Dez Fitzpatrick is the NFL Draft’s Most Forgotten Man

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I asked the question on Twitter to see if it would spark any conversation. Once among the hottest freshman wide receivers in the country, a reliable touchdown threat with Lamar Jackson at quarterback, it seems as though Fitzpatrick is lost to relevancy. As the Louisville football program has stumbled, so has his draft stock.

Dez Fitzpatrick is built like some of the best receivers that have come out of college football. Standing at 6’2″ and 205 pounds, the junior receiver from Waterford, Michigan has a lot to prove. He shouldn’t have to. He was a four star receiver coming out of high school, and a top ten prospect in the state.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t expected to commit to Louisville, as most experts expected to see him put on the hat to go to Nebraska or Michigan. He was heavily recruited by the Cornhuskers and Indiana, but ended up choosing Louisville instead. It was a shocker to the Husker nation, as they wanted him there badly.

For good reason. Fitzpatrick’s high school tape was littered with incredible catches and flat out athleticism over his competition. Because he had played at so many high schools, four to be exact, there was a lot of question about what he could actually do.

Fitzpatrick’s time in Louisville

Sep 9, 2017; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick (87) scores a touchdown as North Carolina Tar Heels safety Myles Dorn (1) defends n the fourth quarter. The Cardinals defeated the Tar Heels 47-35 at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Fitzpatrick made an impact in his first game as a Cardinal, in a week one game against Purdue. He came alive in the 4th quarter, catching 4 passes for 92 yards and a go ahead score. Lamar Jackson, the quarterback at the time coming off of a Heisman season, likened to him immediately and Fitzpatrick was an instant starter. He had a good season, logging 45 catches for 699 yards and 9 touchdowns.

Jackson left for the NFL, and the Louisville football program was left in shambles. Jackson had literally carried the team to the success that it saw, and it showed badly when he wasn’t on the field. The team fell to a 2-10 record and head coach Bobby Petrino was fired after some of the most embarrassing losses in program history.

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Fitzpatrick’s production dipped tremendously, catching just 31 passes and 3 touchdowns all year. Because of the lack of quarterback play, the effectiveness of Fitzpatrick faded and he became the forgotten receiver in college football.

Now, Fitzpatrick is beginning to show again on the forefront. He’s put up a few big games already this season, and has already matched his touchdown total from last season. After having been in the shadow for a full season, who is Dez Fitzpatrick and what can he do?

What can Dez Fitzpatrick bring an NFL team?

To stay with such a horrible program takes resilience and commitment. It’s clear that Fitzpatrick has those. He was lauded off the field as the star on the team as a sophomore, and sat in a lot of press conferences. I didn’t see a single one on YouTube where he complained. He put his head down and worked. I respect that tremendously.

Dez Fitzpatrick has some great hands. The catch that I embedded above shows that. Not only does he show off the catch radius and athleticism by going up to snag this ball, but Fitzpatrick absorbs the contact from the safety, a real shot, and comes down with the catch.

That’s called “Dominating with size and athleticism”.

He has done this on a regular basis. He catches footballs from multiple angles, showing that he can snatch them with ease in awkward positions. His first touchdown catch was an attribute to that.

The extraordinary ball skills

Yes, his concentration and ability to make almost impossible catches is there too.

Because the safety is draped all over his back, this catch is already very difficult. The ball is also underthrown, and he has to slow down to make the catch. Still, even with the contact and the awkward flopping of the ball, he secures the catch and runs for the score. He has ball skills for days.

What to expect

It’s pretty clear that we don’t know if he will declare early and go pro. It would make sense, as Louisville’s quarterback situation shows no signs of cleaning itself up. That being said, he’s always been an unpredictable man, so we really don’t know what he will do.

In the meantime, through four games he is already racking up big numbers. He’s on pace to set career highs in receptions, yards and tie his high in scores. Dez Fitzpatrick is most certainly a name to remember as the NFL Draft looms closer.

 

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