Nick Fairley: My Quick Take

I find myself conflicted by the Lions’ selection of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. On one hand, Fairley is quite a force. He’s big, fast, physical, and plays with great technique. With these physical tools in tow, Fairley wreaked havoc on opposing offenses as a member of the 2010 National Champion Auburn Tigers. After his performance in the BCS National Championship game there was speculation that he may be the #1 player taken overall in the draft. However, some of Fairley’s recent actions allowed his value to drop precipitously. For one, he missed his flight to the combine. He was also late to several pre-draft interviews. Finally, many wondered if Fairley might be a one-year wonder, as he had not done much before last year. Nevertheless, nabbing Fairley at #13 was a steal, given his talent.

On the other hand, the Lions have tons of other needs. As I outlined yesterday, the Lions are in need of a corner, an outside linebacker, a defensive end, and also an offensive tackle. Defensive tackle is a position of strength for them. So it came as a shock to me that they would pass up the top corner on the board (Prince Amukamara) in favor of Fairley, despite the value they got with the pick. I guess the decision comes down to the age-old question of whether teams should take the best player on the board, or try to fill needs. My thought is that when you’re a team like the Lions, that has so many other needs, why draft a position of strength? Here’s what Lions head coach Jim Schwartz had to say about the matter:

“The philosophy here was we’re drafting to our strength,” Schwartz said. “Defensive line is a strength of what we do. When we won our last four last year, you can have probably a quiz show to find out who our corners were in those games. But we’re good up front and being good up front is what drives our defense. So we had a player that could be an impact player at a position.”

While I find this logic curious, I’m willing to give the Lions’ braintrust the benefit of the doubt. After all, they’ve drafted fairly well the last few years, and they got tremendous value with Fairley. I just hope that it all works out. If it does, the Lions could have the best defensive line in the league.

Grade: B

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4 comments

  1. Jeff Freeze · April 29, 2011

    Well I see some logic in the pick due to the “value” of Fairley. I am not sold on the two things.

    1. He was a 1 season wonder who didn’t seem to bring it hard all the time.

    2. Why would you pass on other good values at positions you truly need. CB’s are a premium when your division includes Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. With the NB CB on the board, it would seem to me that would have been a great pick.

    So from a Bear’s Fan perspective, I am glad they ignored the CB and we picked up a top flight LT to try and slow down Suh. I am not sold on Fairley being an impact at DT in the NFL. Hope he does well and not become an Albert Haynesworth.

  2. nkasuku · April 29, 2011

    I couldn’t agree more Jeff. I am cautiously optimistic. Like anything else with the Lions….let’s hope it works out!

  3. Gruber · April 29, 2011

    While I understand Schwartz’s concept in shoring up strength, I think that only makes sense when you have two solid candidates between the 2 positions. But to pass on a CB for a questionable player seems like an unnecessary risk. I thought there would be another decent D lineman in the second round, but as it turns out more then I expected got picked up in the first. On the flip side, I wondered if the Lions have made an attempt to jump up a few spots into the first to get both, but maybe their gambling that Harris or Williams will be there at 44. I wouldnt be upset if we ended up with Williams and Fairly instead of Prince and an OT.

    • nkasuku · April 29, 2011

      I was thinking the same thing. Besides Harris, there’s Ras-I Dowling from Virginia who is supposed to be very good. He’s got big size, and decent speed, but some durability issues. I believe the Lions interviewed him, so maybe the gamble is that they end up with one of those guys. I also wouldn’t be shocked if they drafted Mikel Leshoure from Illinois.

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