With the 11th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. As a rookie, the “Swiss Army Knife” played in all 16 games for the Dolphins, starting 11, and seeing time as a free safety, a strong safety, a slot cornerback, an outside cornerback, and even in a pseudo-linebacker type of role. Miami had a weapon on defense they could move around to create mismatches and ensure the best coverage possible.
In 2019, Fitzpatrick took a step forward and earned his first Pro Bowl appearance. Unfortunately, other than the first two games of the season, none of Fitzpatrick’s success would come as a member of the Dolphins after an in-season trade to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a move that returned to Miami a first-round pick, a selection that ultimately became the 18th overall choice.
The Dolphins are believed to be targeting Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth-overall selection in 2020. Could another Alabama prospect be the target with the 18th pick?
Could Miami use the pick they received for Fitzpatrick to address the hole Fitzpatrick left?
Could the Dolphins use the 18th overall pick to add a Swiss Army Knife type of player?
With the 18th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Miami could select Alabama safety Xavier McKinney.
McKinney would give the Dolphins an exceptional piece on defense, and he could be the player Miami needs to replace Reshad Jones, a two-time Pro Bowl player who the team released this offseason. McKinney, according to NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein, is an “ascending safety prospect offering a combination of plus athleticism, field awareness and versatility. McKinney split time equally at slot, free safety and in the box and is accomplished in each. His coverage instincts, athleticism and quick-twitch burst are more cornerback than safety, which is why he’s likely to be a coveted toy for teams looking to upgrade and diversify their sub-packages. He can sit in center field all day if needed, and he’s an adequate open-field tackler but has room for improvement in that area. McKinney represents the new breed of versatile, matchup safety with high upside as an early starter.”
Backing up that assessment of versatility, ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates broke down snap counts for McKinney in 2019:
Alabama S Xavier McKinney's snaps by alignment in 2019:— Field Yates (@FieldYates) April 2, 2020
Stats: 95 tackles, 4 FF, 3 INT, 3 sacks
Excellent leadership, versatility and communication skills. A ready-made fit for almost any NFL defense.
Dolphins head coach Brian Flores covets players with versatility. He wants to be able to change Miami’s scheme, especially on defense, from play to play without needing to substitute player. McKinney would give Miami that ability.
Joe Marino at The Draft Network writes of McKinney, “Xavier McKinney is a versatile defensive back that can fill multiple roles at a high level for an NFL defense, just like he showcased at Alabama. Whether it’s deep zones, man coverage from the slot or lining up close to the line of scrimmage, McKinney can execute. He showcases good processing speed, functional athleticism and the size needed to perform. There are times his angles can be too flat which impacts his tackling results. For a defense that likes to be matchup-specific with its defensive backs, McKinney’s presence should lend itself to more scheme multiplicity. His blend of size, range and processing skills are a strong foundation for him to build upon at the next level and he’s already experienced functioning in a variety of roles for a Nick Saban defense.”
Pro Football Focus Draft Guide wrote of the safety, “McKinney has the best grading profile of any safety in the class. He’s a swiss-army knife perfect for a diverse role in modern defenses.”
McKinney, 6-feet, 201 pounds, ran a 4.63 second 40-yard dash, completed 19 repetitions on the bench press, completed a 36 inch vertical jump, and a 122 inch broad jump.
The Dolphins could absolutely consider McKinney with the 18th pick. They also hold the 26th pick, so they could chance McKinney still being on the board eight picks later if there is someone else they want to target at 18. Assuming they manage to land McKinney in the selection process, Miami may have the perfect answer to the loss of Fitzpatrick, using the pick they received from the Steelers for Fitzpatrick, to select a “Swiss Army Knife” player from Fitzpatrick’s school.