Alabama’s Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix entered the season as a favorite to be the top safety prospect in the 2014 NFL Draft and nothing has changed. The key this year for Dix was he had to do quite a bit more than last season. The Tide lost some talented corners and Dix was one of the players asked to step up and try to make up the difference lost there. Not only was able to cover a ton of ground in the defensive backfield in pass coverage, but he came up with a number of big time plays as a run defender this season as well.
During the season, Dix was suspended for taking a loan of a few hundred dollars from an assistant strength and conditioning coach that was later fired for the incident. This appeared to be an issue of Dix really needing the money to make it through college as opposed to a kid just indulging in extra cash just for the sake of doing it. His declaration for the NFL Draft was hardly surprising when that situation was combined with his outstanding talent.
For the NFL, Dix is an extremely talented player with tremendous physical gifts that is still getting better. Dix is able to fulfill the role of being a player who is able to fill the role of a center fielder and protect the deep middle, but has the athleticism to come up and be an effective run defender. He has shown the ability to be able to contribute in man coverage and just needs more experience in that capacity. Dix projects as a first round pick because of just how high his potential can carry him despite the fact he is still working on becoming a polished player.
Vitals & Build
Dix is listed at 6’1” 208lbs and appears to have fantastic triangle numbers for the position. His size, strength, speed, and quickness are all prototypical and he has the ability to fly all over the field and covers a ton of ground. He looks NFL ready now in terms of his strength and athleticism but he is still only going to be a junior, so it will be interesting to see how much farther he can go before he enters the NFL Draft.
Dix is still developing as a tackler and has some good habits that will help him going forward but makes some of the same mistakes over and over that need to be addressed. The most important thing Dix does right is he comes up as fast as he can to the line of scrimmage but he does not just throw himself at the ball carrier. Rather, he gets in position extremely quickly and then breaks down to then attack the ball carrier, which is exactly what he needs to do.
The problem for Dix is he will approach too many tackles from the side rather than taking the time to get in front and he will miss tackles or be shielded from the play as a result. Obviously there is less of a threat in terms of physical punishment by taking on a ball carrier from the side but the results are less than stellar on tape. He needs to shift laterally and get in front to make sure he makes the tackle and prevents the player from making extra yardage.
When he breaks down and brings his arms, he is an outstanding tackler. He needs to stay with that and avoid the shoulder bombs and just running past ball carrier looking for the highlight hit.
Dix has shown he is an extremely willing and active player when it comes to stopping the run. When he reads, he sprints downhill and does a good job when it comes to filling a gap with the potential to make a big play. Dix is not afraid to take on anyone and has the momentum and strength to throw opponents to the ground when he has a head of steam.
He diagnoses the play quickly and is able to adjust well. Dix is good at making sure he is not getting suckered on play action before attacking and has gotten better and faster over the course of his career.
One of the areas that can be hit or miss for Dix is in his angles. When he is right, he is able to make an impact play. Dix has shown he can make a highlight reel type play both in terms of how it looks but also because it is a tackle for loss. Too often though, he is wrong or has to adjust his angle in mid play and can end up missing the target entirely and being out of position to make a play. Dix is able to get away with it because he is so incredibly athletic and can make up ground quickly, but when he has to make that adjustment, he is not as effective.
His ability to cover ground is remarkable and he has outstanding range. When he has the right path, he really shrinks the field and is able to cut across and give the defense a feeling of having extra players on the field.
Dix shows the ability to take on and shed blocks when it comes to fighting through and making plays. He is extremely aggressive in delivering a hit on the opponent to jolt them and make it easier to shed and keep going. Occasionally, he will take on a block that is not really in the play, but teams can live with that aggressiveness.
Dix has been an impact run defender even as a deep safety for the Crimson Tide, so if he can iron out a few areas, especially his angles, he is a big time weapon. His ability to fly across from the other side of the field makes him incredibly dangerous.
Dix came into this season with a much higher comfort level. He was able to make a number of big plays almost off of instinct alone last season as he got better and better with time. And he had to be this season in order for him to protect their corners over the top.
Dix does a good job of reading the play and diagnosing what is happening. It is rare that he is wrong on reading pass or run, so he is in the right position to get a jump on the play. The issue that Dix needs to clean up in this area is taking false steps based on anticipating what opposing receivers are doing. There are too many instances where he bites on footwork by opponents and has to make up for it with his athleticism.
When Dix is right, he is able to cover a substantial amount of ground and he seems able to cover from hash to hash when he is in the right mindset. The responsibility he has can make it difficult to make a ton of plays on the football, but there are situations where false steps and missed judgment on a play makes the difference between a big completion and what could be a turnover.
Dix is not afraid to send a message to opponents and he is someone who could draw a few penalties in his career as he intimidates opposing receivers. That said, he does show tremendous instincts when it comes to knowing when he should try to make a play on the ball and when he should look to hit the receiver.
Dix is more comfortable in zone, but he definitely has experience in man coverage as well. He has the ability to play man coverage and he is frustrating because he can run deep with just about anyone. Dix has more problems dealing with quick cuts and movements as he can be high cut and have trouble adjusting. Nevertheless, he is able to catch up quickly and he does do a good job to reach his arm around to deflect passes when able.
Dix needs time and coaching in this area to try to play lower and be smarter with his footwork, but he certainly looks like someone who can help out on a slot receiver or a tight end. Not only does he have the speed, but he is extremely physical.
Dix has demonstrated great ball skills and the tremendous ability to concentrate on the ball through deflections and tipped passes. He also shows good body control and is able to contort himself to make plays on the ball that many players simply cannot. Dix has a tremendous leaping ability but will occasionally miss time when he jumps, which should only improve with experience and practice. He has fantastic closing speed for the position and often resembles a corner in just how well he can get to the football.
Dix has also shown the ability to make spectacular plays and despite the way the defense makes it difficult for him to make a ton of plays, he was able to make some of the biggest plays of the entire year for the Crimson Tide. Dix is aggressive as a returner and is definitely someone who can threaten to score when he gets his hands on the ball. He is at a disadvantage with Alabama just because when he makes interceptions, he is usually in a situation catching the ball down the field and forced to beat the entire opposing team in what basically becomes a punt return.
Dix has experience in punt coverage and he has shown to be effective there. With his combination of strength and athleticism, he can be placed just about anywhere on special teams coverage and be an excellent addition.
Dix is a hybrid safety and he appears to have the ability to play strong, free, or a combo safety depending on the team that takes him. The only area he needs to really prove himself as a strong safety is covering tight ends and his athleticism and size make him incredibly well suited to do it; he just needs more experience in that area and against high caliber opponents.
It will come off as cheap and easy, but Dix is awfully similar to former teammate Mark Barron and this is by design. The Alabama system develops their safeties like this in the same way Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel have used them in their defenses. Strong and free are basically in name only as both guys tend to do a little bit of everything. From protecting over the top to playing the run to man coverage in the box, these guys do it all and both Barron and Dix are terrific athletes, though Barron was slightly bigger than Dix coming into the NFL.
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix is a good player who has not found his ceiling yet. His physical ability is tremendous and his mindset is just as valuable. Dix can make plays over the top and intercept passes, but he is a hardnosed run defender who is not afraid to take on the biggest of opponents and can surprise people with his strength and power. He is still polishing his game in some areas but his best football may still be ahead of him. Dix projects as a first round pick and could really be a special player at the next level if he can tap into all of that potential.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com