The 2013 campaign was a down season for Chicago's safeties, one in which both Major Wright and Chris Conte struggled mightily. As a result, the Bears have shown serious interest in a number of early-round safeties. They recently hosted Louisville's Calvin Pryor and Washington State's Deone Bucannon, and were front and center for NIU's pro day, where Jimmie Ward put on a show.
Obviously, safety is a priority for GM Phil Emery in this year's draft. Is Clinton-Dix his guy? Let's go to the film room to find out.
Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama (6-1, 208)40-yard dash: 4.58
Bench press: 11
Vertical jump: 33.0
Broad jump: 9-11
Short shuttle: 4.16
Pros-Outstanding read and recognition skills. Diagnoses plays at a high level. Sees them before they happen.
-Takes good angles of attack.
-Rise hitter. Not afraid of contact. Good form tackler on most occasions.
-Very good closing speed.
-Experience in center field. Played plenty of man coverage, often against slot receivers.
-Fluid, quick pack pedal. Quickly turns and runs. Quick hips.
-Really good at avoiding blocks in second level. Uses hands well to keep distance.
-Shows good in-the-box ability. Can play SS as well as FS.
-Special teams experience.
Cons-Lacks ideal aggression when ball is in the air.
-Allows separation in man coverage.
-Will bite on play fakes. Sometimes over-pursues, which is costly as last line of defense.
-Hesitant as a blitzer. Shies away from blocks.
-Has tendency to lower head and throw a shoulder, instead of wrapping up. Not a punishing hitter, more of a drag tackler.
-Doesn't play sideline to sideline in center field. Typically a step late.
-Lacks ideal speed. Speedy receivers will give him trouble deep.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY
In terms of pure athleticism, Clinton-Dix is not at the top of this year's class. He did not test highly at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, finishing in the Top 10 at his position in only one drill (short shuttle). He's not the type of fast, powerful player one would expect for someone considered the top safety in his class.
Yet Clinton-Dix could be the most intelligent secondary player in the draft, one who plays with confidence and aggression. Against the run, he has great closing speed and he breaks down well in space to make quality form tackles. Rarely does he fail to bring down a ball carrier once he gets his hands on him. Clinton-Dix is also exceptionally quick at changing directions, and has a fast back pedal and good burst.
Most project him as a free safety but he struggled at times defending the deep ball. He can't always close to the sideline when he doesn't recognize the play immediately, as he doesn't have the speed necessary to make up for the delay. Yet his willingness to take down running backs and his technique in tackling show up well in the box.
He's not an imposing safety but Clinton-Dix does everything well, which is why he appears well suited for either safety position. His special teams experience is also a plus. He was named second-team All-American and first-team All-SEC last season. As a sophomore in 2012, he led the SEC with five interceptions.
Clinton-Dix is as well-rounded a safety as there is in this class but he has some red flags. He started just 19 games during three years at Alabama, was suspended for two games last season after taking money from an assistant coach and he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in December. He's also not a big-time play maker and he sometimes plays hesitant.
If the Bears want to solidify the safety position, they can't go wrong with Clinton-Dix. He's an on-field leader coming from a pro-style system who plays smart and uses sound fundamentals.
Yet considering his lack of ideal athleticism and experience, it's hard to grade him as a Top 15 pick in this year's draft. There's nothing wrong with taking Clinton-Dix at 14th overall but if that happens, the Bears will be leaving a number of extremely talented players on the board, ones who play positions of larger impact than safety.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.