Much of the debate about the Green Bay Packers’ potential selection with the 14th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has swirled around whether the team would be better off picking a pass rusher or a cover man. And when it comes to the secondary, only a few names really get a lot of attention.
Derwin James. Denzel Ward. Josh Jackson.
However, this week’s mock draft from Dan Kadar of SB Nation adds another name to that mix: Minkah Fitzpatrick. In his mock published on Monday, Kadar projects Fitzpatrick to fall to the 14th pick, where he sees the Packers and general manager Brian Gutekunst being all too happy to snag him:
At this point in the first round, Fitzpatrick would be hard to pass up. To get a potential top five pick at No. 14 would be a steal for the Packers. Fitzpatrick can play down in the slot, drop back into deep coverage, and even play a little bit of dime linebacker.
The scenario that he sees allowing Fitzpatrick to fall to 14 involves a big run on early quarterbacks, with four of them going in the top five picks. He then projected Ward and James to go back-to-back at 10 (the Raiders) and 11 (Dolphins), and a fifth quarterback, Lamar Jackson, landing in Buffalo at 12.
Fitzpatrick’s role in Green Bay might be similar to that of Micah Hyde in a Dom Capers defense or Tyrann Mathieu’s role with the Arizona Cardinals: part-time slot corner, part-time safety, and as Kadar mentioned, the occasional snap at linebacker. However, Fitzpatrick’s ceiling is much higher than Hyde’s was in that role, and the change at defensive coordinator from Capers to Mike Pettine could mean that he would be used more effectively.
If Fitzpatrick was largely a slot corner, that would solve one significant question for the Packers’ defense, which has typically used a heavy dose of nickel and dime personnel groupings. Assuming that Josh Jones becomes a full-time inside linebacker, the Packers could line Fitzpatrick up at safety in base with Kevin King and Tramon Williams at the boundary corner spots, then drop him into the slot in nickel and dime with Kentrell Brice coming onto the field. He could even play boundary corner in a pinch as well.
In fact, Fitzpatrick would probably be the most versatile defensive back on the team since Charles Woodson in his prime. That is admittedly high praise indeed, and not intended to suggest that he would match Woodson’s Defensive Player of the Year credentials, but it is meant to illustrate the ways in which the coaching staff could utilize him.
The assumption in most cases is that Fitzpatrick is drafted in the top ten later this month, but if he finds himself still on the board at 14, it is tough to imagine Gutekunst passing on him, regardless of who else remains available.