The New York Jets desperately need to land a quality receiver in the first round of the draft, and they would happily take any of Sammy Watkins, Marqise Lee, Mike Evans and Eric Ebron, each of whom we’ve evaluated this week. However, let’s say the nightmare scenario comes true, and all four of those players are off the board by the time the Jets pick at No. 18. In that scenario, the Jets would have a difficult time deciding what to do. Their other key needs are free safety, outside linebacker, guard and cornerback, and there could be few players the Jets consider at those positions.
To be clear, if the worst case scenario were to be realized, I think the Jets would attempt to trade down and land someone like Jordan Matthews. However, there are some talented prospects that could be available and interest the Jets if they stayed at No. 18. The first of those is Alabama free safety Ha’Sean “Ha-Ha” Clinton-Dix. Clinton-Dix is the consensus top safety in the draft, and he would fill a major need for the Jets.
Clinton-Dix recorded 8 interceptions in college while playing in a system that regularly churns out NFL ready talent. Free safety was a mess for the Jets this year, where Antonio Allen did an decent job playing out of position and Ed Reed was clearly washed up. The Jets need a true ball-hawking centerfielder, and Clinton-Dix would bring that type of player to the Jets’ secondary.
Clinton-Dix has good size and speed, checking in at 6’1″, 208 lbs with a 4.5 40. He was very effective roaming the deep middle for Alabama, and he has good instincts and closing speed. Clinton-Dix has both the hands to make a play on the ball and the physicality to level a receiver, and that combination will surely get Rex Ryan’s interest.
What Clinton-Dix also has is the ability to cover a tight end man to man, which is crucial in today’s NFL. The Jets have to face Rob Gronkowski twice a year, so covering tight ends is a high priority. Clinton-Dix is also a good tackler who is solid in run support, though that is not the area the Jets need help in. They are looking for a coverage safety, and that is where Clinton-Dix is at his best.
If all of the top receiving options are off the board, there is a chance that the Jets could make this move. Additionally, they could spend a ton of money on the receiver position in free agency, making free safety a more pressing need in the draft. While I still believe that the Jets will be targeting a wide receiver or tight end in the first round regardless of what happens in free agency, Clinton-Dix is a very good second option. He is the complete package at free safety and would be a massive upgrade for the Jets, so keep his name in mind if things don’t break the way the Jets want in the first fifteen picks.