2018 Stampede Blue NFL Draft Guide Player Profile
Colts Young Secondary would Burst with Talent if Ballard Selects Fitzpatrick
There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between the secondary and the defensive line. The more pressure the front seven can generate on opposing quarterbacks, the more likely the secondary will be able to take advantage of mistakes and create turnovers. Similarly, the better a secondary does in covering receiving options down the field, the longer the front seven has to land sacks, create negative plays or force fumbles. This has become even more true in the modern NFL, which relies heavily on the passing game to win.
While Chris Ballard has mentioned that he believes there are pass rushers to be had in the draft in the middle rounds, I believe that this is a relatively weak group compared to an average draft class. The drop-off from a player like Chubb, Landry, or Davenport is pretty considerable. It may be true that the second, noticeably lower, tier of players is relatively large but there are few immediate difference-makers as pass rushing specialists in this class. This could make addressing the secondary a reasonable alternative early on.
Whoever selects Minkah Fitzpatrick will get a player who can play all over the field in the secondary. He is fast enough and rangy enough to cover the deep middle of the field as a safety, he is twitchy enough to make plays in shorter zones, and is could very easily move to the outside and play corner in the NFL. This flexibility isn’t just a function of his physical gifts either, he is a smart football player who learns quickly and can be prepared to play multiple roles in the same set of downs or on the same drive.
With Malik Hooker still recovering from an ACL and MCL tear, Fitzpatrick could easily play the deep middle zone. When Hooker returns, he will join a safety group that includes Matthias Farley and Clayton Geathers. At that time, Fitzpatrick could move to the outside across from Quincy Wilson or Pierre Desir. Imagine if the Colts have a completely healthy secondary. There would be more starting capable players on the team than spots on the field.
Safety — Hooker, Geathers, Farley
Cornerback — Fitzpatrick, Wilson, Desir, Hairston
This group would be young, athletic, and could provide the foundation for the Colts secondary for years to come. This is a group that teams would have to game plan for every week. It would make life easier for Sheard, Simon, Basham, and whoever else joins the team to put pressure on the quarterback.
It is entirely fair to say that one of the benefits to running a Tampa 2 zone defensive scheme is that you can potentially save on resources spent on the secondary. All-World athletes like Fitzpatrick require very early draft picks and with the first two picks going to the secondary in 2017, maybe adding Fitzpatrick is a bit of a luxury for the Colts. Still, if Ballard does pull the trigger, the secondary in Indianapolis could be a very dangerous group moving forward.