Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Cowboys

January, 15, 2014
Jan 15
3:00
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys enter the 2014 NFL draft needing to find as much defensive help as possible, preferably along the defensive line.

In Mel Kiper's first mock draft Insider for 2014, he has the Cowboys selecting Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 17th overall pick. (Kiper has the Baltimore Ravens winning the coin flip that will decide the final positioning at the NFL scouting combine.)

Two defensive linemen -- Florida State's Timmy Jernigan and Notre Dame's Louis Nix -- went to the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers at Nos. 14 and 15. Notre Dame's Stephon Tuitt went No. 23 to the Kansas City Chiefs. Oregon State's Scott Crichton went to Denver at No. 31.

Clinton-Dix is a sound pick. The Cowboys need safety help next to Barry Church. J.J. Wilcox, their third-round pick in 2013, and Jeff Heath, who was undrafted, handled that role last season and struggled. Wilcox lost his job to Heath with a knee injury and could not reclaim the starter's role, though he did split snaps later in the year.

Clinton-Dix is athletic and can play the center field safety role. He missed two games last year because of a suspension for accepting a loan from an assistant strength and conditioning coach. He finished the season with 52 tackles and two interceptions. In 2012, he had five interceptions.

The Cowboys' defense is predicated on the pass rush and turnovers. Clinton-Dix could help with the latter, but the Cowboys need a lot of help with the former.

Two years ago, the Cowboys were high on Alabama safety Mark Barron but traded up to get cornerback Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick. Barron went one selection later to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Something else to note is Jason Garrett's relationship with Alabama coach Nick Saban. Garrett was on his staff with the Miami Dolphins and considers Saban one of his mentors. He will know all he needs to know about the Alabama players heading into the draft.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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