Is Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick the best young safety in the NFL?
Analyzing the data from the 2019 sesaon, it’s hard to come away with the conclusion that Steelers Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t the best safety in the league.
Recently, Pro Football Focus released a list of their top 25 players under the age of 25. This struck a chord with Steelers fans – and for good reason. Though T.J. Watt, who turned 25 years old in October, was no longer eligible for this list, Minkah Fitzpatrick was disrespected with his ranking.
PFF ranked Fitzpatrick as just the 4th best safety under the age of 25, and the 17th ranked player – below safeties like Derwin James, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Allen. The results of their list made me plunge into an hour-long analytical breakdown of their 2019 seasons.
Though game film may tell a bit of a different story, the statistics speak for themselves. Minkah Fitzpatrick dominated the competition last year, and it shows. Here’s a statistical breakdown of the four safeties considered by PFF and many others to be among the top young players in the league at their position:
Minkah crushes the competition in nearly every statistical department. In addition to earning first-team All-Pro Honors at the age of 23 last year, he exploded for an incredibly impressive season as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Though Fitzpatrick got off to an admittedly slow start with the Miami Dolphins over his first two games of 2019, he couldn’t have been more impressive in the following 14 with the Steelers. During that time, Fitzpatrick allowed just 52.0 percent of throws to be completed in his direction, and his 46.3 passer rating allowed was nearly identical to Patriots star cornerback and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore (44.1).
As far as top, young safeties are concerned, Fitzpatrick was better against the pass and created more turnovers than Adams, James, or Williams. Counting his first two games with Miami, Fitzpatrick had more takeaways in 16 games than the other top three safeties did in a combined 34 games last season.
Though it was still just a one-year sample size, there’s no denying the instincts, ball skills, and overall football talent we witnessed from Minkah in 2019. He has immediately emerged as a staple to the Steelers and, when factoring in age, is arguably the second-most valuable player on the team next to T.J. Watt.
The Steelers no doubt have really high hopes for Fitzpatrick. While he may not be able to repeat his 5 interceptions, 2 touchdown performance from 2019 anytime soon, that doesn’t mean he can’t make an astronomical difference on Pittsburgh’s defense.
Derwin James, Jamal Adams, and Marcus Williams are all great NFL safeties who will be in contention for Pro Bowls and even All-Pros year after year. However, Minkah Fitzpatrick is his own kind of special, and I highly doubt the Pittsburgh Steelers would trade him for any other safety in the league.