Alabama Football: Do NFL teams understand how special Minkah is?

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Minkah Fitzpatrick
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Minkah Fitzpatrick /

Alabama football fans know Minkah Fitzpatrick is special even if he isn’t a specialist. Do NFL teams understand his value to a defensive unit?

It is possible that despite NFL arsenals stocked with analytical tools, teams don’t understand how to value all-time Alabama football great, Minkah Fitzpatrick. How is that possible? It is possible because it is near impossible to measure Minkah’s greatest strengths.

By their nature, intangibles are difficult to assess. Confidence, leadership, accountability and emotional intelligence is valued by NFL execs but only through their best hunches about a draft prospect’s character.

Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of a few players whose intangibles are unquestioned. His work ethic, attention to detail, commitment to excellence and leadership ability have been well documented. How much did Minkah influence the Alabama football team? Stephanie Apstein of explains,

"Teammates refer to Fitzpatrick as “Coach Saban’s son,” because he’s the only person whose performance reliably makes the famously stone-faced coach smile.“He’s the standard of the program,” says junior running back Damien Harris."

Michael Weinreb described the symbiosis between Minkah and Nick Saban.

"Fitzpatrick is the intellectual soul of Saban’s defense, the closest thing Saban has to a proxy on the field. Fitzpatrick can play every position in Alabama’s defensive backfield, and he generally knows the complete mechanics of Saban’s defense, whatever the formation."

Versatility a plus and a minus

Because Minkah has not concentrated on just one position in college raises some questions with NFL teams. If a team specifically needs a safety or a cornerback, is Minkah the best draft prospect at either position? His exceptional versatility for Alabama football impresses NFL teams, but it also makes Minkah a bit of a non-traditional pick.

No competent draft expert believes Minkah is anything but a first-round selection. But he may not be the first secondary player chosen in the 2018 NFL Draft. Minkah and former FSU safety, Derwin James are projected as high as the No. 7 pick, held by Tampa Bay. From the No. 7 selection to the No. 15 selection, Minkah, James and former Ohio State cornerback, Denzel Ward will likely be chosen.

In pursuit of Greatness

Picks in that range from 7-15 are very lucrative for players. There is a drop-off in money with 15th pick getting more than $7 million less than the 7th pick. The Fitzpatrick family had their home almost totally destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Both Minkah’s parents at one point worked multiple jobs so he could attend a prep school. Minkah was a recipient of free schools lunches. The family knows hard and need.

Despite those life experiences, Minkah will be thinking about more than money on Draft Day. Much like Nick Saban, Minkah seeks clarity. His obsession with purpose goes back to his childhood. The smart team drafting him will get a young man who by the age of 12 had already thrown aside childish things. From the story,

"“I just think if you’re going to do something, you should be great.”"

Next: 2018 NFL Mock Draft

Alabama football and greatness is well represented by Nick Saban and Minkah Fitzpatrick, and others. Can Minkah be replaced by someone on the 2018 Crimson Tide roster? We will save that hard question for another day.