Free Safety a Laughing Matter For Ravens?

NFL Draft Free Safety a Laughing Matter For Ravens?

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Russell Street Report’s series of NFL draft prospect previews continues, switching to the defensive side of the ball in this edition.

Leading up to the first round of the draft on May 8, several potential first round candidates for the Baltimore Ravens will be profiled.

Prospects who figure to either be available when the Ravens pick at No. 17 or within close reach of the pick are in play.

Ha’Sean (Ha Ha) Clinton-Dix, Safety, Alabama

• Height: 6’1”
• Weight: 208 pounds
• 40-yard dash: 4.58 seconds
• Vertical jump: 33.0 inches

Best collegiate season (2012): 14 games, five interceptions (including an interception in both the SEC title and BCS title games), four passes defended.

Pros: Prototypical back-end free safety that can roam the deep half of the field for a defense and give a defensive coordinator freedom to utilize the strong safety as more of a spur, which fits what the Ravens can do with Matt Elam.

Clinton-Dix’s range is at the top of this year’s class, and in coverage, his versatility allows him to man down the back end of the secondary while also having the one-on-one coverage skills to be used just about in any way a free safety can be utilized in an NFL defense.

He has a prototypical build, with his length and closing speed being an add-on to his range. Clinton-Dix can benefit from filling out his frame, and if he can mold his build, he can become more of a heavy hitter to complement his reliable tackling tendencies.

Cons: While his range may be near elite, his playmaking ability right now is average, with his closing speed being more progressed than his instincts. With only 19 career starts, Clinton-Dix could experience a rapid incline in ability to change games with interceptions as he gains more experience. But for now, he is simply an above adequate coverage safety who is more than capable of being the deepest man in the secondary while providing consistent success at not allowing receivers past him.

In run defense, Clinton-Dix was exposed against option offenses, particularly when he faced Auburn last season. He often looks lost when attempting to diagnose an option run play, but for Baltimore’s sake, if he joins the Ravens, his in-the-box run-stopping duties figure to be fairly minimal.

Why the Ravens would select him: The most glaring need on the entire roster is free safety, where right now the Ravens don’t have a proven and worthy candidate on the current roster to occupy the starting spot next season. All signs point to that issue being addressed in the draft, and Clinton-Dix is a worthy candidate in the first round.

Will he still be available when the Ravens pick? Maybe not. But if he is still on the board when the Ravens are on the clock, it’s hard not to think he would be the versatile coverage solution at free safety.

Projected position with the Ravens: Free safety. A deep-half centerfielder whose main priority in Baltimore’s defense would be to hold down the back end on his own on most passing plays, with his ability to cover one-on-one in the slot an added plus.

Video courtesy of Draft Breakdown

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Kyle Casey

About Kyle Casey

Kyle’s love of football centers around analytics and the NFL Draft. He has held season tickets at M&T Bank Stadium since 2004, and currently resides in Section 243. A 2016 Mass Communications graduate of Towson University, Kyle now works in the IT staffing industry. He tries to find the balance between being rational and being a contrarian through writing.

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