How do you like the defensive tackle rotation of Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Sammie Hill and Nick Fairley?
That’s how the Lions will line up next year – though not necessarily in that order – after taking Fairley, the SEC defensive player of the year for national-champion Auburn, with the 13th overall pick Thursday.
“The philosophy here was, we drafted to our strength,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We won our last four games last season and I think you could have a quiz show to name our cornerbacks in those games. But we won because we were very good up front.
“He’s an impact player at an impact position.”
Schwartz doesn’t see any problem rotating three defensive tackles.
“We play around 130 defensive tackle snaps a game,” he said. “You rotate three guys at 45 snaps a person and you are going to be really fresh. We can keep rolling in waves and waves.
“I thought Suh played too much last year. Not that he wore down but it was too many snaps. You are taking on 700 pounds of man every time you take on a double team.”
“I don’t think you can have too many pass rushers, defensive tackles, defensive ends,” he said. “We all saw late in the year the impact our pass rush had. It allowed us to win games.”
Early on, Fairley was being touted as a top-three pick. But there were lingering questions about his attitude and work ethic, and when four quarterbacks were taken in the top 12, Fairley was available.
“I don’t really know why he fell, I am just really glad he did,” Mayhew said.
Still on the board were defensive ends Da’Quan Bowers and Robert Quinn, as well as defensive back Prince Amukamara. Both Bowers and Quinn had health issues and Amukamara slipped to the Giants at No. 19.
“Suffice it to say, we had Nick rated higher than those other players,” Schwartz said.
Mayhew said he was worried that Minnesota would take Fairley at 12 and was prepared to trade down if that happened. But neither Mayhew nor Schwartz had any worries about Fairley’s character.
“He’s a defensive lineman,” Schwartz cracked. “Those things might fall into bonus categories when you are talking about defensive linemen being grumpy and mean. Those are good things.”
The Lions brought Fairley in last week.
“He was outstanding,” Mayhew said. “He will do great with us. I played with his defensive line coach (at Washington) – Tracy Rocker – and spoke very highly of the young man. I spent a lot of time with him here in our building. He’s a good player and a good person. He will fit in well here.”
Several scouts and coaches in evaluating Fairley said he would need to be in an environment with strong coaches and veteran leaders. The Lions feel like they can provide that with position coach Kris Kocurek, defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and veterans like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson.
“I am a hard worker,” Fairley said in a short telephone interview Thursday. “I am willing to come in, work my tail off and earn everything I get.”
He said he wasn’t bitter or bothered by slipping to 13.
“You never know what’s going to happen on draft day,” he said. “For Detroit to pick me, I mean, it’s a blessing. I can’t wait to get to town and get this thing started.”
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