The 2018 NFL Draft is less than a week away and teams are starting to finalize their draft boards. During the off-season, the Oakland Raiders overhauled their secondary and will be home to some unfamiliar faces. The team looks to improve with the addition of a handful of veterans along with the much-anticipated return of Gareon Conley, who went through an injury-riddled rookie season. Minkah Fitzpatrick is considered one of the best defenders in the draft and would be considered a steal if he fell to the Raiders.
The Oakland Raiders Should Draft Minkah Fitzpatrick
Another Alabama Product
Despite the vast amount of talent Alabama fields, Fitzpatrick started in 10 games as a true freshman. The following year he notched a productive 66 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and six interceptions. In his final season at Alabama, Fitzpatrick totaled 60 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and one interception.
Fitzpatrick was well decorated as he finished his career by becoming only the third player in college football history to win the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe awards in the same season. Fitzpatrick ended his final two years of his collegiate career with consensus All-American honors.
A Versatile Defender
Fitzpatrick’s game revolves around his uncanny ability to diagnose plays and knack for making plays on the ball. While at Alabama, Fitzpatrick moved around frequently, playing their “Star” (nickel corner) role to playing the single-high safety. His versatility didn’t end in the secondary, as he often played around the line of scrimmage. Fitzpatrick flashed dependable tackling skills whether it be in the open field or setting the edge when placed in the box. Nick Saban has publicly acknowledged Fitzpatrick’s meticulous film study and work ethic on more than one occasion.
New defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s style of defense incorporates plenty of coverage and blitz disguises which makes Fitzpatrick a perfect fit. Fitzpatrick’s versatility is invaluable and lets him play numerous positions in the back end. Selecting Fitzpatrick might push Karl Joseph down in the box on most snaps as Fitzpatrick’s range and awareness makes him an ideal candidate to play the center-field safety role.
After initially agreeing to coach at Colorado State, Derrick Ansley decided to change course and join Jon Gruden’s staff. Ansley spent the past two years coaching defensive backs for the Crimson Tide. Last season, Ansley’s secondary ranked first in pass efficiency and touchdowns allowed. Ansley will assume the same position with the Raiders and could reunite with Fitzpatrick. Alabama has several other defensive backs entering the draft, but none as highly touted as Fitzpatrick.
By the time the Raiders pick, there is a real possibility that Fitzpatrick might be off the board. But they should not hesitate if he is still available. Drafting Fitzpatrick would help establish a culture predicated on rigorous preparation and mastering fundamentals. The Raiders might have other positional needs of urgency, but Fitzpatrick’s overwhelming natural playmaking ability could be too much to pass up. The prospect of adding Fitzpatrick to a retooled secondary should be a reason for optimism as the Raiders look to rebound after a disappointing year.
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