clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Dolphins take Minkah Fitzpatrick in the 2018 NFL Draft. What you need to know.

Whether he’s a cornerback or a safety, he’s a star.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to Miami. The Dolphins took the do-everything Alabama defensive back with the No. 11 overall selection in the NFL Draft on Thursday.

Fitzpatrick is going to fit in perfectly. Then again, he’d have fit in perfectly anywhere, because his diverse skill set makes him useful in any defensive scheme. He’ll start immediately and begin as a frontrunner for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Fitzpatrick can play all three defensive back positions.

Alabama listed him as a safety during his junior and final season there in 2017. But he played more at nickel cornerback than anywhere else. The year before that, he was often an outside cornerback. He thrived in every role and could do the same at the next level.

In any other era, it would be unusual for a team to invest such a high pick in a nickelback. But the proliferation of spread offenses means defenses now use three corners more often than they don’t, and by playing there, Fitzpatrick’s able to do a lot of things.

“It’s a different type of position,” Fitzpatrick told SB Nation at the NFL Combine. “It’s kind of a combination between corner and safety. You can make calls like a safety. You can make calls like a (corner). You can rush, you can fill the holes and the gaps like a safety. But then you can cover man to man on pass downs when you need to, just like a corner. So I like playing both corner and safety, so I think slot corner’s just the optimal position.”

Fitzpatrick’s defensive teammates at the combine mostly said nickel was his best position, though one teammate preferred him at safety for selfish reasons.

“I like having him over my back,” former Tide corner Levi Wallace said.

It’s probably best to think of Fitzpatrick as a hybrid:

The Tide liked to keep him in man coverage and drop a safety down to handle the run, but Fitz was capable of taking on blocks and fitting the run. The more physical requirements of playing inside are not daunting to him.

NFL teams need guys who are smart and skilled enough to move around and cover the most dangerous opposing receivers. Fitzpatrick can do that as well as anyone in the draft.

Those skills will all serve him well in the league.

Fitzpatrick was the best player on the best defense in the country in college. He even impressed Nick Saban, his hard-to-please head coach.

Before the 2017 season, Fitzpatrick’s greatness got Saban cussin’:

(That might be the nicest thing Saban has ever said aloud about any human.)

He won two national championships in his three seasons at Alabama. He was more important in the Tide’s ‘17 run than in 2015, but he contributed to both.