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.