This is the last offseason Minkah Fitzpatrick can appear on “Best Players 25 and Under” lists, and frankly, even this year is stretching it. Most editions of this type of article call it “Best Under 25” but the folks over at The 33rd Team rephrased things to include 25-year-olds, including the now 25-year old Fitzpatrick.
According to their list, Fitzpatrick ranked as the 14th best player 25 and under. The site writes:
“Since 2018, Fitzpatrick has intercepted 13 passes, broken up 20 passes, and allowed an average of only 272 yards in coverage. In 2020, Fitzpatrick posted the sixth highest PFF-season grade among safeties with at least 600 snaps. In 2021, Fitzpatrick logged the fourth highest PFF run-defense grade. Fitzpatrick is a playmaking machine that can roam in the secondary to choke deep passes or come up and make stops in run defense.”
Not breaking new ground here but quality information that puts Fitzpatrick’s play in perspective, though PFF strangely hammered his overall play last season. Fitzpatrick was the Steelers’ janitor, cleaning up mess after mess, and finishing the season with 124 total tackles, by far the most from a Steelers’ safety. It reflected the team’s abysmal run defense, and Fitzpatrick made more tackles on runs of 20+ yards than any other player in football, finishing the year with 11.
While Fitzpatrick didn’t have his best year in 2021, he’s still a bonafide playmaker and arguably the best free safety in football. His contract reflects as much, becoming the NFL’s highest-paid safety earlier this month. Pittsburgh used the KISS method to make Fitzpatrick a star, maximizing his skillset at the position that suited his style the most, keeping him at free safety as opposed to Miami, who moved him around the defense and barely gave him time in center field.
Just 25, Fitzpatrick has already made a pair of Pro Bowls and All-Pro Teams. As we noted in 2021, he’s the first Steeler to make multiple All-Pro teams before the age of 25.
With a more competent front seven and more stable and experienced secondary, Fitzpatrick has a good chance to get back to his elite playmaking ways in 2022. Not that last year was a bad year, there were plenty of Grade-A moments that didn’t always pop on a box score, but his two interceptions were his fewest since 2018.
Notable players to finish ahead of Fitzpatrick’s 14th spot included QB Justin Herbert, ranked #1 on their list just ahead of Joe Burrow. Lamar Jackson came in third place while second-year players like Micah Parsons and Rashawn Slater also ranked in front. Rounding out the list were Bucs’ LB Devin White and Dolphins’ WR Jaylen Waddle.