Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert pointed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scouting for the draft as one reason why the team is satisfied with the Fitzpatrick trade in a Tuesday conference call:
"Quite honestly, we're very comfortable not having a first-round pick this year, especially when it's in the form of Minkah Fitzpatrick replacing that first-round pick. Under the current circumstances, the uncertainty of the player you might be taking and to not have all the information you had in the past, I'm a lot more comfortable knowing we got an All-Pro player with that pick. I'm not real concerned about getting back in there."
Fitzpatrick had 57 tackles and five interceptions in 14 games with the Steelers after joining the team in September. The 23-year-old was a first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowler for the first time.
The full terms of the swap between the Steelers and Miami Dolphins saw Pittsburgh land Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-rounder for first- and fifth-rounders in 2020 and a 2021 sixth-round pick.
Based on Fitzpatrick's performance alone, the trade has worked out well for the Steelers. It's an even better move in retrospect given how limited teams are in evaluating this year's incoming draftees.
While the NFL announced the 2020 draft is still scheduled for April 23-25, the league took steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered the closure of team facilities starting March 25, a mandate that will last until at least April 8. Two weeks before that, Goodell prohibited "all in-person, pre-draft visits involving draft-eligible players."
ESPN's Adam Schefter and Dianna Russini reported some general managers were hopeful the NFL would postpone the draft, citing their inability to conduct usual player assessments.
The draft is always unpredictable, and the 2020 edition is likely to be even more so.
Fitzpatrick's trade request largely forced Miami's hand, so arguing in hindsight that the Dolphins shouldn't have dealt him to Pittsburgh would be unfair. But the 2020 first-round pick isn't looking like the valuable asset it did when the deal went through in the fall.