The price was high: Pittsburgh will send its first-round draft pick in 2020 to the Dolphins, plus a fifth-round draft choice in 2020 and a sixth-round pick in 2021. Miami will send Fitzpatrick to the Steelers along with a fourth-round choice in 2020 and a seventh-round pick in 2021.
Pittsburgh needed help in its defensive backfield after safety Sean Davis suffered a torn labrum against Seattle on Sunday, but Davis may be best utilized as a slot cornerback. According to Pro Football Focus, Fitzpatrick in 2018 was one of the best rookie slot cornerbacks to ever play the game, ranking first in completion percentage allowed (51.3 percent) and passer rating allowed (53.4) among the 34 defensive players with 200 or more coverage snaps played in the slot.
Nevertheless, the Dolphins wanted him all over the field and reportedly had him learn six positions during the offseason, including two linebacker slots, and Fitzpatrick wanted no part of either that or Miami’s fairly obvious tank job.
Considering the NFL’s move to pass-heavy offenses, standout slot cornerbacks are valuable assets. Mike Hilton, the Steelers’ primary slot cornerback, has earned just a 44.6 coverage grade through two games, according to Pro Football Focus, ranking 30th among the 35 NFL defenders with 40 or more coverage snaps played in the slot. Pittsburgh has allowed an average of 320 passing yards through two games this season (29th in the NFL) along with six touchdowns through the air. Only the Dolphins have allowed more.
Miami’s demolition/rebuilding project continues, meanwhile, with so much momentum that the team now feels free to trade away a player drafted with the No. 11 overall pick just last year.
The Dolphins now own five picks in the first two rounds of next year’s draft (three of them in the first round) and four picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 draft (two first-rounders). According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the first-round pick Miami acquired from the Steelers has a 29 percent chance to be in the top five and a 62 percent chance to be in the top 10.
The first-round pick that belongs to the Dolphins themselves seems almost certain to be in the top five, at the very worst. Miami has been outscored 102-10 in losses to the Ravens and Patriots and plays the streaking Cowboys and playoff-worthy Chargers the next two weeks. The Dolphins also travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers and Fitzpatrick on Oct. 28.