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2015 Dolphins Draft Picks
With all the Quarterbacks gone, the Dolphins were ecstatic to see excellent defensive talent drop as Minkah Fitzpatrick did. Kodos to the Dolphins in allowing the draft to play out and fight the urge to trade up for a quarterback, and this allowed the Dolphins the ability to grab Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick can play cornerback, safety, and even linebacker if needed. What this means is that for the first time since you can remember, you will not see a tight end streaking down the field wide open. Let that sink in your head. Also, he is an outstanding cornerback and a true playmaker.
Overall Football Traits
Safety Specific Traits
Cover Skills 2
Ball Skills 2
Run Support 2
1 = Exceptional2 = Above average3 = Average4 = Below average5 = Marginal
Fitzpatrick is an active run stopper who has an NFL build, closes well and plays with an edge. He's at his best lining up over the slot and playing close to the line of scrimmage. While he intercepted just one pass in 2017, he's a difference maker who picked off eight passes and returned four of them for touchdowns in his first two seasons at Alabama. He also finished third on the team with 60 tackles in 2017, including 8.0 TFLs and eight passes broken up.
He grades out as a high-level starter in the NFL and should win a starting job as a rookie. Expect Fitzpatrick to be a top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Fitzpatrick is an active run-stopper who has an NFL build, closes well and plays with an edge. He's at his best lining up over the slot and playing close to the line of scrimmage. Fitzpatrick grades out as a high-level starter in the NFL.
Draft Projection: Round 1
NFL Comparison: Antrel Rolle
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.
* Loves ball, lives ball
* Extremely competitive play demeanor with a history of showing up big in the biggest games
* Versatile chess piece with experience all over the field
* Can step right in and cover the slot, play high safety or handle nickel linebacker responsibilities
* Good feet with ability to transition backward and forward smoothly around the field
* Gets to top chase speed quickly
* Can become rangy safety
* Able to stick a foot in ground and drive to the ball
* Plays with "ball-man" vision of an off-ball defender in basketball
* Has awareness from zone to make loads of plays
* Has nine career interceptions and four pick-sixes
* Has downhill mindset as a hitter
* Plays off of blocks and into tackling position
* Dangerous blitzer off the edge
* Attacks line of scrimmage from high safety look in run support and welcomes physical challenges
* Special teams ace with 22 career coverage tackles
* Plays with some hip tightness that limits lateral agility in coverage
* May not have pure cover talent to play full-time cornerback
* Allows some separation out of breaks
* Feet are more quick than explosive when chasing receivers from the top of the route
* Still needs to improve his awareness when asked to play deep safety
* Has to learn to dial back urgency and play with more patience on the next level
* Comes in hot as tackler and will run himself out of position to finish
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
He can literally play any position back there. He's got free-safety range and I think he can match slots and tight ends. When you talk to Nick Saban about this kid, Nick Saban lights up. Where are you going to play him so he gets around the football more often? --Mike Mayock
1. MINKAH FITZPATRICK | Alabama 6001 | 204 lbs. | JR. Old Bridge, N.J. (St. Peter’s Prep) 11/17/1996 (age 21.4) #29
A five-star safety recruit out of high school, Minkah Fitzpatrick fell in love with football at an early age, leading his sixth grade Pop Warner team to the Pee Wee National Championship. He enrolled at St. Peter’s Prep (private school) and made an immediate impact as a freshman, despite dealing with off-field distractions after his family’s home was destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2011. Fitzpatrick, who played defensive back, running back, receiver and special teams, recorded 122 tackles and seven interceptions over his junior and senior seasons in high school, leading St. Peter’s Prep to a 11-1 record and New Jersey state championship in 2014 – teammates with Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush. Fitzpatrick was considered the No. 1 recruit in the state of New Jersey and joined Derwin James as the only two five-star safeties in the 2015 recruiting class. He bypassed offers from Florida State, Ohio State and several others to sign with Alabama. Fitzpatrick impressed from the moment he stepped foot in Tuscaloosa, earning an immediate role in the secondary and finishing with 45 tackles, 13 passes defended and two interceptions to earn multiple Freshman All-American honors. He started every game as a sophomore and contributed all over the secondary, posting career-bests in tackles (66) and interceptions (six) to earn First Team All-SEC and All-American honors. Fitzpatrick finished his junior season with 60 tackles, nine passes defended and one interception, earning First Team All-SEC and Unanimous All-American honors. He also took home the Chuck Bednarik Award (nation’s top defensive player) and Jim Thorpe Award (nation’s top defensive back), becoming the third player to win both (Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson). Fitzpatrick elected to skip his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
Football savant who wants to be great…proven versatility, playing at a high level at cornerback, safety and nickel…outstanding football intelligence and awareness…anticipates routes to gain a beat and close on the ball…composed footwork, fluid hips and easy acceleration to press and stay in-phase…excellent field speed and range…innate ball skills to disrupt the catch point and make plays…playmaker with the ball in his hands with nine career interceptions, including four pick-sixes (school record) and 274 interception return yards (second-best in school history)…steady tackler, staying low and using his length…strings out the run and closes the gap in pursuit…feisty hands to fight through perimeter blocks…above average blitzer with his burst, flexibility and closing speed…makes an impact on special teams with two career blocked kicks (one field goal, one punt) and routinely the first man down the field as the gunner on punt coverage…highly driven with off-the-charts intangibles, work ethic and leadership presence, pushing himself and teammates…professional mentality and not the type who will keep coaches awake at night…plays through pain without a drop off in performance, missing only one game in his career (2017 vs. FCS-level Mercer)…started 38 games the last three seasons at cornerback, safety and a hybrid nickel position.
