Nick Fairley: Just as Impactful to Auburn as Cam Newton

March 15, 2011 | Brian Billick

It is safe to say that Nick Fairley was as important to Auburn as was Cam Newton.  He was a game changer on the defensive line that had the ability to take over games, as shown in the BCS National Championship game.

Last year, he registered 11.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss, an Auburn school record.  Those are very impressive numbers, but they don’t carry through his entire college career.  In 2009, he only accounted for 1.5 sacks and 14 total tackles.  When you see numbers like that, you question personal drive, work ethic, passion for the game, maturity, etc…  Teams will address, or already have, those concerns during personal workouts and interviews leading up to the draft.

When watching Fairley, you see a defensive tackle that is not limited to a specific gap or technique.  Fairley has the unique ability to line up anywhere along the front, regardless of scheme, and be a playmaker.  He could play inside in a 4-3, 5 technique in a 3-4, or even play the nose on any given down making it very difficult for the offense to prepare for him in the week leading up to the game.

As a football player, he has a tendency to get a little high and loses his center of gravity and base.  In college, he made up for it with extremely quick feet and great hands.  He slaps off the blockers hands and gets “skinny” through the hole to be a presence in the pass rush game.  He shows more flexibility and quickness than he does overall power.

At 6’3 7/8 and 291 pounds, Fairley will be evaluated against Alabama’s Marcell Dareus as the best defensive tackle.  At this point in time, I would give a slight advantage to Dareus.