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Minkah Fitzpatrick: Future NFL All-Pro

Cedric Mason - Touchdown Alabama Magazine

Weaver’s Web is an opinionated column by one of Touchdown Alabama Magazine’s lead writers, Jake Weaver.

Should he choose to leave college after the 2017 season, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick will likely land atop many NFL Scout’s boards and a handful of pre-draft mocks. Whether he goes in the top 10 or in the bottom 10, first round or seventh round, the end result will be no different.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has the tools in the shed to be a shoo-in as a future All-Pro.

That’s not to say he won’t have to work. For Fitzpatrick, though, that’s never been an issue anyways. All the kid does is work.

As a true freshman, he saw limited action at cornerback in the Tide’s nickel and dime sub packages. Despite not being on the field at all times, he racked up 45 total tackles, 3.0 for a loss, two pick-sixes, and 10 pass deflections. In addition, he swung the momentum around in a huge match-up with the 8th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs by blocking a punt that he then picked up for a score.

Fast forward a year and Minkah was moved from cornerback to safety in Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. As expected, Fitzpatrick excelled at his new position in 2016.

He was a prominent starter for the Tide last season and played in all 15 games. He tallied 66 total tackles – 5.5 for a loss – seven deflections, a forced fumble, and six interceptions – two of those returned for touchdowns.

According to April’s spring practices, Minkah may be returning to cornerback for the 2017-18 season, a position he has said he feels most comfortable in. It is also the position most NFL Scouts will project him to play at the next level.

Measuring in at 6’1″, 200-pounds, Fitzpatrick has a prototypical body to play defensive back in the NFL. He measures up well to former LSU DB Patrick Peterson, current All-Pro cornerback for the Arizona Cardinals. Peterson and Fitzpatrick both share similar body styles, both measuring in at that 6’1″ and just over 200 pounds.

More so, Peterson has made a name for himself in more ways than one as he is an established punt/kick returner as well. In the same fashion, Fitzpatrick has shown the ability to get the ball in the endzone with his four pick-sixes in just two seasons. Those four touchdown returns went for 55 yards, 33 yards, 14 yards, and an entire 100 yards. When the ball is in his hands he switches gears, and switches quickly.

Even without the ball in his hand, his wingspan and coverage skills match-up well with that of Peterson’s as well. He plays the middle of the field well when at safety, but his man-to-man skills he flashed as a true freshman are highly reminiscent of the former Baton Rouge star. He plays with elite hip movement, allowing for him to stay tight on receivers without the fear of being beat left or right.

Nevertheless, what I’ve always found to be the key of Peterson’s success is his underrated abiltiy to keep his eyes locked onto the ball when it’s in the air. For a cornerback, there are so many things they have to be ready for on each play. One of the hardest obstacles for defensive backs, in college and in the pros, are the increased number of pass interference penalties being thrown. As the amount of physicality allowed continues to dwindle, the job becomes harder and harder. Having elite ball skills like Peterson is the only way to help neutralize that.

Minkah Fitzpatrick has those ball skills, too. He keeps his head on a swivel and locates the ball when it’s in the air. He has been one of the least penalized players in college football through two seasons, and a lot of that has to do with simply his eye level. Aside from just minimizing penalties, this allows him to go up with receivers and high point the ball along with them.

Minkah Fitzpatrick || "Veteran Sophomore" || Alabama Highlights || 2016

Though it may take him a few years to get comfortable in the NFL, do not be surprised to see Minkah rise to the top. He may never get to the level of a guy like Patrick Peterson, but he will at least be close.

To every team in the NFL with issues in the secondary, mark my words, Minkah Fitzpatrick is the guy you need. Next stop: Pro Bowl.

Jake Weaver is a lead writer for TD Alabama Magazine and Bama Hoops Hype. You can contact him via phone at 205-612-5060, or on Twitter @JWeaver_TDALMag

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