By: Preston Tiffany
DB: Minkah Fitzpatrick - #6 Overall on NFLDS - #9 Overall to SF in Mel Kiper’s Latest Mock Draft
Placing at just over 6 feet tall and 204 lbs, Fitzpatrick was labeled around the Alabama Program as “Coach Saban’s son.” That title isn’t thrown around at just anyone though, and it is evident how highly the greatest college football coach of all time thinks of his former star defensive back:
Fitzpatrick has done it all in his three years playing for the Crimson Tide, lining up at boundary corner, in the nickel, and at free safety (his primary position this past season), making him an extremely versatile prospect for NFL teams. Some evaluators label Minkah as “just a nickel,” but in today’s NFL where defenses are in the nickel more than 75% of the time, this should not be taken as a negative. Additionally, more and more NFL teams are starting to line up their #1 receivers on the inside (Odell Beckham, Antonio Brown, Michael Thomas… Just to name a few), which increases the value for having an elite nickel even more.
What makes Fitzpatrick so special is he has the athletic profile to line up all over the field. Physically speaking, Fitzpatrick places in the 70th and 89th percentile for CB height and weight, with above average arm length at 31 ¼”, and runs a 4.46 forty (65th percentile for CBs). Will being a boundary corner be Minkah’s best position in the NFL? That is yet to be determined, but many around the NFL are using Minkah’s versatility as a hindrance on his draft stock, when in reality, it should only improve it.
At the end of the day, smart, hard working, highly athletic, versatile, Nick Saban coached defensive backs don’t grow on trees, and whether it be at free safety, in the nickel, or at a corner on the outside, Fitzpatrick can make any defense significantly better the day he steps on the field.
EDGE: Harold Landry - #19 Overall on NFLDS - #25 Overall to TEN in Mel Kiper’s Latest Mock Draft
One of my favorite prospects in the entire draft, Harold Landry, decided to go back to school for his senior season after a dominant junior campaign. He posted 22 tackles for losses and 16.5 sacks in 12 games. Landry’s senior season didn’t treat him as well, posting only 8.5 tackles for losses and 5 sacks in 8 games. However, Landry sustained a high ankle injury early in the year, and it cleary limited his play throughout his entire senior season.
Landry was one of the stars of the NFL combine, placing in the 87th percentile in the forty yard dash, 95th percentile for the three-cone drill, and 91st percentile for the short shuttle for EDGE rushers. These numbers placed Landry as a Force Player, which is an algorithm that places EDGE rushers in either a “Force Player,” “Mid-Tier,” or “Non-Force Player” categories. Almost every elite pass rusher you can think of is a Force Player (Von Miller, Khalil Mack, Justin Houston, and more). Basically, a 1st or 2nd round FP is 8.21 times more likely to be retained by their original team than a non-FP by their 6th NFL Season, so the bust rate lowers significantly if a prospect hits these numbers.
According to Marcus Mosher (of Bleacher Report), only six players have hit a sub 4.65 forty time and averaged over 1.6 TFL in their best collegiate season. Landry is one of those six, along with:
Pretty nice company, right?
Overall, Landry is an extremely fluid, quick twitch athlete that has the potential to be a premier EDGE rusher in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. A pro comp that seems very fitting is Vic Beasley, who was also considered more of an elite athlete than technician when coming out of Clemson. Beasley only had four sacks his rookie year in Atlanta, and then burst onto the scene in his second year, leading the NFL with 15.5 sacks. Expect the same type of trajectory with Landry, where he may need a year of NFL coaching before taking the next step to becoming an Pro Bowl level player, but once he gets it, look out.
OT: Connor Williams - #24 Overall on NFLDS - #36 Overall to IND in Mel Kiper’s Latest Mock Draft
Just a mere 8 months ago, Connor Williams was widely regarded as a top 3 overall prospect, and projected to be a bookend left tackle to build a NFL franchise around. The 20 year old junior out of Coppell, Texas started at LT in all but one game for the Longhorns in his first two years in the program. Also, earning a first-team freshman All-American honor in his first year in the program and a consensus first-team All-American honor as a sophomore. However, the problem’s in William’s draft stock came in his junior season, as he sustained a torn meniscus in Week 3 against Southern Cal. That injury kept him out for 9 weeks, and even lingered while he was on the field to close out the season, where it left some questioning his play strength and overall mobility at the tackle spot. That tape still has left a bad taste in many evaluators mouths, and has folks around the NFL questioning if Williams is a tackle or a guard at the next level. So I’m here to tell you that Williams is a unique player that has the tape (when healthy) to be a really good tackle or an elite guard at the next level.
Justis Mosqueda (of Bleacher Report and Setting the Edge) showed the correlation between OL that hit:
The lengthy group of OT that are in that club include the All-Pro tackles Trent Williams, Lane Johnson, Tyron Smith, David Bakhtiari, and Jack Conklin, just to name a few. There are only three tackles in this class that have a projected 4th round grade or better that are in this elusive club, and one of those is… Yes, you guessed it, Connor Williams, with a 1.71 10 yard split, 4.63 short shuttle, and a 7.83 three-cone.
NFL teams may choose to weigh heavily on William’s poor four full games of film (two of which he played injured) in 2017, but if they choose to do so, they will certainly regret it. Over his first two years at Texas, Williams has displayed that he is a technician when it comes to playing on the OL that places with great hand placement, quick feet, and has extremely fluid hips that makes him a prototypical NFL left tackle.
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