DAVIE — As general manager Chris Grier and the Dolphins set their board in advance of last month’s NFL Draft, they pegged Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick as a top-five talent. When quarterbacks filled up much of the top 10 picks, it looked like someone good would slip to the Dolphins, but Grier couldn’t imagine that many teams passing on Fitzpatrick.
“I didn’t expect Minkah to be there, to be honest with you,” he said. “For me, he was probably one of the top five or six players in this draft. As we got calls after the pick, other teams kept calling us telling us, ‘He was in our top five players in the draft.’ For us, the value at that point was surprising.”
The commotion in Miami’s war room was much different than what Fitzpatrick experienced at AT&T Stadium that night. He was unfazed as he watched teams skip him.
Fitzpatrick sat calmly at his table in the green room, decked out in a fresh white suit and surrounded by family, and enjoyed the scene until the Dolphins chose him at No. 11.
“I wasn’t surprised,” he said at rookie minicamp this week. “I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew I could go as early as No. 4 and I knew I could go as late as No. 32, so whatever happened, happened. I was just excited just to be there and I’m happy that the Dolphins picked me up.
“Anybody could have picked me and anybody could have passed up on me. So I was just talking to my family, talking to Coach (Nick) Saban, talking to everybody. Just enjoying the moment.”
No matter who took him or how long he waited, Fitzpatrick was intent on having a memorable night, and he certainly did that. While some of the top players opted to skip the event and watch on TV at home, he seems glad he went.
“We had gotten all dressed up and took some pictures at the hotel with my family and some friends, (then) they drove us over to the stadium,” he said. “We went to the red carpet, did a bunch of interviews on the red carpet and took some pictures with my parents and some of my friends.
“The whole night was incredible. It’s something that you really just dream about. I was just excited just to be there. The whole entire time, I was just taking it all in and just enjoying everything.”
After back-to-back seasons as an all-America selection for the Crimson Tide, Fitzpatrick joins a Miami secondary full of established and highly paid players.
At safety, the Dolphins appeared to be content going into the upcoming season with Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald as their starters. Fitzpatrick will likely have to beat out McDonald, whether that means outright claiming a starting job or playing so well that it allows Miami to trade McDonald.
The Dolphins have said they can play all three safeties together at times and could use different two-man combinations depending on which players fit best in certain situations.
There’s also a thought that McDonald could move to linebacker, which coach Adam Gase shot down Friday, though he closed that answer by saying, “You keep working guys at the positions that you think fit them best and then when things start sorting themselves out and you have to make an adjustment, you make it then.”
Those decisions are off in the distance for now. The Dolphins haven’t begun Organized Team Activities yet and training camp doesn’t start for more than two months.
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