DAVIE — There was a lot of talk about chess pieces and Swiss Army knives at Miami Dolphins headquarters on Thursday night.
And with good reason.
Minkah Fitzpatrick is a weapon. And the Dolphins need more players who can put an opponent in danger, because they aren’t quite sure where they’re coming from.
“You’ve covered him a lot,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier reminded me on Thursday night, knowing how many Alabama games you cover when you work the college football beat at the worldwide leader.
Oh, yes. Yes, I have.
The thing I remember most about Fitzpatrick is how mature and impressive he was as a true freshman, immediately impacting a national championship team. This is a guy who garnered the ultimate respect from Nick Saban, because of his preparedness and competitiveness.
And yes, because he flat-out makes plays.
What I remember about Fitzpatrick is how he was liable to line up anywhere on the field. Think Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu. It is important that Fitzpatrick is built like a safety but can effectively cover receivers, tight ends and running backs.
He is a new age player. Miami needs more new age players.
Defensive coordinator Matt Burke had rightly been salivating at the thought of how he might use Fitzpatrick if he, miraculously, fell to Miami at 11. And make no mistake, this was a minor miracle.
It is easy to say Miami did not have a positional need at safety, with highly-paid Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald paired at the position last season. Burke and the Dolphins will figure it out.
And if right now, as you read this, you aren’t quite sure how Jones-McDonald-Fitzpatrick will work, consider that perhaps on any given Sunday, the Patriots’ Tom Brady, Jets’ Sam Darnold or Bills’ Josh Allen may not be sure what exactly they’ll be lining up against.
This is a passing league. And yes, the Dolphins are in trouble if they regress when it comes to stopping the run. Especially with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh gone. And Stephone Anthony is currently the team’s third linebacker. But more than anything, Miami needed to add an impact player.
Miami needs to start to think outside the box. Miami needed to draft a player with the potential to be a Pro Bowler. So to draft a player with All Pro potential with the 11th overall pick is a stunning coup.
Fitzpatrick is that talented. Remember the impact safety Jamal Adams had for the Jets last season? No reason Fitzpatrick can’t have a similar impact this season in Miami.
Fitzpatrick has a championship pedigree. He has received acclaim for his work ethic and character.
Miami could truly not have expected the first 10 picks to go any better. Surely available Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was tempting. He would have filled a position of need. He is the son of a former Miami Dolphin.
But credit Grier for taking the very best available player, and it wasn’t even close.
Miami needs to improve its offense and its defense, but it is quite likely Miami’s defense will now be better, despite the loss of Suh. Consider that since the season ended, Miami has essentially added defensive end Robert Quinn (via trade), linebacker Raekwon McMillan (return from IR) and defensive back Fitzpatrick (via draft).
Without even knowing who else Miami may add in the draft and free agency, Fitzpatrick puts Miami into net-plus territory.
Fitzpatrick can run fast, is not afraid of contact, and can create big plays, as evidenced by his four interception returns for touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick is the type of player who can directly change the course of a game, the type of player who is often found on winning teams.
Now, Miami needs to add more guys like him.