Bears Draft Preview: Bears May “Roll” With Fitzpatrick If He Lasts At No. 8

Ryan Bukowiecki covers the Chicago Bears and the NFL for WARR; Each week leading up to the NFL Draft (April 26-28), Ryan and Ken Davis from “The D & Davis Show” offered a scouting report on possible targets for the Bears at No. 8 in the first round, this is the final one, read their previous reports — Denzel Ward, Quenton Nelson, Tremaine EdmundsDerwin James

Minkah Fitzpatrick is another name on the very talented list of defensive backs in the class of 2018.

To many Fitzpatrick is the best and will be the first defensive back off the board. Fitzpatrick sure has a lot going for him, he did not shatter records at the combine but still put up solid enough numbers to back up his high quality tape. Fitzpatrick was all over the field at Alabama, he would routinely get matched up against the opposing teams best receiver, ballhawking as a safety, or coming off the edge as a blitzer.

If Fitzpatrick’s services were needed in the run game, then he was put in the box because of his ability as a tackler. Fitzpatrick also started as a freshman in 10 games which is rare for the Crimson Tide. Fitzpatrick will most likely play free safety but he has skills as a corner and the tenacity to play in the box. The other impressive thing about Fitzpatrick is his leadership and intangibles. There are comparisons of Fitzpatrick’s intangibles to that of Jamal Adams from last year’s draft.

A very talented prospect with versatility, Fitzpatrick will become an instant starter for whomever drafts him. Take a look at the scouting report for Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Combine results:

  • 40 yard dash – 4.46 (Tied twelfth out of all defensive backs)
  • Bench press – 14 (Tied tenth out of all defensive backs)
  • Vert Jump – 33” (Tied sixteenth out of all defensive backs)
  • Broad Jump – 11’ (Tied twelfth out of all defensive backs)
  • 3 cone drill – Did not participate
  • 20 yard shuttle – Did not participate
  • 60 yard shuttle – Did not participate

Strengths:

  • Playmaker, shines in big games
  • Has all the tools to be a rangy safety that can come up and make plays
  • Can be used as a safety, nickel corner, or nickel linebacker
  • Attacks the ball and ball carriers
  • Really good blitzer coming off the edge

Weaknesses:

  • Can be over aggressive in tackling and coverage
  • Has to work on his footwork and hips in coverage
  • Needs to develop more patience
  • May not be a corner and only a safety

Bottom Line:

Minkah Fitzpatrick is considered one of the top guys in this draft because of his combination of experience and playmaking ability.

Watching the film on Fitzpatrick is fun because of his attitude and competitiveness, he simply shows a professionalism with his focus and effort. Fitzpatrick really shows it all, he may not have graded the best at the combine but he tested well enough. Most general managers and coaches want to draft players that live, think and dream about football, that’s the kind of player Fitzpatrick is.

Whichever team that drafts Fitzpatrick, they are getting a future leader of your secondary (at the minimum) and an instant starter day one. Projected in many mock drafts as a top ten pick.

Fit with the Bears:

The Bears found a safety duo in Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos that solidified both safety positions, which is something that has been a challenge for the Bears over the past decade. The list of safety combinations was like the list of quarterbacks for the Cleveland Browns, endlessly long and painful.

Jackson and Amos have played like legit NFL caliber players at their positions, but all together has only provides sparks of special so far, Jackson in particular has made some big plays for the defense and obviously can’t be judged too harshly on a technical level since he was a rookie in 2017.

On the other hand Amos has had plenty of chances to show his stuff, he is a good tackler and is okay in coverage but he is not a play-maker, with only one career interception to his name (and that one was an absolute gimme). Drafting Fitzpatrick would be exciting for the Bears defense. The leadership at each level from Akiem Hicks, Leonard Floyd and Fitzpatrick would be great and Fitzpatrick could be used all over the field. In past scouting reports it was noted how defensive coordinator Vic Fangio could use a versatile player like Fitzpatrick, he would add elements that Amos cannot.

One last caveat, both Fitzpatrick and Jackson played as a duo in college at Alabama. The two of them will already have some experience playing together and Jackson can help translate the Bears defense using terminology from the Alabama defense. Now Fitzpatrick doesn’t quite fit the athletic profile of the previous first round picks by Ryan Pace, but if he is the selection then the Bears pass rush, secondary and defense overall gets an instant impact player.

Ken’s Second Opinion

Minkah, Minkah, Minkah — certainly this defensive backfield spark plug is one of my favorite players in this draft, for no other reason than I’m a ROLL TIDE guy, but I’ll include little if any bias in my breakdown.

One thing we know about Minkah is he is a champion-level performer, another is that he is versatile. After a terrific freshman season STARTING at corner on a Nick Saban team and winning a National Title, Minkah moved to safety his sophomore year, when his former teammate, and current Bears safety, Eddie Jackson went down. Funny thing is, over a year later I wonder if that Jackson’s injury was a gift or a curse for Minkah.

Look, Minkah is stiff in the hips (feel free to study that as much as you feel comfortable doing so), so I’m not sure if his professional future was ever as a lock down corner back. As it may turn out, playing safety at such a high level in his sophomore year opened Pandora’s Box for the kid. That process turned Minkah into a “super tweener,” and “super” is key here. Where as with a regular tweener you may have trouble putting him in a set spot, with this tweener its more like he is so good you want to Swiss army knife his play.

Unlike Derwin James, Minkah can be used as an over the top safety more often than not, even though like James he can easily play on the line as a additional linebacker. Unlike James, I think Minkah could star as a nickel corner with his tremendous intensity and fantastic ball hawking skills and that translates to the pro level — add to that the fact he has consistently taking interceptions back to the house.

Minkah can drive towards the ball and he  hunts the quarterback down on corner/safety blitzes. It’s unusual to start on a Saban team as a freshman and ball out. Saban has mentioned Minkah as perhaps being the best player he has ever coached. That isn’t faint praise from Saban who has rolled out future all-pro defenders for decades. Minkah is a leader and can help set a positive direction in any team’s defensive back room. Chances of him being a bust are likely minimal.

As far as cons go, Minkah isn’t a lockdown corner, he’s quicker than he is fast. As I mentioned earlier he is tight in his hips. Recently his stock has dipped slightly as teams mostly desire a player with a clearly defined position, he’ll need to improve on deep ball recognition when primarily playing safety.

Overall, Minkah will add to the recent legacy of Alabama defensive backs coming into the NFL, he’ll be a baller and a huge plus for any team. I don’t think his versatility will become a hindrance as in defensive coordinators struggling to seek a use for him, this guy will be easily adaptable to whatever is needed of his defensive assignment.   

Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanbski and Ken @ThatsDavis; Follow We Are Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and on Facebook under We Are Regal Radio

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