The Atlanta Falcons need a starting free safety now that Thomas DeCoud has been cut and subsequently signed by the Carolina Panthers. Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the best safety in the draft and would give Atlanta a playmaker that they didn’t have last year, even with DeCoud.
According to Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post, the Falcons have shown interest in Clinton-Dix. It’s not surprising that they have, though, because he would be an ideal fit for Mike Nolan’s schemes, which mix up multiple different coverages.
Combine Measurements and Results
Weight: 208 pounds
Arm Length: 32.375"
Hand Measurement: 9"
40 yard dash: 4.58 seconds
10 yard split: 1.60 seconds
20 yard shuttle: 4.16 seconds
Three-Cone Drill: 7.16 seconds
Bench Reps: 11
Vertical Jump: 33.0"
Broad Jump: 9'11"
2013: 11 games played, 51 tackles, 3.5 tackles for Loss, two interceptions, four passes defensed
2012: 14 games played, 37 tackles, 0.5 tackles for Loss, four interceptions, one forced fumble, four passes defensed
2011: 13 games played, 11 tackles, two passes defensed
Clinton-Dix is the prototypical NFL free safety. He can play man coverage effectively and understands how to attack the deep center-field zones and intermediate zones effectively. His speed, size and strength combination is ideal for the free safety role in the NFL.
Clinton-Dix was a high-level prospect coming out of high school who delivered on his 5-star rating in his three seasons at Alabama. He also has great ball skills and makes a ton of plays on the ball. He also has heavy hitting ability if he decides to use it, allowing him to jar a lot of balls loose.
Clinton-Dix isn’t a man of many weaknesses. However, he does sometimes get too aggressive with his tackling and forgets to wrap up completely. He also doesn’t have the top-end speed that a lot of other safeties have, as he recorded a time of just 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
He also has to make sure that he doesn’t get penalized unnecessarily for hitting guys as they catch the ball. Finally, he needs to get better at timing his jumps, as he could have had many more interceptions during his time at Alabama with better timing.
How does he fit the Comrade Filter?
While Clinton-Dix was never arrested, he was suspended for a couple of games during his junior year due to improper benefits that he received. The Falcons would find him to pass, though, as the benefits he received were an NCAA violation that doesn't exist in the pros. Clinton-Dix is a unit leader despite not being a team captain.
Clinton-Dix is a great all-around safety who will be an instant starter in any scheme. He's the prototype at free safety and will be a great fit for the Falcons defense. He will end up going in the top half of the first round, but the Falcons may want to possibly trade down to acquire him, as No. 6 is simply too high.
How he would fit into the Falcons' plans
If the Falcons were to target Clinton-Dix, they would be wise to trade down in the first round—to somewhere within the No. 10-13 range—and pick up another draft pick or possibly a lower-level roster member of the team they traded with. Atlanta could get a playmaking starter at free safety while also picking up more depth later.
Clinton-Dix next to William Moore and Demond Trufant in the Falcons’ defensive secondary would make the unit much better than it was in 2013. Clinton-Dix would be a huge upgrade over what Thomas DeCoud provided as a starting free safety.
Scott Carasik is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, college football, the NFL and the NFL draft. He also runs DraftFalcons.com.