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April Blue Chips – Part II: Minkah Fitzpatrick

Another week, another blowout loss for Miami. As the disastrous 2017 season circles the drain for another five weeks, the focus shifts to the long term improvement of the organization. With a top-10 draft pick more likely by the week, the Dolphins figure to be in a position to draft a blue chip player.

After allowing 18.5 points per game over the first six weeks of the season, the Miami defense has plummeted back to earth. Escorting the Ravens, Raiders, Panthers, Bucs and Patriots to 40, 27, 45, 30 and 35 points respectively, has raised some concerning red flags about this side of the ball.

The two most important positions for a defensive turn around are edge rusher, and perimeter cornerback. Later in the week, we will look at North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb. For now, the focus is on Alabama corner, Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Nick Saban sends a small village to the NFL every spring, and his forte is in coaching up defensive backs. The position has been hit or miss at the next level, but Fitzpatrick might be the rarest breed of all.

Capable of playing any position in the secondary, Fitzpatrick is getting most of his 2017 work as a safety and slot corner. He fits the mold of a Miami defensive back for a variety of reasons:

1.) He fits the prototype – At 6’1’’, he has the length Miami requires at the position.

2.) Position flexibility – Miami is not privy to dime packages, but that could change. Fitzpatrick can play inside, outside or deep in zone coverage.

3.) He is a willing tackler – All good defenses have corners that can tackle on the edge. This might be Fitzpatrick’s best trait, and that’s saying something.

4.) Scheme diverse – His work in short zone coverage (quarters) shows his ability to pull the trigger and explode out of a backpedal. A rare combination, Fitzpatrick can also play man-up and challenge routes right at the line of scrimmage.

Wherever Alabama needed him, he accepted the challenge – and played at a high level.

In the 2016 National Championship game, he drew Hunter Renfro in the slot. He was tasked with taking tight end Jordan Leggett man-up. Against Arkansas earlier that season, he played boundary corner back. In that game, he was an absolute nuisance picking off two passes, creating havoc as a blitzer, and taking away one side of the field regularly.

Fitzpatrick’s technique, quick-twitch ability and aggressiveness makes him a fit for any system. He’s capable of playing off, or playing press. He can play underneath zone coverage. He can man-cover in the slot and he can blitz the edge. Frankly, it’d take less time to talk about the things he can’t do.

I’ll just let the GIFs do the talking.

 

Fitzpatrick has nine career interceptions, a handful of special teams tackles and a highlight reel packed full of impact plays. As far as impacting games at the NFL level goes, few positions carry more weight than a corner back.

If drafted by Miami, Fitzpatrick could be a 100% snap player from day one. He will cover kicks, he can kick inside and play the slot, he can be used as a chess piece in sub-packages (dime safety, slot corner) and he can play the perimeter.

Fitzpatrick uses a combination of burst out of his backpedal, sound technique and length and strength to make him scheme diverse.

Miami entered 2017 with a log-jam at the cornerback position. Tony Lippett was lost for the year in training camp, Byron Maxwell was cut, and Xavien Howard hasn’t put it together.

Fitzpatrick would be the best corner back on the roster just as soon as his name were hypothetically called on draft day.

Part 1: Saquon Barkley

@WingfieldNFL

 

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Travis is a lifelong Dolphins fan that bases his writing on film study and analytical statistics. His passion for football is rivaled only by his passion for journalism. Specializing in all things Miami Dolphins and quarterback play, Travis also owns and operates Thirdand10.com, a QB grading site.

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