Alabama in the Pros

Minkah Fitzpatrick speaks on how Miami will use him in its secondary next season

© Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

He fell out of the top-10, but Minkah Fitzpatrick was the first defensive back selected in the opening round of this year’s NFL Draft. Fitzpatrick went to the Miami Dolphins as the 11th overall pick: a team under head coach Adam Gase that needs talent in its secondary. 

Aside from Xavien Howard (four interceptions) and Reshad Jones (122 tackles), there is a lack of high-end playmakers for Miami. Coming from the University of Alabama, Fitzpatrick brings a winning mentality as he was twice first-team All-SEC and consensus All-American in 2016-17. 

His performance last season – which included 60 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one interception – was good enough for him to earn both Jim Thorpe (nation’s top defensive back) and Chuck Bednarik awards through 13 games. 

A two-time College Football Playoff national champion, the New Jersey native spent his career at nickel (“Star”) and safety for the Crimson Tide. Despite generating nine interceptions – including four returned for touchdowns – the Dolphins will look to see where he fits best. 

During an interview on NFL Network’s Up to the Minute, Fitzpatrick went into how he would like to see the franchise use next fall. 

“When I talked to the coaches before I got to Miami, I ask them were they were going to start me off at,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday. “All they could say was that I am a football player. They said they would start me off at safety, might work me into some nickel, and if we need you at corner we will play you at corner. They said you will be either sideline to sideline or behind the defensive line. That is what they told me and that is what we have been working on.” 

Even with the National Football League’s need to have a direct fit at certain positions, Fitzpatrick has accumulated so much success in difference roles that the lone goal needed is just to get him on the field and watch him in action. He’ll face Tom Brady twice a year and two quarterbacks that were drafted ahead of him in Sam Darnold (New York Jets) and Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills). 

After recording nine picks in a 6-10 season in 2017, maybe Fitzpatrick is the missing link for a defensive backfield and a team overall that wants to make a serious playoff push.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

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