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Minkah Fitzpatrick undaunted by challenge with Browns


INDIANAPOLIS —**Minkah Fitzpatrick realizes it's possible he could go from the best team in college football to the Browns, who are coming off the franchise's first ever winless season.

It might sound like a daunting proposition, but Alabama's captain and star defensive back isn't about to flinch. He thinks he could have an impact in Cleveland both on and off the field like he did in Tuscaloosa.

"It's an NFL team, they have great talent. Offense, defense, special teams. Great coaches," Fitzpatrick said Sunday afternoon at the NFL's annual scouting combine. "I'll just have to go down there and use what I learned at Alabama and apply it to the Browns."

Fitzpatrick, who can play safety or corner at the next level, is among several top players whom the Browns could select with either the first or fourth-overall pick. While he's earned high marks for his versatility and competitiveness, Fitzpatrick's strong leadership skills and relentless work ethic might be what separates him from some of this year's top prospects.

Fitzpatrick, asked about his leadership style, said, "I'm a combination of a do-as-I-do and a vocal guy … My junior year I was challenged by coach (Nick) Saban and my defensive backs coach to be more vocal and I had to call some guys out and some stuff or whatever but I did it because I loved them and I did it because I wanted to see the best version of themselves."

That approach seemed to pay off.

In three seasons, Fitzpatrick and Alabama won two championships, including this past year when he wore multiple hats on the Crimson Tide's dominating defense. Though there aren't many holes in his game, Fitzpatrick wants to show off that versatility at the combine and prove to teams he as good as his tape says he is.

"I think this weekend is going to show people that I have the hips and feet of a corner but I also have the IQ and the tackling ability of a safety," he said, "(I want them) to know I can play multiple positions at a high level."

Fitzpatrick would give the Browns a dynamic defensive back and young talented player in a secondary that struggled last season. Whether that's at corner or safety remains to be seen, but general manager John Dorsey believes in Fitzpatrick's ability to play both positions.

"He's a very talented player, and I think he's one of those guys who could actually maybe play corner, maybe he could play safety," Dorsey said earlier this week, "but I think you want to watch him move around amongst his peers this weekend, see how he moves and turns and twists. I know he's a really good football player, and whoever gets him is going to be very lucky."

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranked Fitzpatrick his fifth-best prospect, writing the defensive back's versatility, instincts and ball skills separate him from his peers. In an interview with Cleveland Browns Daily, Jeremiah said the prospect of adding Fitzpatrick to Cleveland's youth-laden roster "is pretty darn attractive to me to get a blue chip playmaker on the back end to kind of supplement what you got with Myles Garrett, last year's No. 1."

In the meantime, Fitzpatrick hopes to show teams — including the Browns — why he can be a difference-maker from Day 1.

"I'm just trying to validate all the reasons why I think I'm one of the best players in this draft class," he said. "I'm just being myself, talking ball and talking life."

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