Minkah Fitzpatrick was a consistent playmaker at Alabama. Can he continue his dominance at the next level?
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the eight weeks leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, we dive into the defensive back position. Today, we look at Minkah Fitzpatrick from the University of Alabama.
Following an all-around impressive high school career at St. Peter’s Preparatory School in Jersey City, New Jersey, where he played both wide receiver and defensive back, Fitzpatrick decided on the University of Alabama to further his football career. The five-star recruit (by ESPN.com) and fourth-ranked corner back in the nation coming out of high school earned immediate playing time as a freshman. Fitzpatrick started 10 of 14 games en route to 45 total tackles, two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns), 11 pass breakups, and two sacks.
Fitzpatrick followed up his decorated freshman season with an even more impressive sophomore season, where he collected 66 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a whopping six interceptions, returning two for touchdowns. Arguably his most notable performance came against Arkansas, where he returned an interception 100 yards and broke the Crimson Tide’s record for longest interception return for a touchdown.
Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick (@minkfitz_21) Career Highlights— JustBombsProductions (@JBP_Official) February 22, 2018
At 6‘1 202 lbs, Fitzpatrick can play corner or safety at the next level. He’s a playmaker with the ball in his hands & is a physical tackler.
Full Video 🎥: https://t.co/CXXsjo1vMq pic.twitter.com/YNosSu5mCl
Fitzpatrick’s numbers dipped a bit in the interception department during his junior year, as he recorded just one all season. However, he still accumulated 60 total tackles and 1.5 sacks, while raising his tackles for loss to 8.0 (up from 5.5 in his sophomore season). Moreover, Fitzpatrick’s presence was constantly felt by opposing offenses, as he was a force all over the field.
Arguably one of the more versatile defensive backs in this draft class, Fitzpatrick has a nose for the football, as illustrated by his nine interceptions and 24 passes defended over his three-year collegiate career. He has the ability to come down and play the slot or drop back in high safety coverage. Furthermore, Fitzpatrick has exceptional footwork that allows him to easily adjust to the football, while possessing elite open-field speed (4.47 40-yard dash time at 2018 combine).
NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2018
Perhaps his most defining attribute is his unbelievable awareness; Fitzpatrick’s knack for finding the football proved to be lethal for opposing offenses (four of his nine career interceptions were returned for touchdowns). Furthermore, Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to be physical and attack the line of scrimmage in run support and presents a threat as a reliable blitzer off the edge.
‘Bama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick reading the pre-snap alignment and just deciding it’s not gonna happen. pic.twitter.com/HXMV9U6rLF— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) February 16, 2018
Although there’s not to much to hate about Fitzpatrick, like every player, there are concerns. Fortunately for his draft stock and potential landing spots, Fitzpatrick’s are minimal. He lacks natural cover talent to play cornerback full-time right now, and he often plays off receivers, allowing space for separation. Also, while his awareness near the line of scrimmage is nothing short of magnificent, he is less dependent as a deep safety in coverage.
Where Minkah Fitzpatrick won in coverage in 2017 pic.twitter.com/pk3CNZYQFc— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 18, 2018
In addition, Fitzpatrick has the tendency to play with too much urgency, often putting himself out of position to finish tackles. To be an effective, all-around defensive back at the next level, Fitzpatrick must learn how to play within himself and be more patient when pursuing ball-carriers and receivers.
Fitzpatrick is one of the more versatile and pro-ready players on the defensive side in this draft. He dominated SEC offenses over the last three years, earning First-Team All-SEC and consensus All-American honors (2016, 2017), and if he can limit his unforced errors he has the potential to be an effective, every-down defensive back in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick’s draft stock has varied over the last couple weeks, with the possibility of the Browns taking Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick arising. Cleveland could still opt to draft him with the fourth overall pick, after their recent trade for quarterback Tyrod Taylor. However, if they decide to pass on Fitzpatrick, other teams in need of a quality safety and true playmaker, such as the Buccaneers and Redskins, could be waiting at picks seven and thirteen, respectively.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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