There was no draft day drama in Green Bay, as University of Alabama safety Ha’sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix fell to the Packers at No. 21 in last night's first round, and general manager Ted Thompson pulled perhaps the biggest surprise of all – he took him.
After months of speculating over the team’s needs, deficiencies and all the countless permutations over who could fall to the Packers – no one could have really known Clinton-Dix would:
A) be there, and
B) that the Packers would select him
The Packers haven’t traded out of the first round since 2008, so I’m not sure why some thought that would happen – but the team’s last three first round selections (Derek Sherrod in 2011, Nick Perry in 2012 and Datone Jones in 2013) definitely had given fans pause as to whether Thompson would "reach" on another high-upside player that might require a position change in the NFL.
And no doubt there was trepidation amongst the green and golf faithful when Clinton-Dix was on the board and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn’t immediately sprint to the podium with the pick.
But Thompson hasn’t built one of the NFL’s most successful teams through his draft and develop model by accident. He wasn’t going to pass on Clinton-Dix, even if he was the "safest" choice left.
Interestingly, he was left because of what a NFC North division rival did a few minutes earlier.
After the Chicago Bears passed on a safety at No. 14 overall (they picked cornerback Kyle Fuller), that pushed linebackers Ryan Shazier (No. 15 to Pittsburgh) and C.J. Mosley (No. 17 to Baltimore) and safety Calvin Pryor (No. 18 to the New York Jets) down the board.
That made Clinton-Dix available.
Thompson has been criticized for the lack of success his early picks have had, and rightfully so – but if Clinton-Dix proves to be anything but a Pro Bowler, no one will be able to look back and blame the Packers GM.
Not that he needs that he cares, but for once he addressed an immediate need with a really good college player who already plays that position.
The only learning curve will be picking up Dom Capers’ defense, and you’d like to think that playing for Nick Saban for three years has prepared him for any type of NFL scheme.
There are some small concerns, of course. Clinton-Dix began his sophomore year by being suspended "indefinitely" by Saban for breaking team rules by receiving improper benefits, but was reinstated by the NCAA after missing two games.
He also had a meniscus repair on his knee after his sophomore year, but returned to become an All-American his junior year.
But these weren’t large enough red flags to turn off anyone, and Dix was a key figure on one of college football’s best defenses for three years.
He may be somewhat psychic – he posted this to his Instagram account about two weeks ago.
"It's actually crazy," Clinton-Dix told Joel A. Erickson of Al.com. "I guess God was sending me a message. It was sitting in my bag, and I thought, well, I'll put this on today. ... I decided to take a picture that night, and it just blew up. Packers fans went crazy."
They did again Thursday night.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.