However, for a guy his size is really explosive off the football, quickly is able to get into opposing linemen and does a great job extending his arms into contact. Exhibits little wasted motion getting his arms up and gaining inside leverage at the point. Is a powerful kid with a strong punch, can overwhelm on contact and drive defenders into the backfield, but is balanced and sudden enough to slip the block and close up the field.
Really does possess a rare combination of power and initial burst inside, can threaten gaps off the football as a one-gap guy, is flexible enough to drop his pad level down, drop his pad level off the edge and close on the football. Also, uses his hands well to disengage from blocks both on and through contact and when his motor is running on high he's a bear to block in the pass game. Has the power to split the double team and fight his way through it, despite getting a bit high at times and was simply no match for opposing blockers one-on-one inside.
Is a very good run defender in his own right. Displays impressive anchor strength, has the ability to sit into his base and hold the point of attack vs. the double team. Also has the power, length and suddenness to fend off blocks inside one-on-one, find the football and close quickly on the play. At times isn't the most instinctive of guys off the snap and will take himself out of plays trying to create behind the line. However, when asked to stick and shed, he locates the ball well, disengages and tracks the ball carrier well off his frame and is a nice player in pursuit. Has a real mean streak to his game.
Showcases a passion for driving defenders into the turf and likes to inflict pain on quarterbacks. Has come under fire because of it, but I like it about his game and think he has the kind of demeanor I want in an NFL defensive lineman. There are some questions about his overall conditioning, seems to be sucking wind quite often during a game and might need to learn to take his conditioning more seriously in the NFL.
Possesses a questionable motor and there is definitely some lazy to his game. Will take some plays off and at times will disappear, but when a play is needed to be made typically his motor is running. There are also some questions about why he hasn't been more productive longer. Didn't have his breakout year until he was draft eligible and his overall passion for the game has come into question.
Impression: A potentially downright dominant NFL defensive lineman who has the skill set and abilities to play just about anywhere and be effective if he wants it. There are some character concerns surrounding his on the field work ethic that need to be checked out. But he just doesn't have the same type of drive as last year's second overall pick, Ndamukong Suh."
Though a highly-touted prep prospect recruited by many of the country's top programs, Fairley knew early on that he wanted to sign with Auburn. He didn't qualify academically, however, instead enrolling at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College in Wesson, Miss.
Fairley redshirted his first season with the Wolfpack, but was dominant in year two, recording 63 tackles, nine tackles for loss and seven sacks in only seven games.
With his NCAA required two-year degree earned, Fairley signed with Auburn in 2009. He flashed playmaking ability in his first year at the SEC level, seeing action in all 13 games and starting two contests on his way to 28 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
While the Auburn coaching staff was excited about the potential he had shown, no one could have reasonably expected Fairley's dominant 2010 season. A consensus All-American and winner of the Lombardi Trophy as the nation's best lineman (offensive or defensive), Fairley led the SEC with 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks among his 60 tackles. A strong showing against Oregon (five tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks, forced fumble) in the BCS Championship Game gave Fairley Defensive MVP honors and put a fitting end to his dominant campaign.
In proving dominant at the JUCO and FBS level, Fairley enters the NFL as one of the elite prospects available in the 2011 draft. Possessing a prototypical blend of size and explosiveness, the 6-4, 299-pounder is position and scheme versatile, only adding to his value.
In terms of pure talent, Fairley may be the cream of the 2011 crop. There are enough red flags (work ethic, "dirty" play) surrounding him, however, that teams will have to do their homework before giving Fairley the top five grade that his size, athleticism and versatility would seemingly warrant.
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."
Pursuit: Is a player who is almost always on the move toward the ball carrier. Has the athleticism to move all around the line. Despite being somewhat limited in experience, Fairley shows good run/pass recognition. When Fairley plays with a lot of effort, he can move all around the field to make a tackle. But some question if Fairley always gives full effort on every play. As sensational as he is on some plays, Fairley can be completely non-existent on others. It’s an issue that Auburn head coach Gene Chizik brought up early in the season. Fairley showed better effort toward the end the season, however.
Quickness: For player of his size, Fairley has a great burst off the snap. Most of his game is centered around his quickness off the ball. Played basketball in high school and it shows in his foot speed. People will always compare Fairley to Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy and in the quickness category, he’s right there with them.
Run defend: Is a long-armed defender who can be disruptive in the run game. Even where the run isn’t coming right at him, Fairley can impact the run game simply by reaching his arms out and rerouting the ball carrier. Does a lot of his work against the run against single blockers. Fairley doesn’t always do well against multiple blockers. Still, he can be an asset against the run by taking up multiple blockers.
Strength: Doesn’t have the kind of strength where he can beat double teams on a consistent basis. Looks like he can get stronger in his lower body. Can get pushed bak too often. Has a frame to add 20 pounds without it having a negative impact on his game.
