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Minkah Fitzpatrick out to prove he can be a do-it-all defender

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Minkah Fitzpatrick sits atop Mike Mayock's safety rankings for the 2018 draft class, but the Alabama defensive back said Sunday he wants to prove to the NFL he can play multiple positions.

It's one of his main goals during the NFL Scouting Combine, and it turns out, he got a jump on improving at cornerback by spending time with one of the league's best: Cardinals All-Pro corner Patrick Peterson.

"I was out there for three days in Arizona," Fitzpatrick said. "I was just out there picking (Peterson's) mind, just asking him a whole bunch of questions, working out with him, just going through his daily routine. We had some fun and he just showed me what he did on a day-to-day basis and of course I worked out with him, trained with him about two two-hour sessions every time we worked out.

"He was pushing me, my feet were bleeding, I was working but I was getting better. I took a lot from those couple days I was out there, I enjoyed it and I'm applying what I learned here."

Fitzpatrick has unique potential, because he spent a lot of time as a slot corner at Alabama, but projects to fill a role that can do multiple things: play in the box, cover slot receivers, or serve as a linebacker in specific personnel packages. Versatility can be viewed in a few different ways, but for Fitzpatrick's draft stock, it's solely positive.

"This weekend, I can show people that I have the hips and feet of a corner, but I also have the IQ and tackling ability of a safety," Fitzpatrick said. "I think that's really important to show coaches when I'm out there doing the drills. ... They know I can play multiple positions at a high level. Not just playing there, but also playing at a high level."

The projected first-round pick enters the draft one year after a do-it-all star, Michigan's Jabrill Peppers, wowed scouts at the combine with his versatility. He ended up being a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, where he was used in a variety of ways, including at peculiar depths for a safety.

"He is an athlete and they know he can play," Fitzpatrick said of Peppers when asked about his occasionally odd placement on the field in Cleveland. "He can play six yards from the ball or he can play 20 yards from the ball, he can still make plays because that's the type of player he is.

"They're still learning how to use him because it's his first year there and I'm sure they're going to adjust some things to be able to allow him to make more plays. It's just a learning process with the coaches and the players."

That's a prevailing message from the week in Indianapolis: learning. Nearly every prospect has spoken of learning and improving, which is good, and also necessary in the NFL. As for Fitzpatrick, would he be interested in playing a role similar to Peppers' in Cleveland or elsewhere?

"I'd be happy out there on the field."

Simple enough. What won't be is defining Fitzpatrick's role. In the era of nickel packages essentially becoming base defenses, that's a good thing, even if added usage does leave his feet a little bloody.

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