Overaggressive when attacking routes, allowing seasoned route runners to set him up…needs to better play the ball once his back is turned…play strength is average and will find himself stuck to blocks near the line of scrimmage…room to clean up his run angles to finish open-space tackles…spent most of his college snaps in the nickel and lacks ideal experience as an outside cornerback…lacks ideal bulk on his frame, leading some to have durability questions – suffered concussion-like symptoms vs. LSU (Nov. 2017).
A three-year starter at Alabama, Fitzpatrick played the appropriately named “STAR” defensive back position in Alabama’s defense, a hybrid nickel cornerback role. There are six defensive back positions in the Nick Saban’s secondary and he played them all (Saban: “I don’t ever remember having anybody that’s played all the roles he’s played here and done it as well as he’s done it.”). A football lifer, Fitzpatrick is an extension of Saban on the football field and rarely gave up impact plays on tape due to his movement skills and smarts. He needs to clean up overaggressive bad habits, but he never stops looking for an edge. Overall, Fitzpatrick graduated from Alabama with a master’s degree in Saban’s defense, boasting the athletic versatility, conceptual instincts and flawless character to play any position in the secondary, projecting best as a nickel cornerback, who can make the transition to a full-time outside cornerback.
1st Round (#2 overall)
• Played just 13 snaps as a perimeter cornerback in 2017, the position that will hold the most value for him at the NFL level.
• Made 38 solo tackles in 2017, 23 of which were defensive stops, as he operated largely from the slot and around the line of scrimmage.
• Graded well in all facets of the game and had three-straight seasons of impressive PFF grades, culminating in an 84.8 mark this year.
• Wasn’t beaten for a reception longer than 31 yards in 2017.
• Allowed an NFL passer rating of 83.5 on 61 targets in 2017, but that same stat was just 37.8 the season before.
• Has been a versatile and effective player for Alabama in multiple positions, and has top-level size and athleticism
• Teams will need to project him as a perimeter cornerback. The traits and talent are there, but the experience is not. Can he be Jalen Ramsey?
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a playmaker anywhere he lines up on defense, but while that versatility was a plus in college, it presents a challenge to NFL teams lookingto take him high in the draft, because they need to identify exactly where he plays at the next level. The position that holds the highest value – perimeter corner – is the one that he has the least experience playing (just 13 snaps in 2017). He has excellent instincts, strength and on field communication, and will likely succeed somewhere in the NFL, but what position?
For the second year in a row, this (Safety) is one of the most talented groups in the draft, and some think at the top, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick could be a generational prospect. Fitzpatrick has the size, speed and athleticism to play either safety spot, cornerback and maybe even some linebacker, making him incredibly valuable in today’s NFL. He is equally adept at playing manto- man coverage or blitzing, and it is not a given depending on who drafts him whether Fitzpatrick will be primarily a safety or a cornerback, but he will most likely end up as a free safety and rover.
• Good safety size.
Very good athlete with speed, change of direction, quickness, flexibility and body control. Big-time playmaker. Has experience at both safety and corner. Can line up in the box, back deep, on the slot or even at corner. Effective pass rusher. Consistent tackler. Very good man coverage guy and an excellent zone player. Great ball skills and hands. As good as there is in this draft supporting the run. Can control a game with his play.
• Really none, but he’s not likely to break 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. Might need to get a little bigger to hold up against NFL talent.
WAY WE SEE IT
• A true junior,
Fitzpatrick was a top recruit out of high school who received significant playing time as a freshman in the Alabama subpackage. Moved to safety in 2016 when Eddie Jackson was injured. He’s been a difference-maker ever since. Not much he can’t do. Can line up in the box, on the back end, on the slot or even at wide receiver. Very good in both man and zone coverage. Great ball skills. Has nine career interceptions and has returned four of them for scores. Used as a pass rusher often and is very effective. Can play safety or corner at the NFL level and start right away at either. Future All-Pro. Better than Jalen Ramsey, who went No. 5 overall in 2016.
Fitzpatrick is arguably the most versatile defender in this draft, and he’s joining defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s somewhat traditional zone scheme. Will the scheme expand? Burke has made great use of veteran Reshad Jones’s unique blitzing ability. Fitzpatrick must be employed in those packages; he dominated as an edge blitzer in college. He can also slide down and cover the slot, presenting an option for replacing No. 3 corner Bobby McCain, whom some in the organization believe is rock-solid and others think doesn’t make enough big plays. Big plays shouldn’t be a concern with Fitzpatrick. It’ll be interesting to see where he operates in base situations as a rookie. Most likely, he’ll be interchangeable in centerfield and the box, like Jones, with whom he’ll pair for the next several years.
As more NFL offenses turn to versatile, movable, chess piece-type players to gain the upper hand, Fitzpatrick provides the antidote. He’s rangy and instinctive in centerfield, but is at his best coming down to match up with athletic tight ends and slot receivers. He excels as a blitzer, attacks as a run defender and has the character and football IQ to immediately become a leader in the locker room.