Carolina’s Dilemma: Picking First In A Weak Draft

Written by Ryan Lownes on February 2, 2011


 

 

There could be an argument made that Nick Fairley played as indispensible a role as Quarterback Cameron Newton for the Auburn Tigers’ National Championship-winning team. No player dominated big games this season quite like big number 90. After entering the season as a virtually unknown rotational tackle, Fairley burst on to the scene and into the backfield in 2010. It’s hard to believe he was playing at the JUCO just two years ago. He was unstoppable in must-win games for the Tigers this season, playing an invaluable role when the team was locked in close battles with South Carolina, LSU, Alabama, and Oregon.

 

Nick Fairley showed the ability to take over games with a blend of quickness, power, and ferocity. In addition to possessing prototypical size, he displays excellent athleticism on the football field. He enters the backfield at will with a great first-step, quick hands, and a variety of pass-rushing moves. He has an extremely strong bull-rush which helps him to split double-teams and push linemen into the backfield. His production this past season rivals any Defensive Tackle in recent memory; he was a First Team All-American and the Defensive MVP of the National Championship. Like Ndamukong Suh, Fairley clearly is an intimidator on the field and he plays with rare energy & ferocity. He’s a violent penetrator who fits best at 3-Tech in any 4-3 scheme. His immense ability made him unstoppable at that position at the collegiate level.

 

Talent-wise, Nick Fairley stacks up with the best of Defensive Tackle prospects. On the field this year he was on par with 2009 top three selections Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh. Unlike those players, Fairley’s character will undoubtedly be something teams must look into. Though he has no history of trouble off the field, he certainly lacks discipline on it. By the end of the regular season he’d earned a reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the country. If he’s unable to tone it down when he needs to, he could really shoot his team in the foot in the NFL with more sensitive rules protecting Quarterbacks. His lack of intelligence and professionalism is a concern that could push him down some boards. Still, he should be selected very high on draft day, likely fitting into the first five picks. If he’s mature enough to handle the pressures and responsibilities of being a pro, he could develop into a dominant force and the cornerstone of a front seven.

 

Pros

+ Explosive off the snap,
+ Extremely powerful, very strong
+ Devastating bull-rush, drives blockers back and splits double teams
+ Dominated top competition, definition of a “big-game player”
+ An intimidating presence, plays mean, nasty, and isn’t short on energy
+ Terrific pass-rusher, lives in the backfield and terrorizes QBs
+ Prototypical size at roughly 6’4 300
+ Long-limbed with good anchor strength; can control & manipulate blockers
+ Very good athlete for his size, can dunk a basketball
+ Uses his hands to disengage, very quick and can be violent
+ Above average motor, can play three-downs
+ Only a slight learning curve, is ready to contribute immediately
+ Very productive Junior season, First Team All-American
+ Durable, hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons

 

Cons

- Only one year of production and relevancy
- Undisciplined player who takes stupid penalties
- Lacks intelligence and is not well-spoken
- Needs to continue to work on his technique
- Has “boom-or-bust” prospect written all over him

 

Why the Panthers will select Nick Fairley First Overall

Carolina has lacked a dominant interior presence since they started as an expansion team. Currently the team lacks any effective players at the position, the depth chart is very thin, and Defensive Tackle looks to be their greatest need. Defensive-minded coach Ron Rivera knows the game is won in the trenches and will look to add talent in the middle. Fairley was one of the best players in college football this past season and may be this draft’s greatest talent. He should be an instant impact player and would offer the most significant & immediate upgrade to the Panthers roster.

 

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Ryan Lownes

Ryan is currently an undergraduate student at Ohio University pursuing a degree in Sport Management. He has been attending the NFL Draft in New York City since 2005 and has aspirations of a career in scouting. He is currently a draft writer and analyst on the Draft Breakdown team, posting his latest rankings, mock drafts, scouting reports, and more. Be sure to follow Ryan on twitter for year-round NFL Draft analysis. See all posts by Ryan Lownes.