San Francisco 49ers

Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick to visit 49ers. Why he’d be a target for their top pick

The 49ers will get a pre-draft visit later this week from a player who is a definite possibility with their No. 9 pick, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.

The team's biggest need in the secondary is outside cornerback, and at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds, Fitzpatrick has the requisite size to line up in San Francisco's scheme.

At Alabama, however, he was used more as a nickel cornerback – a prime spot the Crimson Tide calls the "star" position – and as a safety.

In 2016, for example, he took over at safety when starter Eddie Jackson got hurt and ended up leading the Crimson Tide with six interceptions.

He had one interception and eight pass breakups this past season. Playing near the line of scrimmage, he finished fourth on the team with 60 tackles, eight of them for a loss. At season's end, he won both the Chuck Bednarik Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive player, and the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s best defensive back

Fitzpatrick is competing with Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward to be the first defensive back taken. Both of those players visited the Chicago Bears, who pick one spot ahead of San Francisco, on Wednesday, the NFL Network reported. Fitzpatrick's visit to Santa Clara is later this week, a league source said.

It's hard to say how the 49ers envision Fitzpatrick in their defense, but he gives them versatility.

It's notable that the team plans to use last year's top free safety, Jimmie Ward, at cornerback during the spring. With Ward at that spot, it would allow young players like Adrian Colbert – and perhaps a top pick like Fitzpatrick – to better learn the free-safety spot.

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