General manager Mike Maccagnan talks about how the Jets will approach free agency, on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
There’s a?chance Alabama defensive back, and New Jersey native, Minkah Fitzpatrick?will still be on the board when the Jets pick sixth overall in April’s draft.?
Now, many Jets fans are likely rolling their?eyes at the idea of picking another defensive player in the first round. And we get it. The Jets need tons of help on offense and they haven’t selected an offensive player in the first round since they took Mark Sanchez fifth overall in 2009.?
But hear us out.?
Fitzpatrick,?who played his high school football at Jersey City’s St. Peter’s Prep, was regarded as one of the best defensive players in college football last season. So imagine what the Jets’ defense might look like if they paired him in the secondary with rising stars Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, who both showed plenty of promise in their rookie seasons.
If the Jets drafted Fitzpatrick, 21, they would have three top-tier defensive backs at the very beginning of their careers — Maye turns 25 next week and Adams is 22.?
There would be some concerns, however.?
Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick (29) gestures to the crowd at the Alabama Crimson Tide National Championship Celebration at Bryant-Denny Stadium.?(Photo: Marvin Gentry, Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports)
Fitzpatrick played safety at Alabama. But most talent evaluators believe that he’s versatile enough to play any defensive back position in the NFL. Fitzpatrick said at the NFL Combine that he wanted to prove to teams that he could do it.
“I [my workout]?will show people I have the hips and feet of a corner, also the IQ and the tackling ability of a safety,” Fitzpatrick told reporters in Indianapolis on Sunday. “Then I think going into the draft, [teams] know I can play multiple positions at a high level. Not just playing [the position] but also at a high level.”
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Even if the Jets bring back Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine, they still need depth at cornerback.?Fitzpatrick, who would likely start his first game in the league — just like Adams and Maye — says his greatest strength is playing man-to-man, which would fit perfectly in Todd Bowles’ defense which relies strongly?on man coverage.
Fitzpatrick said he’s met with a lot of teams at the combines, but didn’t get into specifics other than to say that different teams asked about him playing in different spots.
“Some teams talked to me about playing corner,” Fitzpatrick said. “Some teams say inside corner or start at corner and go inside, go back and forth and learn two and some say safety. It just depends on the team.”
Still, picking Fitzpatrick could be risky. Adams and Maye are off to a good start in their career, but it’s too early to call them sure things. If Fitzpatrick struggles as a rookie, and Adams and/or Maye take a step back as a sophomore, it could be disastrous for the secondary.?
But if the Jets solve their quarterback problem during free agency — or there isn’t a quarterback on the board that they like at No. 6 — Fitzpatrick could be the way to go.