Minkah Fitzpatrick Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Tremendous coverage safety
Dangerous play-maker in the deep part of the field
A true single-high safety
Covers a ton of ground
Superb at covering receivers over the top
Fast enough to run with speed receivers
Good vision, eye discipline
Can play nickel corner
Can play man coverage on slot receivers
Can play man coverage on receiving tight ends
Asset to defend big receivers downfield
Solid run defender
Good tackler in the open field
Will get physical as a tackler
Can play near the line of scrimmage
Capable of being the eighth man in the box
Can drive and fill in the box
Always around the ball
Fluid; can flip his hips and run
Good special teams player
Should be able to play quickly
Has been a starter at corner
Quarterback of the defense
Experienced and successful against good college talent
Lacks ideal height
Lacks ideal speed
Summary: Alabama head coach and defensive backs coach Nick Saban isn't against playing freshmen or underclassmen, but they have to be special players to beat out other highly recruited players who are older, more experienced, and more developed physically. Fitzpatrick was so good though that he forced his way onto the field as a freshman, totaling 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns - for the year.
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. In 2017, Fitzpatrick racked up 60 tackles, one interception and eight passes broken up. He played well, covering receivers downfield, staying around the ball, and helping out his cornerbacks. The junior had a dominant game against Texas A&M to help Alabama avoid an upset. He was very impressive in pretty much every other game he played in, including contests against Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
Fitzpatrick is a dynamic defender in the middle of he field as he is extremely well-rounded. What really sets Fitzpatrick apart is he has fabulous instincts that put him in position to impact the game. He is very smart and is extremely fast at reading his keys to get in position to make plays.
With his skill set and versatility, Fitzpatrick looks like a real weapon for a pro defense. He can play the roaming safety role in the middle of the field, with his instincts putting him in position to make plays on the ball. Another great attribute that Fitzpatrick possesses is being able to play nickel corner. He is good in man coverage to line up over the slot receiver and prevent separation. Fitzpatrick also can play man coverage on tight ends, and his NFL defense is going to love having him to help neutralize the elite receiving tight ends of the NFL.
Fitzpatrick also is a threat to take the ball away downfield. He tracks passes extremely well and shows nice ball skills. For a defensive back, Fitzpatrick has excellent hands. He is a real threat to create interceptions and make a game-changing play for his defense. With his instincts and skill set, Fitzpatrick is able to be the deep free safety center fielder who locks down the deep part of the field. It is hard to find single-high safeties, but Fitzpatrick has that ability. He also is a dangerous blitzer.
In the ground game, Fitzpatrick can drive downhill and tackle in the box. He is very adept at making open-field tackles and preventing offenses from breaking big plays. He flies around the field and is always around the ball.
Fitzpatrick also is a willing run defender who will come downhill into the box to make tackles. He doesn't hesitate to get physical in the secondary and dish out some hard hits. For the NFL, it might help him to gain 5-10 pounds of muscle to help tackle pro backs and receivers.
Here is how one scout summarized Fitzpatrick, "He's a prototype free safety [for] this day and age, can drop over [the] slot and play man, pro off hash, or roam as center fielder. Good size, speed, athletic ability, high football IQ, play-maker."
For the NFL, I think Fitzpatrick has Pro Bowl potential as a versatile safety who can do a lot things and erase mismatches. I polled sources from around the league, and the consensus had Fitzpatrick as one of the elite six prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Tyrann Mathieu. Some sources have told me they think that Fitzpatrick is a bigger version of Mathieu. The instincts, play-making skills, versatility, and being a mismatch eraser are why they felt that Fitzpatrick is similar to Mathieu.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Washington, Los Angeles Chargers, Seattle and Dallas
There probably isn't a head coach, general manager, or defensive coordinator in the NFL who wouldn't want Fitzpatrick on their team. Thus, many teams without a perceived safety need could consider taking him.
The Browns need a free safety to pair with Jabrill Peppers. Their safety play was a huge weakness in 2018, and Fitzpatrick could be a quick upgrade for Cleveland. He might make sense for the Browns' second selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay could use a safety upgrade next to Justin Evans. Fitzpatrick would be a big addition to improve one of the more vulnerable pass defenses in the NFL.
San Francisco could consider a safety in the first round. Eric Reid is in free agency, and the organization could use a free safety presence on the back end.
Washington could consider looking for a safety upgrade if the team doesn't have a good quarterback prospect get to its choice in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Chargers have had a hole at safety since Eric Weddle departed in free agency. Fitzpatrick would give them a play-maker on the back end of their defense. Dallas also is in need of a safety upgrade after losing Barry Church in free agency. It is hard to see Fitzpatrick getting to Dallas or Los Angeles, so these teams would need to trade up for him.