Beginning in 2011, the NFL Network has surveyed NFL players to compile an annual ranking of the league’s top 100 players. The list is unveiled in a multi-part series during the offseason, with each episode profiling 10 players on the countdown to the No. 1 spot.
Because the ranking is decided by players and not the media or fans, those who often don’t get mainstream attention receive their just due: e.g., offensive linemen, linebackers who don’t get a lot of sacks, guys who standout on bad or small-market teams.
That’s good for defensive backs. While people who work in and around the league clearly understand the value of a good DB — just look at the NFL Draft, or research how much elite cornerbacks are paid — the casual fan and mainstream media often overlooks the players who operate on the fringes of the TV screen. As I’ve said before, that’s why The Corner Office exists, to put a focus on these underappreciated athletes.
The 2018 version of the NFL’s Top 100 list kicked off recently with Green Bay Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the 100th spot.
Going into his fifth pro season, Clinton-Dix has one Pro Bowl and one All-Pro nod on his resume, both from 2016. He was ranked 77th on last year’s top-100 list.
The Alabama product and first-round draft pick has been a starter for the Packers since his rookie year, and this past season he recorded 79 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups. However, Green Bay missed the playoffs for the first time in Clinton-Dix’s career.
The Packers then lost veteran strong safety Morgan Burnett in free agency to the Pittsburgh Steelers, meaning Clinton-Dix will have a new partner starting full-time next to him at safety for the first time in his career. After ranking near the bottom of the league in several pass-defense categories, Green Bay addressed its secondary in the offseason by using its first two draft picks on cornerbacks (Louisville’s Jaire Alexander and Iowa’s Josh Jackson) and reuniting with former starting corner Tramon Williams. Second-year pro Josh Jones is penciled in as the starting strong safety.
Clinton-Dix is primarily a free safety, but he can play multiple positions. He’s similar to fellow Alabama product Minkah Fitzpatrick, the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s draft who won college football’s Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik awards in 2017 as the nation’s best defensive back and best overall defensive player, respectively.
In the NFL Network segment, Burnett called Clinton-Dix the best safety in the game.
Clinton-Dix was one of just two safeties in the league last season to rack up at least 70 tackles and three picks with five or fewer missed tackles. He excels in deep coverage, but is also effective playing close to the line of scrimmage as a run-stopper.