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Mock Draft Spotlight: Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix


No team in college football has featured a more impressive defense the last few seasons than Alabama.

The Crimson Tide have won two of the last three national championships while leaning on the defensive prowess of Head Coach Nick Saban, and have consistently turned out first-round NFL talent.

This year is no different, as Alabama has more defensive prospects expected to get plucked in the first round of next month's NFL draft, and the best of the group may be Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The athletic safety is rated by many draft analysts as the top at the position in the draft, and he could end up in Baltimore with the No. 17 pick.

"There are a lot of good prospects out there, but I think what separates me from the rest of them is the system I played in," Clinton-Dix said at the combine in February. "Coach Saban's system is very hard. It took me my entire freshman year to learn that system. And I think that's what separates me."

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome, an Alabama alum, has a recent history of drafting defenders from his alma mater. He used second round picks on outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw (2012) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (2010).

Alabama's defense is complex for the college game, and it mirrors what many teams play at the professional level. Clinton-Dix thrived in that system – he had five interceptions last season – which makes him an attractive target for a team like the Ravens looking for an impact player.

"He comes from a pro-style defense, with pro-style calls, and NFL calls," Ravens Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz said. "He's well taught at the position and has a really good career."

Clinton-Dix, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, has good size for an NFL safety. He also showed solid speed by running the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds at the combine.

"He has good size, and he has pretty good speed," Hortiz said. "You see the range on the back end."

The Ravens took a Florida safety in the first round of last year's draft, but they are in the market for another after veteran James Ihedigbo signed with the Detroit Lions. Elam played free safety his rookie season, but the Ravens would like him to play in the box more as a strong safety.

Adding an athletic safety to cover the deep part of the field was a priority at the start of the offseason, and Clinton-Dix fits that mold. He has experience playing deep in coverage and also playing in the box to defend the run, and has tried to convince teams he's capable of playing either role.

"My sophomore year I wasn't in the box that much, but my junior year I feel like I got involved in the box a lot and was able to make a lot of tackles," he said. "I think I can play both deep field and inside the box."

One concern with Clinton-Dix last season was an off-the-field issue that earned him a two-game suspension. Clinton-Dix was suspended by Alabama for accepting improper benefits, which was later revealed to be a loan of less than $500 from an assistant coach.

The assistant coach was fired by Alabama, and Clinton-Dix missed two games in the middle of the season.

"He dealt with some things off-the-field this year, but it's nothing that's a major flag in the sense that you really question the guy," Hortiz said.  "He broke some rules, was punished for it, paid the price, then came back and played good ball the rest of the year."

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