DT Nick Fairley (Auburn) - Round 1, Pick No. 13
Going into the 2011 NFL Draft, very few people expected Nick Fairley to be available when the Detroit Lions went on the clock with the 13th pick. Thanks to a run on quarterbacks, Fairley was in fact still on the board when pick No. 13 came around. Not only was he on the board, but he was on top of the Lions' draft board, as they selected him and added even more talent to an already outstanding defensive line. This pick has been almost universally praised because the Lions strengthened a strength rather than reached to fill a need, and now we can look forward to Ndamukong Suh and Fairley lining up next to each other. That will be extremely fun to watch unless you're an opposing offensive line or quarterback.
Final word: Fairley was unquestionably the breakthrough player in the 2010 college football season. No one expected him to tally 11.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss as a junior. In his first full season starting, Fairley was a force on his way to the Lombardi Award.
The question some will have about Fairley is if he's a one-year wonder. As a redshirt sophomore in 2009. Fairley struggled with inconsistency and only had 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Prior to that, Fairley attended Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Community College. Considering that Fairley only played one year on the defensive line in high school, he's not exactly a seasoned tackle.
Still, he is a dangerous, gap-shooting defensive tackle. His attitude could transform a lackadaisical defense into a ferocious one. He's the kind of player rival teams will hate because of his sometimes-dirty play. Although Fairley doesn't apologize for the way he plays, it's unlikely he'll get away with the same tactics in the NFL.
What he'll be able to get away with is firing gaps and getting after the ball carrier. Fairley has uncanny quickness and will be a terror blitzing. Everyone is going to compare him to Suh, and that's not fair. Maybe a more-apt one for Fairley is Kevin Williams of the Vikings.
Fairley was once considered the consensus top defensive tackle prospect in the 2011 class, but his attitude and work ethic might have caused him to slip on some boards. Still, he projects to be incredibly disruptive against the pass and run. Nightmare to pass protect against. Possesses great burst, hands that never stop moving, brute strength to push the pocket, and a vast arsenal of moves. Against the run, keeps blockers away from his body, uses his height to find the football, and simply beats lineman with his quickness. Can sniff out screens and draws. There are almost no flaws with Fairley's physical tools, but his character and work habits should be checked out. Regardless, he is certainly a top-five talent.
Positives: Game-impacting defensive lineman whose star is on the rise. Displays great movement skills and an explosive burst to the action. Quickly changes direction and effectively makes plays down the line or chases the action in backside pursuit. Plays with good pad level, fires off the snap with a great first step, and shoots through the gaps up the field. Fast off the edge, effective in pursuit, and makes plays in every direction. Constantly doubled by the opposition yet remains a game changer.
Negatives: Must improve his overall strength. Marginal hand use and displays limited moves getting off blocks. Lacks pure power and can be controlled by single blocker. Mostly a first move lineman that must beat opponents off the snap. Not known as a hard worker in practice.
What he brings: There are times on film when Fairley looks like he should be the No. 1 pick. He can explode off the ball, get into the backfield and bring ball carriers down as a run defender, and was the best interior pass rusher in the country last year because of his initial quickness and violent hands. The concern is his inconsistent motor. Fairley will face much more talented interior offensive linemen at the next level and won't be able to skate by on natural ability. He is boom-or-bust, but worth the risk at this point.
How he fits: This certainly looks like a value pick because this is not a great need. The Lions' best unit is the defensive line lead by Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril but obviously Fairley was too good to pass up. The Lions love to play a lot of games up front with loops and one-gap penetrating schemes and this gives them tremendous versatility with three dominating defensive tackles. As talented as Fairley is, he will be surrounded by a group of guys who will force him to play on every down. This could become one of the most productive units in the NFL.
2009: 28 tackles, 1.0 sack
2010: 56 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 1 interception
- Lions' pick of Nick Fairley is announced (and Michael Irvin goes crazy over it)
- Fairley introduced to Lions fans
- Interception by Fairley against Mississippi State
- Looking at Fairley
- Kyle Parker sacked by Fairley
- Fairley's "cheap shots" against Georgia
- Fairley power slam vs. Louisiana-Monroe
- Todd McShay on Lions picking Fairley
- Fairley interview at 2011 NFL Draft
- Fairley interview with FOXSports.com's Laura Okmin
- Highlights of Fairley from FOX Sports
- 2 Live Stews interview Fairley
- Fairley speech at Auburn's national championship celebration
- Fairley takes the title belt
- Fairley and Auburn stop Oregon on crucial 4th and goal play
- Fairley on Auburn's win over Oregon
- Fairley pro day interview
- Class Act Sports interview with Fairley at combine
Nobody tells Nick Fairley he can't hug a fan
- Fairley's high school football highlights
- Rich Eisen Podcast: Nick Fairley
- Fairley on NFL Total Access
- 2011 Draft Profile: Nick Fairley
- First Draft: Nick Fairley
Outlook for 2011
Fairley is expected to become a starter alongside Suh at defensive tackle. The Lions' depth is excellent at this position with Corey Williams and Sammie Hill also on the roster. Chances are players will be rotated frequently and we will see a lot of different looks in order to create as much chaos for opposing offensive lines as possible.
While Fairley isn't expected to replicate Suh's amazing rookie season, many believe he could be a candidate for the defensive rookie of the year award. With his talent and the talent around him, it wouldn't surprise me one bit.