Could the Panthers take a safety in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft? We’ve discussed this before on CSR – despite offensive line and wide receiver being greater need positions, there is always a chance that Panthers GM Dave Gettleman will skip addressing those positions early, especially if the value isn’t there.
Could Ha Ha Clinton-Dix be the best player available when the Panthers pick in the first round? It’s unlikely the Alabama safety will drop to the Panthers pick at 28, but if he does, there’s a strong chance that he could be the top rated player on their board. At the very least, it’s safe to say the Panthers have done their homework on Clinton-Dix -- their scouts watched him workout at Alabama’s Pro Day back in March, and according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Panthers also recently had a private meeting with him.
According to most analysts, Clinton-Dix is the top rated safety in this year’s Draft, and is currently projected to go in the middle of the first round. Although Clinton-Dix is not an exciting "splash" player on film like Calvin Pryor (another projected first round safety), he is a very fundamentally sound and polished player without too many flaws in his game.
Clinton-Dix showed the ability to line up and play anywhere in Alabama’s defensive formation: close to the line of scrimmage as a blitzer, as a run defender in the box, or deep in single high coverage shells as the last line of defense. He also showed the ability to use his size (6-foot-1-inches, 208 pounds) and athleticism (4.58-40) to match up well against tight ends and slot receivers in man coverage. He displayed good instincts and was an excellent tackler.
The Panthers have lacked reliable play at safety for several years now, and part of that has to do with the lack of investment they have made in the position early in the Draft. Adding a safety like Clinton Dix would allow the Panthers to keep their strengths on defense strong, while finally getting a long-term answer at the safety position.