The San Francisco 49ers have been connected regularly to Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, but questions do remain as to the role he could play. Fitzpatrick played nickel back and safety at Alabama, with the majority of his time coming in the “star” (nickel) and money-backer (dime) roles.
Fitzpatrick was on ESPN’s NFL Live program on Thursday, and he got a chance to discuss what he wants to do in the NFL. He said he prefers playing in nickel, and he told Jeff Saturday that he would prefer to play cornerback over safety in the NFL. You can watch the video above. The comments with Saturday are at the very end.
While a lot of his experience comes primarily covering slot, he has shown the ability to cover both. Blackout52 put together a scouting report on Fitzpatrick that covers his overall abilities. SB Nation’s Ian Boyd offered some thoughts on his versatility, and particularly his ability in the slot. And over at Fourth And Nine, Eric Crocker gushed with praise.
The model for how you use Fitzpatrick is Charles Woodson’s Green Bay days. Move him around and match him up with the opponent’s best weapon.
The 49ers could very well decide linebacker is the way they have to go in light of Reuben Foster’s off-field issues. But if they are looking “best available” when No. 9 rolls around, Fitzpatrick makes a lot of sense.
On a side note, I don’t think Fitzpatrick is thinking about his option year and free agency yet, but playing cornerback vs. playing safety does have a big financial difference. Cornerbacks earn more than safeties. As a first round pick, his fifth year option will be determined by the position he plays in his third year, and the cornerback tender has been $3 million higher than the safety tender. It might have nothing to do with this, but I thought it was worth noting.