You’d be hard pressed to find a more dominant interior defensive player in all of college football last year than Nick Fairley. The Auburn defensive tackle lined up against some very talented offensive lines in the SEC and was able to consistently make his presence felt. The problem is, Fairley only showed this kind of dominance in one year, which lead many to question if he is a ‘one year wonder.’ When you put on the film, Fairley pops right off the screen with his play. He consistently pressures the quarterback and set up shop in the backfield of just about every team he faced. It’s rare to find someone that is as big as Fairley that displays this much quickness on tape. The talent is certainly there but the combination of only one year of production and character concerns bumps Fairley a bit on the big board. However, all signs point to Fairley being a top 10 pick in this year’s draft.
Fairley’s play against the run isn’t necessarily his strong suit. When engaged with a single blocker, Fairley anchors with ease and refuses to be moved, keeping the running lanes clogged. He uses his hands effectively to disengage and make the play. However, Fairley does struggle against double teams and can be washed out of the play. His motor runs relatively high and he’ll give chase to backs that want to hit the edges. When in position to make the tackle, he can deliver a violent blow. However, Fairley will sometimes lose his fundamentals while tackling and drop his head, allowing backs to make a quick move and avoid the big hit. Fairley also doesn’t consistently wrap when tackling. Fairly appears to rely on his strength a little too much at times when engaging run blockers.
Rushing the passer is where Fairley will pay the bills in the NFL. There probably isn’t a quicker defensive lineman off the snap in this year’s draft. Fairley can shoot the gap and does an excellent job of timing the snap count during the game. He displays a pretty wide array of pass rush moves for someone with limited experience, including; clubs, rips, swims, bull rush, push-pull and even throwing in a spin move at times. Fairly’s bull rush is fantastic and consistently collapses the pocket on passing downs. He appears sudden and violent on film with quick, strong and heavy hands. Fairley can fail to effectively use counter-moves when in a stalemate with a blocker, but even during stalemates, he’s collapsing the pocket. When he reaches the quarterback, he can deliver a violent blow. However, Fairley has often been caught driving the quarterback into the ground, hitting with the crown of his helmet or hitting the quarterback late, leading to numerous personal foul penalties. There were also quite a few of these penalties that went uncalled during the season.
This is an area that is still developing for Fairley, but is at a relatively high level considering his experience. Fairley has done a nice job of sniffing out screen and draw plays, but can often over-run the play by getting up-field too quickly. As stated above, Fairley often drops his head while making a tackle, leaving a window open for runners to make a quick cut. Fairley also has a tendency to play undisciplined, ignoring responsibilities and attacking where he believes the ball is going.
More often than not, Fairley does an excellent job using his hands. His arms are long (34 3/4“) and his hands are strong. In passing situations, Fairley’s hand usage appears quick and violent but he does have a tendency to allow blockers into his frame during rushing plays.
Size, Speed, Strength and Agility
For his size, there is no other defensive player quicker on the field. If Fairley times the snap, he’s in the backfield before the quarterback has finished his drop. At 291 lbs, to be able to run a 4.87 40 yard dash is impressive. His arms are long at 34 3/4” and he has 9 3/4” hands. His lower body isn’t as strong as it could be, which really shows up when attempting to anchor against double team run blocks. However, his upper body strength is excellent and it shows when using his hands in pass rush situations.
In high school, Fairley was a highly rated offensive lineman and also saw some time as a tight end. Fairly started off at Copiah-Lincoln Community College after being declared academically ineligible to play Division 1 football, then redshirted during the 2008 season at Auburn. There are character concerns surrounding Fairley and many have questioned his work ethic. He’s obtained a bit of a “cheap shot artist” moniker that is hard to shake because it’s obvious when watching the film. Also, Fairley was recently invited to a dinner meeting with the Miami Dolphins, but reportedly stood them up, leaving some to question his maturity and/or who Fairley is taking his advice from. Character, work ethic concerns, an inability to control emotions at times, cheap shots and the question of being a one-year wonder will drop Fairley several spots lower than his on-field ability warrants.
2010: Started all 14 games.
2009: Appeared in 13 games with 2 starts.
2008: Redshirt season at Auburn.
2007: 63 tackles, 9 for a loss and 7 sacks at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
Philosophy major at Auburn.
Awards & Honors
2010: Lombardi Award winner. Nagurski Award finalist. SEC Defensive Player of the Year (AP). 1st team All-American (AP, Walter Camp, Rivals, SI, Sporting News, FWAA). 1st team All-SEC (coaches, AP).
Prospect Video Clips
Disagree with our scouting report? Think we’ve left something out? Maybe you’ve seen something we just haven’t. Thanks okay! Leave your own scouting report using the comments feature at the bottom of the page. We at Draft Breakdown value your opinion and we’d love to hear it. This feature is available on all of our scouting reports, articles and blogs. Help keep Draft Breakdown a one stop shop for all your NFL Draft needs!