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2018 NFL Draft Profile: Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick was the best defensive player on the best team in 2017; you do the math.

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Here’s your devalued Alabama 1st round pick of 2018.

Draft boards had Fitzpatrick (rightfully so) going as high as #4 for Cleveland’s second pick of the 1st round, but since the Combine, where he did very well, some having him falling out of the top ten.

Last year, it was Jonathan Allen. This year it’s Fitzpatrick.

Granted, we don’t know for sure that he’ll fall out of the the top ten, but apparently being very good at all positions in the secondary is a knock.

Give me the corner from Ohio State instead. HE’S the answer.

(It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything and obviously I have a few issues to unpack so bear with me for the following analysis)


The Athlete

Day one.

That’s all you need to know about Minkah Fitzpatrick.

He came into Alabama fall camp in 2015 (wasn’t even an early enrollee) and solidified a spot in Nick Saban’s complex pattern-matching defense, strolling out as the Tide’s nickel corner its first game against Wisconsin that year.

And what’s followed is a career that has assured him a spot in the canon of famed Crimson Tide players.

9 career interceptions, 4 pick sixes, 2 fumble recoveries, 171 total tackles, 16.5 TFLs and 5 sacks.

While that first stat may look paltry, think about the fact that Fitzpatrick was literally everywhere on the field at any time in 2017.

He was a corner, he was a safety, he was an edge rusher, he was an inside linebacker. And he made all of the calls on the field.

Look at that second stat, though. Almost 50% of his interceptions were taken to the house. And, believe me, they all looked pretty.

Dude is scary fast on the field and, I promise you, that doesn’t look apparent during a 40-yard dash.

If you want to see the playmaker, take a gander at his game against Arkansas in 2016.

As a whole, the Tide secondary whiffed that evening against the Razorbacks, allowing a Bret Bielema team to rack up 400 passing yards.

Fitzpatrick, for the most part though, was all over it.

He gets the fabled hat trick in this game, including a 100-yard pick six that current Chicago Bear Eddie Jackson made look oh so fun on the way back.

If you want to pick apart his game, Fitzpatrick can lose men in coverage across the middle. It happened to him several times that evening and on Florida’s first offensive drive in the SEC Championship game that year.

Look how he flies to the ball, though. You never really see him too badly out of position. And he’s having to do it playing multiple positions. In 2016, he was tasked by Saban and former ‘Bama DC Jeremy Pruitt with playing edge corner when the Tide were in base 3-4, playing “star” DB when they were in nickel and playing safety for half of the season when Jackson went out with an injury.

One of the sport’s true secondary gurus, Saban, trusted Fitzpatrick much in the same way he trusted Rolando McClain or CJ Mosley. Saban essentially gave him the keys to the defense and Fitzpatrick drove it very well.

If you’d like a sampling of where all Fitzpatrick lined up in 2017, take a look at the Clemson game from the semi-final.

Even in the first minute, you will notice he lines up as an outside linebacker, an inside linebacker and in the slot. Because of Clemson’s offense, Fitzpatrick was essentially tasked with helping the front seven in this game.

This is what he did all season long.

As I continue to unpack ye ole issues, I realize Denzel Ward is an accomplished corner with true edge cover abilities and I get that’s what NFL teams are looking for.

I wouldn’t classify Fitzpatrick as a “Jack of all/Master of none” type, though.

He will be a coordinator’s dream because of his constant work ethic, coachability, team-first mentality and general affable demeanor that won’t cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in bail money.

He’s a great football player and any of you schmucks in the league would be lucky to have him!


Projection

Jonathan Allen was severely burned by about 15 teams last year, so I know it’s possible, but I don’t think the Bucs at #7 will be able to pass him up.

Check the local news later on that evening if he doesn’t, though.