Minkah Fitzpatrick was highly touted for his versatility in the secondary, but how will the rookie fit into the mix with the Miami Dolphins?
On draft night in April, many players had their stock’s impacted by an unpredicted wave of teams desperately grabbing quarterbacks prematurely. One of the first to slip was 2017 Thorpe and Bednarik award winner Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick played everywhere for Alabama during his time in Tuscaloosa. Just in 2017 alone, he lined up at five different defensive positions. Those being slot corner, linebacker, edge, safety, and outside corner.
Fitzpatrick’s versatility speaks volumes to his high football IQ. He’s capable of this because of his rare ability to understand defensive schemes at an elite level.
However, Fitzpatrick is not your typical jack of all trades defensive back. While he shifted from position to position, he was able to play each at an elite level.
Many questioned if Fitzpatrick’s lack of a true position would hurt his draft stock. Inevitably it ended up driving it up because of how easily he can be placed into any team’s lineup at any secondary position.
Physically, Fitzpatrick posses the build of an elite corner and safety. At 6’0″ with 9 3/8 inch hands, he has the size to have strong ball skills in one-on-one situations. He also shined at the combine with a 4.46 40-yard dash time.
Fitzpatrick’s most dominant position is slot corner. He has the movement skills to keep up with slot receivers, and the strength to alter their routes off the line.
Now as a member of the Dolphins, Fitzpatrick fits nicely into their lineup. As a defensive unit, this team is very young. With players like Raekwon McMillan and Charles Harris running the show, this defense will need to do a lot of developing, but will be scary good in the future.
A year ago, Miami fell right in the middle at 16th in total yards allowed per game and passing yards allowed per game. This comes as no surprise with players like Reshad Jones and Xavien Howard lining up in the secondary.
As a result, Fitzpatrick will play a lot of slot corner and be a featured piece in their nickel package. Some fans might gripe about wasting a first rounder on an inside cornerback, but that position is becoming increasingly more important.
Passing has dominated the NFL as of late, and nickel corners are on the field almost every down.
Fitzpatrick will see a ton of snaps in 2018. Newly promoted defensive coordinator Matt Burns will have a ton of fun using Fitzpatrick. You should expect to see him gain experience at three different positions.
Statistically, Fitzpatrick might not light up the stat sheet with tackles. A realistic expectation for him will be in the 50-to-60 range. However, we could see a shocking interception total at the end of 2018. During his 2016 season at Alabama, he hauled in a whopping six picks.
His biggest impact will come from his ability to shut down opposing slot receiver. Do not be surprised if Fitzpatrick’s name is in the discussion for the best inside cornerbacks in 2018.