lay the intimidating hit on ball-carriers and fails to wrap up, at times, relying [on] the collision to knock the opponent to the ground.
If Clinton-Dix cleans up those areas of his game, he'll evolve into one of the top safeties in the NFL in no time. CBS Sports compared him to Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, but Bleacher Report's Matt Miller compared Clinton-Dix to Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry for his range, play recognition and versatility.
There are very few qualities that you'd look for in an NFL starting safety which Clinton-Dix doesn't possess. With so much going for him—including the recent uptick in the value of the safety position—it would be a surprise for Clinton-Dix to fall outside the top 20 picks in the first round.