It’s all about the hype.
In Nick Fairley’s case, it reached a fevered pitch during the BCS National Championship game, but can he live up to expectations?
During the matchup between Oregon and Auburn, Kirk Herbstreit made some rather large claims about the defensive tackle.
Herbstreit stated that Fairley commanded attention in the same fashion that current Detroit Lion Ndamukong Suh did while at Nebraska.
This is far from the truth.
Comparing the two players’ final seasons in college, Fairley put up fantastic numbers with 60 tackles (36 solo, 24 TFL, 11.5 SCK, 2 FF, 21 QBH and 1 INT/0. Suh bested him on nearly every level as a Cornhusker posting 85 tackles (52 solo), 24 TFL, 12 SCK, 1 FF, 28 QBH, 10 PBU and 1 INT.
The key difference: Fairley often came through unblocked, like a raging bull through a matador’s cape. Suh showed the ability to disengage a blocker or two.
Things got taken to a new level last Friday.
Huskers Illustrated’s Sean Callahan tweeted, “Todd McShay said that Auburn's Nick Fairley is the best DT he's seen in the last five drafts. McShay also graded Gerald McCoy over Suh."
Callahan also pointed out that Suh was responsible for 10 sacks in 2010 while McCoy tallied just three.
You certainly don’t have to acknowledge Callahan’s remarks or the rookie Pro Bowler's collegiate numbers.
Experience might speak louder in this case.
Gunther Cunningham, the Lions’ defensive coordinator, has spent 28 years in the NFL and likely disagrees with the notion that Fairley will even match Suh's output.
"I've never seen (a player like) him before," Cunningham told the Detroit Free Press. "Ever. And I don't give a (care) what anybody says, that guy's never played in this league. That kind of player. That body, that athlete, that size, that explosion."
There’s also the largely-shared opinion that Fairley plays dirty.
Even Herbstreit pointed out his notorious portfolio during Auburn’s 22-19 win. Fairley shoved Oregon running back LaMichael James’ helmet into the turf, drawing a penalty following a play.
Injuring Georgia’s Aaron Murray earlier in the year was bad enough, but several players felt his overenthusiastic wrath.
Is Suh physical? Absolutely. A helmet or two have rolled to the turf because of him, but Fairley cranks the “Mean Meter” up to 11.
If you’re a Carolina Panthers fan, ask yourself this: Will Fairley’s presence double or triple the Panthers’ win total next season? Would the potential character risk be worth it?
If the former Tiger enters the NFL as a rookie and walks away a Pro Bowl starter, let alone a lock for postseason honors, then a proper comparison can be made.
In the meantime, Fairley should put a poster of Suh on his wall.
Everyone needs a good role model.
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