The race for being the first overall defensive player selected in the 2018 NFL Draft is still very much up in the air. Without a dominant edge rusher stepping up via 2017 in-season performance, the focus may end up being on the most versatile defensive back in the nation.
Fitzpatrick, a true junior, has been a staple in the dominant Alabama defenses over each of the past three seasons. He is an equally effective cornerback and safety and with the way they use him, he legitimately projects to both spots in the NFL. His instincts and reaction times are off the charts, thus why the Alabama coaches try to put him as close to the action as often as possible. In coverage, Fitzpatrick can beat receivers up at the point of attack, stick to their hip pocket on underneath cuts, and run downfield with them. There is more than enough quick twitch to hang with the quickest of slot receivers and more than enough speed to run with deep threats. He has also proven to be a playmaker when the ball is thrown in the air, intercepting 6 passes in 2016 with plenty of return yards to boot.
This is the kind of defender any coordinator wants as their last line of support. He won’t ever back down from an opportunity impose his physical, hard hitting tackling style on the ball carrier. Some defenders simply have a way of making things happen no matter the situation. Get a kid like this in your secondary and all of the sudden the tide can change on multiple levels. While the potential of being a shutdown cornerback is attached to Fitzpatrick, he could have a similar impact on a defense the way Jamal Adams is having in New York. A force against both the run and pass and a player that an offense simply cannot avoid because of the versatility and different spots he can line up.