In the final buildup to the draft, we're taking our analysis of the draft's prospects one step further. We're making the case for and against 10 of the players and scenarios that are linked to the Browns, who hold the No. 1 and No. 4 picks.
The case for Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick
1. He can play any position in the secondary: From the moment he arrived on campus at Alabama, Fitzpatrick found a role within a Crimson Tide secondary that produces an annual batch of NFL-ready players. He immediately locked down a role at "star," which is Alabama's version of a nickel cornerback that plays one of the most important roles on the defense. When injuries hit the safety position hard in 2016, Fitzpatrick helped his team where it needed it most and thrived. And as a junior, well, he played a little bit of everything. Many analysts believe he can play either safety or cornerback in the NFL, making him the kind of versatile defensive back coordinators covet as the game becomes more and more passing-oriented.
2. He has Nick Saban's highest endorsement: Fitzpatrick falls into the small group of non-quarterbacks who qualify as "culture changers" in this year's draft class. A model citizen off the field, Fitzpatrick was one of Alabama's top leaders during a national championship season and one of Saban's all-time favorite players -- which says a lot. "I just like being around him," Saban told reporters during the season. "I like the way he goes about his work. It's fun to see him improve and take on new challenges. He's just one of those favorite guys." As NFL.com's Lance Zierlein describes it, Fitzpatrick "loves ball, lives ball." You can never have enough of those guys in an NFL locker room, especially when they perform at the level Fitzpatrick does.
3. The Browns need all the help they can get at defensive back: There are less questions about the state of the Cleveland secondary in the wake of the team's trades and free agent signings, but it'd be silly to think there's full satisfaction in the depth of the entire unit. Yes, the acquisition of Damarious Randall is a start at filling the need at free safety, but there's always room for a player of Fitzpatrick's caliber. Even after the addition of four cornerbacks in free agency, all of whom have starting experience, the Browns would be in better shape if Fitzpatrick came to camp and proved to be one of the best two or three at the position. Cleveland already has one young defensive back with incredible versatility in Jabrill Peppers. Just think what Gregg Williams could do with two.
He can play most positions in the secondary, but is it worth a top pick?
The case against Fitzpatrick
1. He's versatile, but is he the best?: Jack of all trades, master of none. That's way too harsh of a criticism for Fitzpatrick but a case can be made that he's neither the best cornerback nor best safety in this year's class. Those honors could very well go to Ohio State's Denzel Ward and Florida State's Derwin James, respectively, and some mock drafts have speculated one or both could hear their names called before Fitzpatrick. His versatility will serve him well in the NFL and remains one of the biggest reasons why he's a projected top-10 pick, but odds are he'll latch onto a position he plays more than others. Wouldn't it be better to just draft the player who is the best at that particular spot?
2. Safety has become less of a need: As mentioned above, the Browns made a bunch of moves involving the secondary this offseason, and none was bigger than the addition of Randall. Cleveland went from having no true free safeties on the roster to having a young, up-and-coming player in a spot Cleveland's new-look front office believe he'll thrive. All four of the cornerbacks the Browns added in free agency have starting experience. There isn't a pushover in the bunch who would be immediately demoted upon the arrival of Fitzpatrick, who doesn't have a ton of experience at the outside cornerback position. When it comes to the state of the Browns' defense, there might be bigger needs to fill at this spot in the draft over one that was addressed more than any other aspect of the team in March.
3. Historically, No. 1 or 4 would be a reach for a defensive back: Typically, it takes a special talent at safety or cornerback to land in the top 10, let alone the top four, of the NFL Draft. The last one to go in the top four? Future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, who went No. 4 in 1998. The Browns would likely have to view Fitzpatrick in that type of light if they're to use the No. 1 or No. 4 pick on him, and that remains to be seen. There's also plenty of opportunities for Cleveland to upgrade its secondary with one of its three picks in the second round. This year's class of cornerbacks isn't loaded with top-end talent, but there's a surplus of first-round quality players who could be available when the Browns are on the clock to start the second round.