Brian Flores may say that he ‘wouldn’t disrespect the game’ by tanking, but actions speak louder than words. The Miami Dolphins have strung together actions that have them on a one-way path for the first overall pick in the NFL draft come April, the latest of which has been to put their 11th overall pick from a season ago – Minkah Fitzpatrick – on the trading block.
Per ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Fitzpatrick is unhappy with his ever-changing role in the Dolphins' defense, and specifically, his increased role in the box this season. In Week 1 against the Baltimore Ravens, Fitzpatrick played 32 of his 48 defensive snaps in the box or as an edge defender. The other 16 snaps came at cornerback. He had a rough outing in his new role with an overall grade of 27.3, allowing all six of the targets into his coverage to be caught for 117 yards and three touchdowns.
Though versatility to play multiple positions was one of Fitzpatrick’s strengths coming out of Alabama, it appears that the second-year defensive back would rather have a defined role in the defense. When looking at his grades and coverage numbers, it becomes clear that position should be slot cornerback.
As PFF Lead Editor Austin Gayle wrote prior to the season, slot cornerback has been where Fitzpatrick has shined throughout his career. Last season, he recorded a modest overall grade of 61.9, but that number spiked to 79.3 when he lined up in the slot. He ranked first among all slot qualifiers in completion percentage allowed and passer rating allowed. It’s not as if that performance came out of nowhere, either. Dating back to his college days, Fitzpatrick has a proven track record of shutting down receivers in the slot. Among 93 Power 5 defenders with 400 or more coverage snaps in the slot from 2014 to 2018, no player picked up a higher coverage grade than Fitzpatrick’s grade of 90.5.
In a game where winning the slot battle is becoming increasingly important, a player with Fitzpatrick’s skill set that is in just the second year of his rookie contract should be enticing for plenty of NFL teams, especially these four.