As the NFL Draft steady approaches, Niners Live takes a closer look at Alabama’s safety Minkah Fitzpatrick; should the 49ers draft another safety (assuming the 49ers don’t trade down)?
Why are we here?
The 49ers have several safeties already under contract for 2018; Adrian Colbert, former 7th round pick (aka the “Punisher”, FS), Jacquiski Tartt (aka the “Missile” with extreme violence, SS) who is heading into his fourth season and in a contract year, and Jimmie Ward (FS/SS/CB and Nickel back) playing on his fifth-year option, worth $8.5 million guaranteed. As well as a young, promising (pre-season fan favorite) safety in Chanceller James, who I and the 49ers like, just sitting in the reserve bullpen.
Looking at Fitzpatrick‘s career production
Fitzpatrick stands at 6’1”, and weighs 202 lbs. In his three-year career at Alabama (42 games played under his belt) he’s amassed 171 total tackles, 16.5 for a loss, five sacks (1.5 in 2017), 24 passes defended, nine interceptions (returning four for touchdowns), and two forced fumbles.
Taking a Closer Look at safety Minkah Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick is a Swiss army knife (a jack of all-trades) with range. He can play nickel back in the slot, in the box as a linebacker or in sub-packages, as a single high safety or as a strong safety. He possesses natural instincts with ball-hawking skills, while displaying speed (4.46 40-yard dash at the combine) and athleticism; he’s a natural born leader. He plays with passion and love for the game of football, and it shows on the field with his intensity and tenacity, as he tackles/hits with conviction and authority. He’s good at blitzing, he’s a playmaker, has a high football I.Q and comes from a winning program (his tape is special).
I don’t like him as a corner though, I like him as a safety; he’s able to showcase his versatility, athleticism, and ball-hawking skills, as previously mentioned. According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick played just 13 snaps as a perimeter cornerback in 2017. He may not have the fluid hips and pure cover skills to play corner on full-time basis, but could he cover big tight ends/wide receivers? Yes.
Important to note: he wasn’t beaten for a reception longer than 31 yards in 2017.
Should the 49ers draft another safety (assuming the 49ers don’t trade down)?
Fitzpatrick is a talented prospect no doubt, and most fans will probably say yes, let’s add another safety to the group (especially since he’s better than what the 49ers have right now on the roster). That all may be true, but how much better or an upgrade is he, is the question? Enough to pass up on a real position of need, like pass-rusher? The NFL is a passing league and the NFC West features division foes Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, and Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson (who is an escape artist by hidden trade). Is anyone planning to take them down anytime soon? No pass-rusher, “no rings.”
The 49ers are already stocked up at this position, while Tartt is up for an extension and Colbert will be the projected starting single high safety. The 49ers could address more depth later in the draft if they so choose to. There’s also the potential need to address the middle linebacker position, based on the Reuben Foster situation. To be continued.
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, the home of the faithful fan and analyst from an objective/analytical lens, of course. Often imitated, but never duplicated.
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Content Creator, player break down specialist, Co-Editor, Sequoia Sims