Minkah Fitzpatrick expected to be taken early in first round of NFL Draft


The show goes on for Alabama football.


Even when the season and spring practice has ended, the Crimson Tide still stays in the spotlight.


Former Alabama players will find their professional destinations this weekend at the 2018 NFL Draft. Alabama has up to 15 players who could be chosen if everything falls into place. That would break a national record set by Ohio State when 14 Buckeyes were chosen in 2004.


A more likely mark to shoot for is Alabama’s school record of 10 players chosen in a single draft, which was set just last year.


The group is headlined by defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who is unanimously projected as a first-round pick and could be the first defensive back taken. No Alabama defensive back has ever been chosen higher than No. 9 overall (Dee Milliner in 2013, Antonio Langham in 1994). Fitzpatrick could go higher than that.


“It would be an honor to be the highest drafted DB to play under Coach (Nick) Saban,” Fitzpatrick said in an email to The Tuscaloosa News this week. “Coach has coached some great DBs so it would be an awesome accomplishment if I could be drafted the earliest.”


Fitzpatrick and linebacker Rashaan Evans are among the 22 players that will attend the draft in Arlington, Texas.


“For me it was an easy call,” he said. “It has been something that I have watched for years now. So once I received the invitation it was a no brainer.”


Fitzpatrick said his immediate family will attend with him. He’s planning on wearing a suit that pays tribute to his family for the draft.


“On draft night I’m partnering with Collection by Michael Strahan and JCPenney,” he said. “I’m wearing an off white double-breasted coat with black details. The lining of my coat has a quote created by family and a picture drawn by my older sister.”


Fitzpatrick appeals to teams with his versatility, athleticism and intangibles. He was a two-time All-American at Alabama in 2016. He also won the 2017 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s best defensive player.


“I think Minkah is sort of a rare commodity in the fact that he’s such a gifted athlete and has such a great personality,” Saban said on ESPN’s Get Up! on Wednesday morning. “He’s such a competitive guy that’s a pleasure to coach in everything that he does. He’s really an overachiever for a guy that’s a fantastic athlete. That’s a rare combination, I think, in this day and age. He has high goals and aspirations for what he wants to do, and I think he meets all the critical factors for what you look for in a DB. He’s a good tackler, he has great ball skills, can play man-to-man. I think he’s going to be a great player for someone.”


Evans, defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive tackle are also widely projected as first-round picks. Defensive back Ronnie Harrison is also a first-round pick in some projections.


Reach Ben Jones at ben@tidesports.com or 205-722-0196.



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