NFL Draft: Breaking Down the Top Safety Prospects

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Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6). Eileen Blass-USA TODAY Sports

 

TIER ONE

1. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville: 5-11, 207 (4.58)

Louisville Cardinals defensive back Calvin Pryor runs with the ball during the 2014 NFL Combine. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

It seems to be splitting hairs between Pryor and Clinton-Dix when ranking the top safety in this draft. I personally favor Pryor just a little bit more than Clinton-Dix because I believe he possesses more upside and playmaking ability.

Although Pryor didn’t run a great 40 time at the combine, watch him on film and you’ll see he plays faster than he times. Whereas Clinton-Dix can disappear at times on film, Pryor makes his presence known on the field and seems to always be in the thick of things, whether it’s playing up in the box to stop the run or laying a hit on a receiver crossing over the middle of the field.

Pryor makes impact plays. He recorded seven interceptions, eight forced fumbles, and batted down 14 passes in his three years at Louisville. He also recorded 11 tackles for loss, which shows his ability to get into the backfield and track down the ball carrier.

Pryor is one of the most physical safeties in this draft and doesn’t shy away from contact by any means. He does need to do a better job wrapping up when tackling in the open field, instead of always trying to lower his shoulder and deliver the knockout blow.

Pryor could also improve in coverage, where he flashes plenty of ability but shows some lapses at times.

(Draft Projection: Round 1)

 

Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. USA Today Sports photograph

2. Hasean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama: 6-1, 208 (4.58)

Clinton-Dix is often regarded as the top safety in this year’s draft class. Many believe he will be gone by the time the Packers pick in the first round.

However, when I watch the Alabama tape, I don’t see a top-20 player in Clinton-Dix. I think he’s suited more for the end of the first round or even early in the second.

When watching Clinton-Dix, I just don’t see a guy who will consistently make impact plays in the secondary that warrants a mid-first round pick.

He is a reliable safety who plays well as a deep center fielder. He can close on a throw and use his length in coverage to swat the ball away or blanket a receiver. He’s even a decent tackler who can deliver a big hit from time to time.

But I think Clinton-Dix has also benefited from playing behind an excellent Alabama front seven, that included the likes of C.J. Mosley, Ed Stinson, and Adrian Hubbard.

Clinton-Dix also had his best year in 2012, where he recorded four interceptions, but was playing alongside 2013 first-rounder Dee Milliner, who rarely needed safety help.

Clinton-Dix is a solid option at safety and a player I wouldn’t complain by any means if he landed in Green Bay, but I do believe Pryor’s active playing style and playmaking potential would complement the Packers secondary better than Clinton-Dix.

The Packers already have a smart, reliable safety in Morgan Burnett. Now they need the player who can add a little punch to the secondary.

(Draft Projection: Rounds 1-2)

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