Detroit Lions: Nick Fairley's Maturity Will Be His X-Factor

Andrew KulhaSenior Analyst IIIAugust 22, 2012

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 07:   Nick Fairley #98 of the Detroit Lions reacts after a fumble in the second quarter by Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints in the during their 2012 NFC Wild Card Playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 7, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

If Detroit Lions second-year defensive tackle Nick Fairley wants to find success in the NFL, he's going to have to work on his maturity.

According to quotes from Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, via Carlos Monarrez of The Detroit Free Press, maturity is something that Fairley is still lacking a bit:

He struggled early when we started camp, and he’s starting to get into shape.

Nick lacks some of that maturity, and he had to work overtime last week in the first half. You could feel the Nick Fairley I know, and he’s run after practice, and he’s done a lot of good things to get himself ready to play. And last week, I was really impressed in that first half.

What separates the good from the great in this league? I would argue it's how seriously the great players take the game of football, and to me, that boils down to maturity—especially for the younger players.

Fairley is a football player who has all the potential to be great, but he's got to put it all together.

So far, he hasn't done that.

Coming in at 6'3'', 291 pounds, he's big and powerful, and he showed us flashes of potential last season even though he only played in 10 games. He's in a unique situation playing next to Ndamukong Suh on a defensive line that features edge rushers like Cliff Avril, veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch and the emerging Willie Young.

He's surrounded by incredible talent that should only serve to make him better. Offensive lines have to key in on all the potential threats surrounding Fairley on the Lions' front four, which should leave him in one-on-one situations or in the perfect spot to make plays more often than not.

What more could you ask for as a young, talented defensive tackle? He's essentially being set up for big plays and big numbers.

If only it were that simple though...

As with anything good in life, it takes hard work and discipline; so at the end of the day it's Fairley's maturity that will play the biggest factor in his success. If he's not physically up to par, he's not going to be able to make those plays. If he's not emotionally mature, he'll end up putting his team in bad situations via penalties or lack of focus.

Remember, this is the same player that had effort and character flags surrounding him entering the 2011 NFL draft and was arrested twice just this offseason. His track record isn't the best already, and the fact that his defensive coordinator still thinks that he has to work on his maturity is a problem.

Fairley was a first-round pick and was projected to be a beast in the NFL. He's got players around him that should make him better, and he's got all the intangibles to be great. What he doesn't seem to grasp yet is the serious nature of being a professional football player.

Not only is it a job, but it's a lifestyle. It's a lifestyle that needs to be respected, and one that takes a ton of discipline.

He has to be invested in this team, and more importantly he has to be invested in the game. Anybody who knows anything about the NFL will tell you that it's a 100 percent kind of league. If you're not giving 100 percent, you're a liability not only to yourself, but to your team. You're also a liability to get hurt.

Fairley has the opportunity to be a huge factor for the Lions in 2012 and into the future, but no matter how physically talented or gifted he is, it's his maturity that will put him over the top.

Conversely, his lack of maturity could really hinder him. The choices that he makes this year—both on and off the field—are going to determine a lot about the type of player that he's going to be.

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