After seeing inside linebackers Ryan Shazier (Pittsburgh, No. 15) and C.J. Mosley (Baltimore, No. 17) and safety Calvin Pryor (New York Jets, No. 18) go off the board, the Packers went on the clock at No. 21 with safety HaHa Clinton-Dix, cornerback Darqueze Dennard and receiver Marqise Lee among the top prospects available.
The Packers went with Clinton-Dix, addressing one of their biggest needs while hoping to strike gold in Alabama again after selecting Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy in the second round last year.
The Packers can only hope the fit is as good.
Shortly before the draft, Clinton-Dix put a picture on his Instagram page in which he was wearing a Packers shirt. With the draft being the big event that it is, it received a lot of attention.
"I had been talking to Eddie (Lacy) for a minute and I was looking through my bag and I was like, ‘Well, I guess I'll throw this on,' and it looked pretty good on me, so I decided to put it on," Clinton-Dix said. "So, I was just hanging in my room thinking and I decided to take a picture on Instagram and I put it up and it kind of blew up."
Clinton-Dix (6-1 3/8, 208), who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at the Scouting Combine, received most of his accolades during his banner sophomore season of 2012. He finished the year with five interceptions and four additional pass breakups to announce himself as one of the best safeties in the country. His biggest game came against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game, when he intercepted a pass, broke up another and recorded half-tackle for a loss.
Clinton-Dix made fewer big plays during his junior season, only intercepting two passes with four more pass breakups.
Ultimately, Clinton-Dix fills a major need for the Packers, who had zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles from their safety position a year ago. He should slide in immediately to be the starter opposite Morgan Burnett.
"I think he's a real all-purpose kind of safety. He's shown an ability to cover down in the slot, he's good in support, physical player," general manager Ted Thompson said. "Also can play well in the back end. I think like Coach (Nick) Saban said at the start of the broadcast, we think he's got very, very good ball skills, and all three of those things are things that we look for in a safety."
Ever since Thompson has been drafting for the Packers, he has preached the need to take the best player available. In this case, the best player available also fit the Packers' biggest need.
"It fit very well for us. There were a lot of good players on the board, but when it came time for our pick, he was the best player available." Thompson said.
For his Alabama career, Clinton-Dix started 20-of-38 games, intercepted seven passes and deflected 10 others. Of his 100 tckles, four were behind the line of scrimmage, and he forced one fumble.
Clinton-Dix was forced to sit out two games during the 2013 season when the NCAA said he violated rules by accepting a $100 loan from a staff assistant. But he was able to continue practicing during the suspension and stayed close to the program.
It was later revealed that he sustained a torn meniscus while preparing to take on rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. He somehow managed to play in the game, but underwent surgery shortly after. He returned for the Sugar Bowl.
Earlier in the offseason, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said he was looking to make Micah Hyde a three-down player. Immediate speculation was that would include a move to safety and a chance to start opposite Morgan Burnett.
Darren Perry left the door open for that possibility.
"It's still early, and Micah's a guy obviously that we like. He's got some ability, some versatility, probably more than anybody we have back there." Perry said. "Micah can play a number of positions and, again, we're still in the early stages of putting this thing together. By the time we get to our preseason games and ready for the regular-season opener, things will have played itself out, and it should be fun to watch."
Clinton-Dix was unsure of what his role was going to be in Green Bay, but is looking forward to playing for the Packers.
"I'm a great player," Clinton-Dix said. "I play fast. I'm a great tackler, and as I get there and learn the system, learn the entire defense and be comfortable, I think I'll be fine."
With safety checked off the to-do list, the Packers enter Friday's second and third rounds with their biggest needs at inside linebacker, receiver and tight end. Their second-round pick is No. 53; they own picks Nos. 85 and 98 in the third round.