INDIANAPOLIS -- Safety?
Former University of Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the first defensive back projected to be selected in the April 26 draft, is a puzzle piece who easily fits into all three spots.
But what would he choose if he was told he could only play one position?
"I would say outside corner," Fitzpatrick said during a phone interview Thursday. "You can move from outside to inside, so I think I would do good job with both of those."
That's where the Indianapolis Colts come into play. They have the No. 6 pick and North Carolina State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb and Notre Dame offensive lineman Quentin Nelson play positions of more pressing needs for the Colts.
What if Nelson and Chubb are gone and the Colts don't move back any further in the draft?
Cornerback is also a position of need for Indianapolis after not re-signing Rashaan Melvin during free agency and releasing Vontae Davis during the 2017 season. There's no clear No. 1 cornerback on the roster out of the group that features Quincy Wilson, Pierre Desir, Nate Hairston and Kenny Moore.
Fitzpatrick won the Jim Thorpe Award (nation's best defensive back) and Chuck Bednarik Award (nation's best defensive player) after finishing with 60 tackles, eight passes defended, an interception, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble last season. Fitzpatrick, Charles Woodson and Patrick Peterson are the only players that have won both.
Being versatile is one of Fitzpatrick's strongest attributes. He was recruited as an outside cornerback coming out of high school and moved to slot corner before the 2015 season. Eventually, Alabama played him wherever they needed him, including safety or having him cover the opposing team's best receiver. That's how good Fitzpatrick is. He hits like he's a safety and his 4.46 speed in the 40-yard dash and good footwork give him the ability to play cornerback.
"I would say being able to combine my athleticism, my technique and my IQ," Fitzpatrick said when asked what allows him to play multiple positions. "If you don't know what everybody is doing around you, then you won't know what you're doing. I just try to learn the system and then combine my athleticism and learning the technique and paying attention to the real, real small details that most people miss out. Those are real important in learning the new position. That really helped me when I moved from position to position."
Where Fitzpatrick plays in the NFL depends on which team selects him. He said he's met with Tampa Bay (No. 7 pick), Chicago (No. 8) and San Francisco (No. 9). Two of the teams, according to Fitzpatrick, told him he would be a "plug-and-play" player with them, meaning he could end up at safety, outside corner or in the slot for them. The third team said he would play cornerback for them. The Colts, depending on health, have Clayton Geathers, Malik Hooker, T.J. Green and Mathias Farley at safety.
"(It's) hard to pattern (my game) after one player," Fitzpatrick said. "But I always looked at the top guys in their position. That would be Patrick Peterson at corner. Malcolm Butler in the slot. Eric Berry at safety. Earl Thomas at safety. Watching them, breaking down game film with my coach.
"That's really how I learned how to play safety was just watching a whole lot of NFL film with my defensive backs coach and coach (Nick) Saban. We just [started] breaking down different guys and watching the technique, and I just did the same thing when I was out on the field."