The 2018 NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow, starting the three-day process that will lead to 256 college prospects being selected by one of the 32 teams in the league. Yesterday, we took a closer look at what is being said around the web about linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. Today, we continue that series with a look at another Miami Dolphins potential draft target, safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick seems to be projected right around the Dolphins’ 11th pick, which could make him a leading candidate for Miami. He brings with him the flexibility to play all over the secondary and could move into the linebacker corps as well. How would he fit with the Dolphins, who already have two starting safeties with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald? We take a look at the draft profiles for Fitzpatrick to get an idea.
Weight: 204 lbs.
40-yard dash: 4.46 sec.
Bench Press: 14 reps
Broad Jump: 121.0”
Vertical Jumps: 33.0”
42 games played
16.5 tackles for loss
24 passes defensed
2 forced fumbles
What are they saying?
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote of Fitzpatrick:
Fitzpatrick turns up the intensity level as high as it will go and and rips off the knob until the game is over. Fitzpatrick has experience as a slot cornerback, but will likely be targeted as a “do-everything” safety who can be deployed as a sub-package linebacker, a blitzer or in the slot against big receivers and move tight ends. Fitzpatrick has consistently shined since his freshman season on Alabama defenses that have been loaded with NFL talent. His versatility, football character and desire to succeed should make him an early starter.
Sources tell us: “He’s not quite on the same level of Jamal Adams when it comes to changing the entire culture of a locker room, but he is just as talented and probably more versatile.” - AFC team executive
Eric Edholm at Pro Football Weekly listed Fitzpatrick as his 13th ranked prospect of the year, writing of him:
Some teams we spoke with believe Fitzpatrick can play outside corner with enough time spent there. Others envision him in a hybrid role the way the Arizona Cardinals use Budda Baker or the Los Angeles Rams deploy Lamarcus Joyner. So in theory, Fitzpatrick is a fit for just about every scheme and system: he can play man and zone, off and press; he could be a nickel or outside corner; deep or box safety, or a combination of all of them.
That kind of versatility is attractive in that he’s bound only by the lack of creativity of the defensive coordinator, so he’s a fit with every single NFL team. But will every team value this jack of all trades — even in this subpackage-heavy era — as much as they would a one-position defender? That remains to be seen, but someone will take him high.
SB Nation’s Indianapolis Colts site, Stampede Blue, too a look at Fitzpatrick, explaining:
Whoever selects Minkah Fitzpatrick will get a player who can play all over the field in the secondary. He is fast enough and rangy enough to cover the deep middle of the field as a safety, he is twitchy enough to make plays in shorter zones, and is could very easily move to the outside and play corner in the NFL. This flexibility isn’t just a function of his physical gifts either, he is a smart football player who learns quickly and can be prepared to play multiple roles in the same set of downs or on the same drive.
SB Nation’s San Francisco 49ers site, Niners Nation, wrote of Fitzpatrick:
Unlike most DBs, you’ll rarely ever see him shying away from taking on a block, much less making a tackle. Given where he plays and the way he plays, it’s easy to confuse Fitzpatrick for a linebacker. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say he’s a linebacker in the body of a corner. Because of his physicality, Alabama loved using him to erase opposing TEs when they were in 6 DB sets, and whatever NFL team gets him will probably end up doing the same thing.
As a blitzer, Minkah is incredibly adept at using speed and timing to put blockers in disadvantageous positions. No one will be asking him to play edge full time of course, but the ability to take on, shed, or avoid blocks almost entirely is there. The terms movable chess piece and swiss army knife get thrown around when talking about versatile defenders a lot, but I’m here to tell you Minkah Fitzpatrick is the ultimate embodiment of this concept. Don’t worry so much about a true position, just ask him to do something and he’ll go out there and do it.
When it comes to major flaws, I wish I had something for you, but I don’t. If we’re nitpicking, you’ll see in a couple of the clips above that he can get beat in man coverage sometimes (who doesn’t), so his technique could use a little more refinement. Also, the way he hunts the ball like a madman sometimes leads him to run himself out of the play. I wouldn’t call these serious concerns going forward though: By all accounts, Minkah is the ultimate football junkie and absorbs information like a sponge. If you have a halfway competent DB coach, he’ll be fine.
SB Nation’s Oakland Raiders site, Silver and Black Pride, also weighed in on Fitzpatrick:
There are only a handful of dominant single-high safeties in the NFL, Minkah Fitzpatrick has a chance to be the next one. He has the athleticism to quickly cover enough ground as a center-fielder along with a ball-hawking mindset to create big plays.
Perhaps more importantly, he is a natural leader and is very smart with a great understanding of different defensive schemes. On almost every play, Fitzpatrick can be seen directing players on the Alabama defense and changing plays. While he has the versatility to play just about every position in the secondary, he has the skillset to thrive at free safety.
Luke Easterling from USA Today’s Draft Wire wrote of Fitzpatrick:
Two years ago, the Jacksonville Jaguars spent a top-five pick on a versatile, athletic defensive back in Jalen Ramsey, who has transformed the identity of their entire secondary. Fitzpatrick has a similar skill set, which should put him in the same draft range and allow him to make that kind of impact at the next level.
Fitzpatrick’s size and skill set will allow him to line up anywhere in the defensive backfield and be highly effective. His best fit is probably at free safety, but as was the case with Ramsey, NFL teams will likely be enticed by his size and length and try him at corner. Wherever he plays, Fitzpatrick is sure to be a big-time playmaker for a long time.
Ray Lewis breaking down Minkah Fitzpatrick on a blitz. pic.twitter.com/aalhvg9wM2— The Mick Nartin™ (@themicknartin) March 19, 2018