Tackling: Fairley is a scary tackler. Every time he has room to make a hit, it’s an explosive one. If football doesn’t work for Fairley, his tackling shows he clearly has a future in pro wrestling. He frequently liked to suplex players. Several of Fairley’s tackles could get him fined in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see if he’ll continue his tackling technique at the next level.
Technique: Shows good hand fighting. Uses his hands well to keep blockers out of his pads. Has long arms, which is beneficial to his technique. Doesn’t take false steps that get him out of position.
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 showed everyone what he could do in the title game.
Fairley was recruited out of high school as both an offensive guard and an offensive tackle. He played on the defensive line, but he was most effective on the offensive side of the ball.
After redshirting in 2007, he attended Junior College at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, in which he dominated in his redshirt freshman season. He made the move to defensive tackle immediately, and went out to obtain a scholarship with the Auburn Tigers.
Now Auburn has had a fantastic season, earning a national championship bid, and Fairley didn’t shy away from making a ton of plays in the title game. Fairley was a force in the entire game, often being held and still getting through to penetrate the line of scrimmage. He’s a special player who has the talent to have a very productive NFL Career.
Perhaps Fairley’s biggest strength is his non-stop motor. He doesn’t take many, if any, plays off. He’s a dominant penetrator in a 4-3 scheme who often takes up double teams. He shoots the gaps quickly, often disrupting the quarterback and getting in the backfield as soon as the hand off takes place. He gets a good punch off the line and holds his ground, immediately using his power to push offensive lineman back. He has long arms, and is a pure wrap up tackler. Fairley has fantastic instincts, and uses his quick feet to make a play on the ball immediately. He’s a natural bully on the defensive line.
Some may question his intangibles. He’s rumored to be somewhat of a “dirty” player, at times getting personal fouls and costing his team first downs. His strength is solid, but not amazing. He could afford to get stronger and use his arms a little bit more. His closing speed is decent, but not great, and while he gets in the backfield quick, he sometimes loses his footing, missing a tackle. He could use work in stunts, and getting around another defensive lineman, but has the quick feet to improve.
Fairley is almost surely a Top 5 pick, and could easily be the #1 overall pick for the Carolina Panthers. He’ll compete with A.J. Green and fellow defensive lineman for the top spot in the draft. While he could make the transition to the 5 technique in a 3-4, it wouldn’t highlight his skillset as a pure penetrating defensive tackle. He’s best off playing a 3 technique in a 4-3 defense. Look for all five of the top teams in the 2011 NFL Draft to take a hard look at him. Even if he has to make the transition to 3-4 like Denver, Buffalo, and Arizona all run, he will still be able to make a big time impact. I’d be extremely surprised if he fell out of the first five picks come April.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Williams"
Positive: 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.
Negative: 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.
Analysis: Fairley comes off a career year in which he started the season hot and never let up through Auburn's national title game. He possesses the skills and athleticism to be used as a defensive tackle or two-gap end and has an enormous amount of upside. Fairley will be very productive at the next level if he improves the details of his game and works hard on and off the field."
Negatives: Had been very unproductive prior to this season, just 28 tackles and one sack during his sophomore season... Former junior college transfer who started just two games prior to this season... Can wear down a bit as the game progresses... Has not had to show a variety of pass rushing moves this early in the season... Plays a little high... Technique needs to be polished."
Weaknesses: A one-year wonder. He struggled with his consistency and effort early in his career. Plays with great strength at the collegiate level, but will need to prove that he can be as productive against NFL linemen in the trenches. Has been labeled as a dirty player by opposing teams due to his late hits and body slams on quarterbacks.
Projection: First Round, Top Five selection. Fairley has similar size, production, and skills of Ndamukong Suh from the 2010 NFL Draft and could see himself being the first or second selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, especially after his dominanting effort in the BCS National Championship game."
Fairley's blend of size and speed is truly incredible. He stands at 6'5'' and 298 pounds, and he has been clocked as fast as 4.83 in the 40-yard dash. An athletic defender, Fairley plays inside in Auburn's vaunted defense but he could move outside in a 3-4 scheme at the next level. It's a jump that he will likely make after his junior year based on his recent performance, and there is no reason to think he won't continue to astound at the combine. Assuming he leaves, Fairley should be soaring into first-round consideration."
He has shown he can take over games, as he did against LSU and Alabama, and has rare hip flexibility and explosion to drive through ballcarriers and send quarterbacks to the sideline. He has been known to deliver cheap shots, and his rogue style of play borders on unsportsmanlike, but it may win favor with many old-school coaches. He has the length to warrant looks outside but is best playing in gaps."
I've got a bad feeling about Nick Fairley.
There's no question that the guy has MONSTER talent. When he's on, he can almost single handedly DESTROY an Offense...
But when I consider the fact that he didn't produce anything at ALL until his "Contract Year", I wonder about whether he loves the Game, or the money. And when I see that he simply disappeared for long stretches on many occasions even in that Contract Year, and despite the fact that his team was in the thick of the Championship race...I start to wonder if the guy even has enough self motivation to earn more than that fat rookie contract.
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