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NFL Draft 2018 scouting report: Minkah Fitzpatrick’s best role on a defense

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NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

Measurables

6’1”, 201 lbs

40-yd Dash: 4.46 seconds

Vertical Jump: 33-inches

Stats

2017: 60 Tackles, 1 Interception, 7 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble

2016: 66 Tackles, 6 Interceptions, 7 Passes Defended, 1 Forced Fumble

2015: 45 Tackles, 2 Interceptions, 10 Passes Defended

Awards

2017 First-Team All-American

2017 First-Team All-SEC

2017 Bednarick Award winner (best defensive player in college)

2017 Thorpe Award winner (best defensive back in college)

2017 Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Finalist

2016 First-Team All-American

2016 First-Team All-SEC

2016 Thorpe Award Semifinalist

2015 Freshman All-American

2015 Freshman All-SEC

Strengths

With legitimate 4.4 speed that shows up on tape, Minkah Fitzpatrick has the rare combination of effective range and instincts to be a dominant centerfield safety in the NFL. While he often played in the slot at Alabama, Fitzpatrick’s skillset best translates as a single-high safety where teams will get the most value out of him.

That being said, he also has the versatility to play in the box or slot cornerback at a high level depending on where he is needed. The All-American has a nose for the ball and is a physical tackler. On top of that, he is also a dangerous blitzer who effectively disguises his pass rushes. The Alabama star is as well-rounded a prospect as there is in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Fitzpatrick’s leadership is well-documented. As the captain of the defense, the safety set the standard for the program and was respected by teammates and coaches. He has the personality that can change the entire culture of a defense.

Weaknesses

Finding weaknesses in Fitzpatrick’s game feels more like nitpicking. There are times he could do a better job wrapping up tackles, but overall he is still strong in this area. While he is more than capable of playing man coverage, he shines when reading quarterbacks in the zone.

I will probably take some heat for such a small “weakness” column, but this is all I found. Fitzpatrick is that polished a player.

Verdict

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.

Pro Comparison

Malcom Jenkins

Fit with Raiders

After using early picks in back-to-back drafts to add Karl Joseph and Obi Melifonwu to the secondary, it is easy to rule out Fitzpatrick as an option for the Raiders at the 10th overall pick. Joseph played strong safety the past two years, but is more naturally a free safety which is where he excelled at West Virginia. This would hypothetically put Obi Melifonwu in the box where he can cover tight ends.

That being said, if Fitzpatrick falls to the Raiders, it could be tough to pass on a player of his caliber. Even if it means keeping Joseph in the box and playing Melifonwu in the nickel or possibly even trading him, I think you do it if you’re Oakland. Not to mention, Fitzpatrick could rotate at different positions if asked to do so.

Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson are the only other players in college football history to win both the Thorpe and Bednarick award in the same season. This is a player that can single-handedly change a team’s defense and secondary. Unless your defense currently has two Pro Bowl safeties, you draft him.