The Detroit Lions still need a safety to replace Louis Delmas.
Could a first-round selection fill the void?
On Monday, the team hosted former Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in Allen Park for one of the their 30 allotted pre-draft visits. Cinton-Dix is considered one of the top safeties available in May’s NFL Draft, along with Louisville’s Calvin Pryor.
Clinton-Dix, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds, is an extremely athletic and rangy safety. He considers himself a free safety at the next level.
“I have great range,” Clinton-Dix told Detroitlions.com. “I can do a lot of things that people ask me to do. I’m a complete player.
“In college we had to learn to play both, but I prefer to play free safety, covering tight ends and just doing my job.”
The Lions didn’t have a free and strong distinction with their safeties under former head coach Jim Schwartz, but are expected to have more defined roles for them under Jim Caldwell and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin.
More than anything, the Lions need a playmaker to match with
“I’m what you’re looking for in a safety,” Clinton-Dix said. “I make plays.”
Versatile free safeties, who can cover both tight ends and slot receivers, as well as play the middle part of the field, and also be an eighth man in the box, are becoming increasingly more important in today’s NFL.
Clinton-Dix thinks he can make an immediate impact in the NFL coming from Alabama’s pro-style system.
“It’s pretty much the same defense,” he said of Alabama’s defense and an NFL defense. “It’s just different terminology. Coach (Nick) Saban put us in situations that most teams don’t as far as different personnel. If one person goes in motion the whole call can change.
“Coach Saban was the head coach but he was also the defensive backs coach. He was on the field with us all the time and never missed a meeting.”
The Lions hosted veteran safety James Ihedigbo last week, and the team could still end up signing him.
This isn’t an extremely deep draft class at safety class, however, which could put more value on players like Clinton-Dix and Pryor.
Clinton-Dix had 88 tackles, seven interceptions and defended 13 passes the past two seasons at Alabama.