While many thought the Dolphins would draft a young quarterback to battle with injured incumbent Ryan Tannehill, Miami decided to go a different way.
Perhaps fueled by the fact it has to contend with Tom Brady twice a year, Miami elected to select versatile Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick in the first round of the NFL Draft Thursday night.
Fitzpatrick is the first defensive back Miami has drafted in the first round since it selected Vontae Davis in round one in 2009.
The draft, which is being held in Arlington, Texas for the first time in league history at the Dallas Cowboys’ mega-palace AT&T Stadium, will continue Friday – for rounds two and three – and conclude Saturday – with rounds four through seven.
There was one major mitigating factor that likely went into Miami’s decision to take Fitzpatrick: all four of the quarterbacks that were considered the crown jewels of this year’s QB class had already come off the board by the time the Fins were on the clock Thursday night.
Cleveland through everyone for a loop when it took Oklahoma quarterback and 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall. Miami’s AFC East rivals New York Jets and Buffalo Bills drafted their quarterbacks of the future in USC’s Sam Darnold at No. 3 and Wyoming’s Josh Allen at No. 7 respectively. The Arizona Cardinals made a draft night trade with the Oakland Raiders to jump right in front of the Fins to take UCLA’s Josh Rosen No. 10 overall.
Whether Miami – unsuccessfully – tried to jump into the top 10; or sat back hoping one of those four quarterbacks fell to them, or whether they even wanted to draft a quarterback this year at all – they still got one of the best overall players available in this year’s class.
The 6-foot, 205-pound Fitzpatrick was a four-year star for the Crimson Tide – contributing early in his career as a slot cornerback before moving to safety and becoming one of the premier defensive players in the country.
He has shown the ability to make game-altering plays – holding Alabama’s career record for interceptions returned for touchdowns (4) – while also proving himself to be a consistent force in the defensive backfield with back-to-back seasons being named an All-American and winning both the Bednarik and Thorpe awards – given to the player considered the best defensive player and best defensive back, in college football, respectively.
The Dolphins needed help all over their defense and bringing in Fitzpatrick means Miami has shored up its secondary by pairing the young star with Pro Bowl veteran safety Reshad Jones.
While Jones should continue to thrive in his role of “back end captain”, Fitzpatrick gives the Fins and defensive coordinator Matt Burke a defensive back to match up with tight ends and bigger receivers.
Opposing tight ends had their way against the Dolphins defense this past season – catching a league-high 94 passes against them in 16 games. Opposing quarterbacks completed 70 percent of the passes on which they targeted tight ends.