Nick Fairley
6’5, 298 pounds | Defensive tackle | Auburn

Pass rush:
Fairley is the premier one-gap defensive tackle in this year’s class due to his ability shoot the gap and get after the passer. Fairley finished 2010 with 12 sacks, including three in a standout performance against LSU. Most of his big plays come off the swim move. Has quick hands to get his arm over the blocker. Closes in a hurry and with aggression.

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.