This is the part of the mock where I try to look like a genius.
While not at the Cowboys’ position of direst need, Fairley would represent the steal of the draft anywhere outside the top three. And the Cowboys are perhaps the foremost team in jumping on such highly talented sliders.
I have Fairley at nine for several reasons.
The first is the most prescient. Of all the guys listed 1-8, who would you usurp? Fairley is so talented that you could make a case for him at any of those spots, but not one of picks 1-8 is ludicrous. All the aforementioned draftees are talented, and all project as safer character picks than Fairley.
The second reason for Fairley’s descent is that the further into the evaluation process we get, the more loudly concerns about his character seem to be getting voiced.
From Rob Rang, on March 6th:
“Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was described as a ‘JUCO kid to the core’ by one longtime personnel man, speaking on the condition of anonymity.“
The same scout continued:
“’Everyone is coming down hard on the quarterback, but [Fairley] is the one to worry about.’”
Coming from the same article and highlighting my third concern, is a scout dealing with Fairley’s alleged mental shortcomings. The following is referencing NF at the combine:
“Fairley ‘looked soft,’ according to the source. This first impression of Fairley’s conditioning was only reinforced by his ‘limited’ understanding of defensive schemes during team interviews. The source also referred to the fact that Fairley doesn’t use his hands well and has been able to be successful largely due to his natural talent.
‘Oh, I’m not saying he’s not talented. Hell, he might be the most talented player in the whole damn thing. But, he’s no slam dunk at this level. Not the slam dunk people who watched him tear up the SEC or in the big game [BCS National Championship] might think.’”
The last time we saw Fairley was at his March 8th pro day, where weighed in at 297 (6 pounds above his combine weight), and showed great quickness and agility in drills.
The talent is there, it’s the rest of the package that’s in question.
One last tidbit from Todd McShay:
“One scout put it perfectly when he turned to me at one point and said: “You can’t tell me [Newton and Fairley] aren’t two of the three best players in the draft, but you also can’t tell me you’d be totally comfortable taking either at No. 1 overall if your job were on the line.”