Miami Dolphins select safety Minkah Fitzpatrick from University of Alabama in 1st round

Posted at 9:27 PM, Apr 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-27 04:50:58-04

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Minkah Fitzpatrick dressed right for his role Thursday at the NFL draft in Dallas, wearing a white double-breasted suit that looked like it was straight out of "Miami Vice."

Next stop: South Florida.

The Dolphins selected the versatile All-America safety from Alabama with the 11th overall pick. Fitzpatrick was widely projected as a likely top-10 pick and said he had no inkling he would wind up with Miami, which made his eye-catching choice of outfits a happy accident.

"I was just trying to do something that wasn't too bright, wasn't too flashy, but also stood out a little bit," he said with a laugh.

What the Dolphins liked most about Fitzpatrick's look were the two national championship rings he wore. He became a starter as a freshman and helped the Crimson Tide win titles in 2015 and 2017.

He had a school-record four interception returns for touchdowns at Alabama and gives the Dolphins a playmaker in the secondary, where he'll be paired with Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones.

"My dream wasn't just to make it to the NFL, but to be a great player in the NFL," Fitzpatrick said. "This is just the beginning."

The Dolphins need the defensive help. They allowed 24.6 points last year to rank fourth-worst in the NFL, and salary cap concerns then led them to release their best defensive player, five-time Pro Bowl tackle Ndamukong Suh.

At Alabama, Fitzpatrick ranked among coach Nick Saban's favorite players. Last season he won the Bednarik Award and Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive player and defensive back.

In Miami he's expected to be deployed on occasion as a linebacker, as a blitzer or against big receivers.

"He's like a Swiss army knife," Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said. "He does a lot of things really good. His skill set gives your defense a chance to be flexible and do a lot of different things."

Miami took Fitzpatrick over Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea despite glaring needs at those positions.

With the addition of Fitzpatrick, veteran T.J. McDonald might be moved to linebacker. He started the final eight games at safety last year.

There had been speculation Miami might devote its first-round pick to a quarterback for only the second time since 1984, but four QBs were taken in the top 10 picks.

"We didn't think any of the quarterbacks would make it to us," Grier said. "We talked to a couple of teams about maybe moving up or down, but nothing real serious. If one of those guys was there, we would have talked about it, but we just didn't think anybody would be there."

The Dolphins will instead wait until a later round to draft a potential eventual successor to Ryan Tannehill — if they do so at all — and Luke Falk of Washington State might be the choice.

They'll also try to address needs at linebacker, defensive tackle and tight end in coming rounds. Their picks in the second and third rounds Friday are Nos. 42 and 73 overall.