The Detroit Lions have selected Auburn DT Nick Fairley 13th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. Lions had their choice of who they wanted with 4 quarterbacks going in the top 12. Many people believed that Fairley would have been selected in the top five and the Lions would have taken Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara.
|Fairley knew he wanted to play for Auburn as a two-way player coming out of Williamson High school in Mobile, Ala., but it would take a two-year stint at Copiah-Lincoln (Miss.) Junior College before he could step on the field with the Tigers.Fairley dominated as expected on the JUCO level, racking up 63 tackles, including nine for loss, and seven sacks in just seven games. He admits the transition to facing bigger, stronger and faster offensive linemen in the SEC took an adjustment period.Fairley produced a modest 28 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss in 2009, and struggled to make many impact plays. He credits his defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, a former Tigers defensive tackle who is also in the College Football Hall of Fame, with helping to improve his technique and preparing Fairley for his breakout junior season.
“Just by him playing in the trenches and knowing what it takes to play down there. So everything that came out of Coach Rocker’s mouth my two years with him I took it to hear and tried to use it to my game,” Fairley said at the scouting combine.
And that “game” exploded during Auburn’s run to the national title last season. Fairley set a single-season school record with 21.0 tackles for loss to go along with 10.5 sacks.
Fairley displays rare speed and quickness for a player of his size, and that has many scouts viewing him as a versatile athlete who could potentially dominate inside or outside. What makes NFL teams nervous is Fairley has only one standout season under his belt, but takes issue with anyone questioning his passion for the game.
“I want to show them the one-hit wonder is not in me,” Fairley said. “I play the game the way it should be played. I hit a light switch when I hit the field and it doesn’t turn off until after I leave.
“It was like that since I was little. I’ve been playing football since I was eight years old, ever since then my motor is always running.”
Fairley put a lot of stock in his workout in Indianapolis in an attempt to separate himself from a deep class of defensive linemen. He worked out in Houston to drop about 10 pounds, and turned in a blistering 4.84-second 40-yard dash. He also knows his team interviews carried a lot of weight, and Fairley’s goal was to convince them that he can model his game after his idol, Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White.
“I think he played the game the way it should be played and that’s why I try to play my game like him,” Fairley said.
|Pass rush: Explosive initial burst off the snap. Good flexibility and balance to “get skinny” and penetrate gaps. Uses his hands well to slap away blockers’ attempts to get their hands on him. Possesses a rare combination of long arms and quick feet, helping him avoid cut blocks. Good swim move. Locates the ball quickly and has the lateral agility to redirect. Good short-area closing burst. Good effort in pursuit. Surprising speed for a man of his size.Run defense: Relies on his quickness to penetrate gaps and make plays behind the line of scrimmage more than his strength to hold up at the point of attack. Long, relatively thin limbed for the position and can be knocked off the ball due to his lack of an ideal anchor. Good flexibility to twist through double-teams. Locates the ball quickly and pursues well laterally.Explosion: Quick burst to penetrate gaps. Can shock his opponent with his quickness, strong initial punch and quick hands to disengage. Has an explosive burst to close when he sees a playmaking opportunity and can make the eye-popping collision without needing much space to gather momentum.
Strength: Good, but not elite strength, especially in his lower body. Has a tendency to come up at the snap and can be pushed back because of it. Possesses very good natural strength, however, including in his core as he can twist through double teams. Very good hand strength to rip through blocks. Good strength for the pull-down and trip-up tackle.
Tackling: Possesses a good closing burst and brings his hips to supply the big hit. Good strength for the drag tackle. Willing to lay out and has good hand-eye coordination to trip up the ballcarrier running away from him.
Intangibles: Former high school basketball player who shows surprisingly quick feet. An ascending talent, but is nonetheless labeled as a player with some true bust potential, as there are concerns about his work ethic. Carries a little bit of extra weight around his middle and is more “country” strong than weight-room defined. Has developed a reputation as a dirty player; repeatedly flagged in 2010 for late hits and there have been instances when he has speared ballcarriers with his helmet, banged into their lower legs purposely and pushed off downed players to lift himself up. One of nine siblings.