The Detroit Lions on Monday hosted arguably the top safety prospect in the NFL draft in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, linking a first-round talent to a club thought to be more inclined to draft for a different position in the first round.
Two factors have kept Clinton-Dix and the Lions apart in pre-draft speculation. For one, the Lions' No. 10 overall pick is a bit high for Clinton-Dix, based on his draft projections. NFL Media analysts Bucky Brooks, Charles Davis and Daniel Jeremiah have Clinton-Dix going in the No. 15 to No. 21 range, to the Steelers (Brooks), Ravens (Davis) and Packers (Jeremiah). The Dallas Cowboys, at No. 16 and with a need at safety, have been linked with Clinton-Dix in various mocks, and Brooks included the Cowboys as one of his five best fits for Clinton-Dix.
Then, there is the need factor. All three analysts see the Lions taking Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State to shore up the cornerback position. An offensive tackle or a wide receiver to pair with Calvin Johnson could be intriguing possibilities as well. But it's not as though the Lions are in such good shape at safety that a first-round investment wouldn't make sense. Jeremiah's review of each club's draft needs includes some safety help for Detroit. The real curiosity is whether the Lions might consider trading out of the No. 10 pick, slide down a few spots, and pick up Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor while adding a pick later in the draft.
"I watched Mark Barron do it a couple years ago, when he went 7, so it's been done," Clinton-Dix said. "If they want to take me at 10, I'm looking forward to it and I would love to be in Detroit. ... I definitely would compare myself to Mark. He's a great player, plays fast, can move around, can cover slots. He's pretty much a do-it-all guy, and that's what I look up to."
The Free Press suggested the Lions' interest in Clinton-Dix may have been prompted by the club's inability, as of yet, to pick up a safety in the free agency period.
Clinton-Dix and Pryor are thought to be the draft's top two safeties, although it's unclear who is more likely to be picked first. Pryor is more of a strong safety type, who can support linebackers against the run game, whereas Clinton-Dix is more of a coverage safety. According to the Twitter feed of Lions beat writer Tim Twentyman, Clinton-Dix sees himself in just that role at the next level.
Follow Chase Goodbread on Twitter @ChaseGoodbread.