2018 NFL mock draft: Mel Kiper sends Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick to New York Jets

The closing of the NFL season typically marks the opening of NFL mock draft season. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. unveiled his first mock draft of 2018 Thursday, and his selection for the New York Jets at No. 6 overall might leave some fans grumbling.

Kiper sent Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Jets in his first mock draft.

Fitzpatrick might not be the name Jets fans wanted to hear, but he would address a need. The Jets are thin at cornerback and their best cover corner, Morris Claiborne, is set to become a free agent. Fitzpatrick played both corner and safety with the Crimson Tide, but he’d certainly line up at cornerback with Gang Green. Fitzpatrick recorded one interception, 60 tackles and broke up eight passes in 2017. He recorded nine interceptions during his three-year college career.

Here’s what Kiper said to explain his choice:

“Fitzpatrick is the top cornerback and safety in this draft,” Kiper wrote. “He could play either position. He was primarily a safety at Alabama, but he covered receivers in the slot and on the outside, and he consistently made plays. New York took safeties with its top two picks last year (Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye), so Fitzpatrick would be a corner for the Jets, who have an opening with Morris Claiborne a free agent this offseason.

“This is another spot to watch for one of the top quarterbacks.”

Speaking of quarterback, it’s important to note the top three quarterbacks in the 2018 class were off the board by the sixth pick in Kiper’s scenario. Josh Allen went to Cleveland with the No. 1 overall pick, Josh Rosen went a pick later to the Giants and Sam Darnold was nabbed by the Broncos one pick before Gang Green.

Fitzpatrick is a versatile talent and could fit in perfectly with New York’s budding safeties, Adams and Maye. Coach Todd Bowles clearly put an emphasis on having interchangeable skills in his defensive backfield, so it wouldn’t be a total shocker if the Jets took a defensive back with an abundance of tools.

Cornerback is quietly one of New York’s most pressing needs. Claiborne was decent in his Jets debut, but his injury concerns don’t warrant a long-term contract. Buster Skrine is inconsistent, and that might be putting it nicely. Juston Burris probably won’t make it much longer in the league and the rest of the depth chart doesn’t contain much excitement.

Then again, we all know what happened the last time the Jets took a cornerback out of Alabama…

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