Alabama third-year junior Minkah Fitzpatrick could be one of the more interesting defensive backs in the 2018 Draft if he decides to enter early. Why? Because he has starting experience, as well as strong play at both the corner and safety positions.
Fitzpatrick played his high school football at St. Peters Prep in Jersey City, New Jersey, and was rated as a 5-star prospect, with offers from every top school in the country. He chose Alabama over Florida State and Ohio State.
As a true freshman he had multiple starts playing as the third corner in the Alabama sub package. Though he missed one game with an injury, Fitzpatrick still finished the season with 45 total tackles, 2.0 sacks and two interceptions. In 2016 he again was playing the third corner position, before being moved to safety following a season-ending injury to starter Eddie Jackson. Fitzptrick started all 15 games in 2016, finishing the season with 66 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack and six interceptions. He returned two of those interceptions for touchdowns, including a 100-yard return versus Arkansas.
Fitzpatrick has excellent corner size at about 6’0 – 205 with speed in the 4.47 range. His overall athleticism is very good, with top flexibility in his hips, very quick feet and excellent overall body control.
Making the switch to safety is much harder than many think, and to be able to play either corner or safety at a high level speaks to Fitzpatrick’s outstanding overall talent. He is a very instinctive player with quick reactions. In man coverage he can mirror receivers through moves while keeping good position. In zone he is alert and seldom lets an opponent get behind him. Fitzpatrick is excellent at keeping plays in front of him. His ball skills are second to none as he tracks the ball very well, has soft hands and transitions very quickly.
For such a young player, Minkah is strong in run support with the strength to shed blocks and make tackles. Not only is he a good hitter, but he wraps well. Over his first two seasons, Fitzpatrick was a mainstay on special teams as a cover guy. His ability to break down and tackle in the open field is excellent.
Personally, I feel that Fitzpatrick would be better off at safety at the next level. With his size, instincts and ball skills he is a natural at free safety. Finding a safety with top man-cover skills is difficult, and because of that he will be that much more valuable to NFL clubs. Fitzpatrick has the whole package and he will only get better as he gains experience. Playing in Alabama’s pro-style defensive scheme only helps him.