After Nick Collins went down with an injury and was eventually released, the Packers had no long-term solution for replacing the free safety. At times, Charles Woodson, formerly a cornerback, lined up at free safety, but that lasted only a season. In 2013, M.D. Jennings was viewed as the starting free safety. With Jennings gone, leaving Green Bay for a one-year deal in Chicago, the Packers had a question to answer: What are we going to do at safety?
While Micah Hyde, who had a great 2013 campaign as a rookie slot player, has been discussed publicly as a safety for 2014, he's not ideal and would be great to keep in the slot.
Clinton-Dix Fills a Need
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix gives the Packers an immediate starter at free safety and gives the team the option to keep Hyde in the slot. It's almost like Green Bay having two draft picks with the amount of impact the pick makes.
Green Bay even thought enough of him to pass up on potential trade offers.
Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report had this to say about Clinton-Dix in his scouting report:
Clinton-Dix has been a “can’t-miss” player at every level of football he’s been involved with, and his NFL projection is strong as well.
His best position in the big leagues might be at strong safety, where he can be closer to the line of scrimmage and play more man coverage, but he can have success in a Cover 2 scheme as a free safety as well. His athleticism and aggressive mindset will help him become an effective safety in the NFL.
Wharton states that Clinton-Dix may not be the best fit at free safety because Green Bay plays defense in a way in which the safeties are essentially the safe role. At Alabama, he did the same thing because of Saban's scheme, which rolls safeties not based on who the safeties are, but how the offense lines up.
For that reason, Dom Capers will love Clinton-Dix's versatility. Capers will also like Clinton-Dix's ability to think while on the run. Clinton-Dix, coached under Nick Saban, one of the best secondary coaches in college football, will be demanded to play a very hard role in Capers' defense. Not only do Capers' safeties have to play both free safety and strong safety, but they have to run and think at the same time. While that may seem rudimentary, most defenses don't put as much stress on safeties thinking on the run as the Packers do.
Ian Wharton's X and O breakdown of Clinton-Dix lists several attributes which will help him do the job in Green Bay.
At the end of Day 1, Green Bay had solidified its free safety of the future, which the team has been looking at for over two off-seasons.
With Clinton-Dix's college experience and film, it would not surprise anyone if he was a starting safety from Day 1 in Green Bay. The move also allows Micah Hyde to play a role in the slot, where he's better suited, than as a safety, where he was rumored to play if the team didn't address safety early.
Not only was Clinton-Dix a falling star that landed in Green Bay's lap, but he may be one of the most impactful rookies of the 2014 class. Compared to Eric Berry by by many, the safety is a home run by Ted Thompson and co.