NFL Draft countdown: Alabama’s Clinton-Dix gets last laugh on field

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His given name is Ha’Sean. It’s pronounced Ha-Seen, but so many people mispronounced it that his grandmother nicknamed him Ha Ha when Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix was only 3.

The name stuck.

Three years after Clinton-Dix got a new name, the Lewinsky scandal broke. Clinton-Dix cites that as the worst thing about his nickname.

“The whole President Clinton thing with Monica Lewinsky,” Clinton-Dix said of some of the jokes about his name. “I didn’t know much about that.”

His unusual name isn’t the only thing that separates Clinton-Dix.

He also rates as one of the top two safeties in this year’s draft. While Louisville’s Calvin Pryor sits atop some draft boards at the position, Clinton-Dix also has his supporters.

“I want the ball hawk,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said in explaining why he ranks Clinton-Dix as the best safety prospect. “I want the center-field guys, the Willie Mays guy. Not to say that Clinton-Dix doesn’t tackle. He does. Not to say he can’t cover man. He hasn’t had to do much of that at Alabama. But I think his range [is what separates him]. I like his sideline-to-sideline play.”

Clinton-Dix’s 52 tackles ranked fourth on the Crimson Tide last season, and his two interceptions tied for the team lead. He was third in passes defensed with six.

In 2012, he tied for the SEC lead with five interceptions, had 91 interception return yards, made 37 tackles and forced a fumble.

“Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is more of a deep-third, deep-half guy,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He tackles well, and he can invert up into the box. I think he’s a complete player.”

Clinton-Dix believes he’s the best safety in the draft because he played in Nick Saban’s system in the toughest college conference, the SEC.

“I feel like I’m prepared for the next level,” Clinton-Dix said. “I’m a fast learner. I play fast. I study a lot of film. I study the opponent a lot. I fly around.”

Clinton-Dix has the game to go with the name.

Overview

It is a strong class of safeties at the top with three rated as first-round prospects. There is a drop-off after that, though Florida State’s duo, Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, could become contributors. LSU’s Craig Loston and Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon could be special teams standouts.

Cowboys’ needs

The Cowboys believe they have found their starters in free safety Barry Church and strong safety J.J. Wilcox. Wilcox, a third-round choice in 2013, played in 13 games, with five starts, and had 44 tackles. Church, who had started only four games before last season, led the Cowboys with 147 tackles, an interception and three forced fumbles. Jeff Heath, a rookie free agent last year, gained valuable experience last season in starting nine games at strong safety. Dallas has not given up on Matt Johnson yet, even though the 2012 fourth-round pick spent his first two seasons on injured reserve. The Cowboys, though, still could use a pick on a safety. They like Northern Illinois strong safety Jimmie Ward, whom they had in for a pre-draft visit, but he likely won’t be on the board for them in the second round.

Top five

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama, 6-1, 208, 4.58. He played in 11 games last season, with nine starts at free safety, and made 51 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions.

Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville, 5-11, 207, 4.58. He had 75 tackles, five pass breakups, three interceptions and two forced fumbles last season.

Jimmie Ward, SS, Northern Illinois, 5-11, 193, 4.59. He had 95 tackles, 10 pass breakups and seven interceptions last season.

LaMarcus Joyner, FS, Florida State, 5-8, 184, 4.55. He started six games at corner and eight at the nickel last season, with 69 tackles, four pass breaks, two interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Terrence Brooks, FS, Florida State, 5-11, 198, 4.42. He was a second-team All-ACC pick.

Sleeper

Jonathan Dowling, FS, Western Kentucky, 6-3, 190, 4.52, After being dismissed from Florida, Dowling had 18 total turnovers the past two seasons for the Hilltoppers.

Top Texas ties

Craig Loston, SS, LSU, 6-1, 217, 4.65, The Houston Eisenhower graduate, a possible fourth-round pick, made 24 starts in his career with 148 tackles and seven interceptions.

Ahmad Dixon, SS, Baylor, 6-0, 212, 4.64, A possible fifth-round choice, he had 288 tackles in his career.

Marqueston Huff, FS, Wyoming, 5-11, 196, 4.49, The Texarkana Liberty-Eylau product, a possible fifth-round choice, averaged 10.6 tackles last season, 11th in FBS.

Source: Heights, weights and 40 times were compiled from CBS Sportsline.

NFL Draft

May 8-10, Radio City Music Hall, New York

TV: Round 1, 7 p.m., May 8, NFL Network, ESPN. Rounds 2-3, 5:30 p.m., May 9, NFL Network, ESPN. Rounds 4-7, 11 a.m., May 10, NFL Network, ESPN.

The order

1. Houston

2. St. Louis (from Washington)

3. Jacksonville

4. Cleveland

5. Oakland

6. Atlanta

7. Tampa Bay

8. Minnesota

9. Buffalo

10. Detroit

11. Tennessee

12. NY Giants

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago

15. Pittsburgh

16. Dallas

17. Baltimore

18. NY Jets

19. Miami

20. Arizona

21. Green Bay

22. Philadelphia

23. Kansas City

24. Cincinnati

25. San Diego

26. Cleveland (from Indianapolis)

27. New Orleans

28. Carolina

29. New England

30. San Francisco

31. Denver

32. Seattle

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @NFLCharean

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