With the 19th pick the New York Giants select ...Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. With the 32nd pick the New York Giants select ... David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech. With the 19th pick the New York Giants select ..Justin Pugh T, Syracuse. What do all of these picks have in common? Prior to the draft that year, with very, very few exceptions no one mocked those players to the New York Giants. They could all be considered dark-horse candidates for various reasons (no one thought Amukamara would be there, or the idea that the Giants don't value running backs in the first round, or the fact that Pugh was not seen as a first-round talent, but a second-round talent and Giants are BPA team). The point is no matter how much we think we know about the NFL Draft we are continually surprised even by our own favorite team.
The reason for this is simple. This whole process is a giant interview, with the game film supplying the resume and the medical checks and background checks as the background check portion of the interview, and of course the visits and interviews as the interview portion of a typical job interview. No matter how good a resume looks poor background checks or interviews can take a candidate out of the running for a position with a company. The other part is there are (in this year's case 11) other teams who get to pick their favorite candidates first.
This is why we're taking a look at dark horse candidates in the series. And it's why I continue to be confounded by people who say things like "The Giants (or team X) would never do that" because the truth is it does happen and it happens every single year!!! Sometimes in an interview you are just convinced that a person is right for the job even if no one else feels the same way.
Today we take a look at Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, a player who makes even more sense today than he would have had I posted about him previously (and I swear Clinton-Dix is one of the original five dark horse candidates) because of the pending suspension and potential release that could be coming Will Hill's way after word that he had failed another drug test.
Prior to the Will Hill news, Clinton-Dix was an underrated option at 12 because the Giants like to plan for the future and currently Antrel Rolle, Stevie Brown, and Quentin Demps are all unrestricted free agents after this season. Hill is a restricted free agent. That means that after this season it is possible that the only safety under contract would be Cooper Taylor, who is not even a lock to make the 2014 team.
The Giants might actually prefer to take a guy at a position where they don't need him this year so they can teach him how to be a professional before relying on him the following year. The biggest question -- and the biggest reason that Clinton-Dix will remain a dark horse candidate is because there might not be roster space available this year to carry an extra safety.
Now for the player himself and why he makes sense. Clinton-Dix is the consensus best safety in the draft and a likely top 20 pick who is often mocked to the Detroit Lions (who pick 10th) and is almost always gone by the time the Bears pick at 14th so he's a player that is right in the range of the 12th pick. He just has not been considered an option for the Giants --so the value makes sense.
Here's what a scout told Bob Mcginn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel about Clinton-Dix:
He's the real deal," one scout said. "He'll go middle of the first. If he's there at 21 (for Green Bay), it'd be a no-brainer. They'd be running to the podium if that happened. He's pretty much the most complete guy that I've done (at safety)."
Greg Cosell about Clinton-Dix:
"I like that kid a lot," Cosell said, adding that Clinton-Dix is a "really fluid mover" with "loose hips" who can change directions quickly. "I really like the way he played downhill in the run game,
Clinton-Dix is an eraser in the back end. Clean mover w/ plus range. Exceptional eyes, awareness + rec skills. Constantly maintains leverage
— Kevin Weidl (@KevinW_ESPN) March 12, 2014
Clinton-Dix is the new breed of NFL safety with good size (6-foot-1, 208 pounds) and enough speed (4.58 official 40-yard dash) to be a play-maker in coverage and in run support. He comes from Nick Saban's complicated defense at Alabama and has been productive, so he should be able to play early. He is a good player who is better in coverage than Mark Barron (who went seventh overall), but not in the same class as Eric Berry/Earl Thomas. He should be a good NFL player who can play immediately and be a long-term starter.
The pick makes sense if the Giants decide they have had enough of Hill. Clinton-Dix is a dark horse candidate because he's the best player at his position in the draft and the Giants will likely have a shot at drafting him as opposed to drafting the third-best player at a different position (like offensive line or wide receiver), and because there exists a long-term need on the roster. The biggest reason I think the pick might not make the most sense for the Giants is because they seem to like safeties who can really run (like Deon Bucannon who is a potential second-round option) and snaps for a safety could be severely limited in 2014 -- unless the Giants actually cut Hill. Clinton-Dix was also suspended for receiving improper benefits at college and like many Alabama players has had a few surgeries and could potentially fail (complete speculation) some team's medical checks.