NFL Prospect Focus: Alabama Defense

This is Nick Saban’s seventh season as the Alabama Head Coach. In the six previous seasons, his teams have developed some top defensive players for the NFL Draft. This year is no different with at least four defensive players likely to be drafted next spring. The four are linebacker C.J. Mosley, defensive end Ed Stinson, corner Deion Belue, and junior safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. I include Clinton-Dix because he is presently under suspension for receiving improper aid, and word on the street is that he will enter the Draft.

C.J. Mosley – Linebacker

Mosley lines up as an inside linebacker in Alabama’s base 3-4. He is a 4th year senior and while he wasn’t listed as a full time starter his first two years, he got significant playing time and was among the Tides leading tacklers both years. At about 6’2 – 240 with long arms, Mosley has all the tools to be a top NFL linebacker. He possesses very good overall athleticism with speed, flexibility, change of direction and body control. To go along with his size he has very good play strength.

Mosley is alert and instinctive. He is a quick reactor who is consistently around the ball. He is proficient defending the run, in pass coverage, and rushing the passer. He shows his strength and power at the point by shedding quickly and is an explosive, aggressive tackler. He has the speed and range to stop both the inside and outside run and moves easily through trash. Many linebackers are used strictly in zone coverage, but that is not the case with Mosley. He is often put in man situations versus running backs and tight ends and does an excellent job. He can drop, pedal, and turn as well as any linebacker in football. He can react to the ball in the air and has good hands. While not used much as a pass rusher, he is effective when used. He knows how to use his speed and has the hand use to get rid of blocks.

The beauty of a player like Mosley is that he can play in any scheme. He is a fit to play inside in a 3-4, and he has the traits and athleticism to play any of the three linebacker positions in a 4-3. When Oakland drafted Rolando McClain in the first round a few years ago, they thought they were getting a tough smash mouth inside player. It turned out he was more of a finesse player. Mosley, on the other hand, might not have McClain’s size but he is a much more physical player. He should easily be a first round pick.

Deion Belue – Defensive Back

Belue is a former Junior College transfer and is in his second year starting at the field corner for Alabama. He originally committed to Alabama out of High School but enrolled at Northeast Mississippi Community College where he was one of the top JC corners in the country. He transferred to Alabama last year and became an instant starter. Belue has average corner height at about 5’11, but he also has a narrow frame. He looks to be about 180 – 185. He has very long arms, which allows him to play taller than his actual height. He has the quick feet, change of direction, and loose hips required for the position, but I am unsure of his top end speed. He looks to be in the 4.50 – 4.55 range. In saying that, I haven’t seen anyone run by him either.

He plays a lot of man coverage but not press man. He will often line up in a press type position but I have not seen him use a jam technique that often. Still, he has the suddenness to be effective in man coverage and does a good job mirroring receivers. He can turn quickly and has the feet to transition without taking extra steps. He has good ball reactions. Showing the ability to high point throws and get PBU’s but he doesn’t have many interceptions. In run support he can play a bit loosely but will come up when he has to. He is not physical and is an average tackler. His ability to get off blocks is adequate.

Belue has talent but is not a complete player. He needs to get bigger, stronger, and more physical. Being that the corner position is stop watch driven on draft day, his time will have a lot to do with where he is eventually drafted. His talent says that he will be a backup early in his career. He can become an eventual starter if he becomes stronger and more physical. Right now I see a mid-round pick.

Ed Stinson – Defensive End

Stinson is a 5th year senior and a two year starter at left defensive end in Alabama’s 3-4 defense. He red shirted as a freshman and then played in the D-Line rotation the next 2 years. He has good size at about 6’4 – 290 with long arms. He shows good balance and is seldom off his feet but his overall athleticism is average for the position. He has some tightness in his knees and hips. He can get tall in his stance and can get tall with his play also. He has average speed, with a play speed of about 5.0 - 5.1.

Stinson is strong, but I wouldn’t call him explosive. He has the power to hold the point and he doesn’t give ground. He is basically a 2-gapper who gets a push and can be disruptive in the run game. He has quick reactions and can find the ball. While he doesn’t make a lot of plays, he is around the ball, and with his ability to penetrate, he can disrupt a lot of plays. He shows good ability to shed single blocks and occupy double teams. He is a competitive, tough guy who plays hard but has limitations.

He is not a force as a pass rusher. He flashes a counter move to redirect but is mainly a bull rusher who can get a push. He is not quick to close off of blocks. His initial quickness in both the run and pass game is average. At times, he is the last guy off the ball.

I see him as a mid-round pick who will be a run down player at the next level. He may never be a solid starter but he can be a good rotational player. In the right situation, he could start but that team will always be looking for something better.

HaHa Clinton-Dix – Safety

Clinton-Dix is a 3rd year junior and a two year starter at safety. He is a former 5-star recruit who was courted by the best programs in the country. He was suspended after the fourth game of this season for receiving improper benefits. Because of the suspension, the word on the street is, he will enter next spring’s draft.

Clinton-Dix has all the tools to be a top NFL safety. He has size (6’1 – 210), play speed (4.50), athleticism, and power to go along with quick reactions and instincts. He is alert on the field and doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He can lock up in man coverage on a tight end or slot receiver and is a smart zone player. He has range from the hash to the sideline to go along with very good ball skills and hands.

With his size, he is a physical run support player who can be quick to come up, can get rid of blocks and is a very good tackler. He flashes blow-up tackle ability and isn’t shy about throwing his body around. Unless something comes back negative in the character report, I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be a premium pick. He is a play maker and a presence on the field. He should be able to play either safety position at the next level and start early in his career.

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