BREAKING: 2018 NFL Draft: Miami Dolphins select Minkah Fitzpatrick in first round

Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick is Miami’s first-round pick. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

DAVIE — The Miami Dolphins selected Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick with the 11th pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Fitzpatrick, 6-foot, 204 pounds, can play safety or outside cornerback or slot cornerback. The selection of Fitzpatrick lessens the need for Miami to add a premium third linebacker, though they still could add another in the draft or free agency.

Fitzpatrick has extraordinary versatility, competitiveness, range and speed. He easily could have been selected much higher.

“He was a targeted player,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. “Smart. Loves football. One of Nick Saban’s favorite players. Been a very good player for three years. Unique. He creates turnovers. He has had touchdown returns. We felt we could not pass on him.”

Fitzpatrick will start out with Miami at safety. He has covered receivers since his freshman year at Alabama and Miami believes he can easily cover tight ends. Fitzpatrick said he’s physical when he covers tight ends, because he knows they can’t run by him.

“He’s like a Swiss Army knife,” Grier said. “It’s a unique skill set.”

Fitzpatrick said he’ll play wherever the team needs him on a week-to-week basis.

“The coaches at Miami feel I can play multiple positions,” he said. “I can be a chess piece.”

This means that Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald’s roles moving forward will be determined. It is possible McDonald could be utilized more in a hybrid linebacker role.

Miami left Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea on the board.

“Miami is a great team,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s going to be an awesome opportunity.”

Fitzpatrick flashed his championship rings from Alabama during his draft news conference from Texas.

“Every single day we want to fly to the ball in practice so we can do it in the games,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said he grew up an Eagles fan, and safety Brian Dawkins was one of his favorite players.

The Dolphins entered Thursday night needing to finish this draft with a starting outside linebacker, tight end and a rotational defensive tackle. It is not an ideal situation, as teams much prefer to be able to focus more on best available player than needs.

Miami was hoping a dynamic linebacker such as Roquan Smith of Georgia or Edmunds would fall to them. Smith was drafted by the Chicago Bears with the 8th overall pick. Edmunds was available but the Dolphins felt Fitzpatrick was too talented to pass on.

The Dolphins were also very open to the quarterback market, if Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Josh Rosen would have slid.

The Dolphins were particularly enamored with Mayfield, who was chosen first overall by the Cleveland Browns, and Allen, who was chosen 7th overall by the Buffalo Bills. Darnold was selected by the New York Jets third overall. Rosen went 10th overall to the Arizona Cardinals.

Grier said Miami spoke with teams about moving up or down, but all along felt the top quarterbacks would be gone before their selection.

Among the other players Miami may have considered, had they been available: Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson (6th overall, Colts) and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward (4th overall, Browns).

Before the draft, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said: “I don’t want to be picking 11th. I know these guys don’t want to be; but it is what it is. We’re 6-10. We’re going to take advantage of it and draft good players. We’ll work through it and find the right person for us.”

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