2011 NFL Draft Results: Lions Draft Nick Fairley Aim for Best Defensive Line
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Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said the Lions would draft the best available player regardless of position, and they did. The Lions drafted defensive tackle Nick Fairley from Auburn with their first round pick, despite having Prince Amukamara, Robert Quinn and Jimmy Smith on the board.
In Fairley, the Lions get one of the best interior pass rushers in the nation. Last year he had 11 sacks and 60 tackles, including 24 for a loss and two forced fumbles. For most of the pre-draft period, Fairley was widely considered one of the top five players in the draft. His stock starter to take a bit of a tumble after the NFL draft combine where he measured shorter and lighter than expected. He was expected to be 6'4" and weigh around 305 lbs, he measured in at a little under 6'3" and only 291 lbs.
The positive: Fairley is an explosive player. He is good both against the run and against the pass. Fairly has excellent natural strength and plays with a mean streak. He also has great quickness and awareness. He is able to recognize plays and adjust accordingly. Because of his strength, he is able to knock offensive lineman off balance and shed multiple blockers.
The bad: There are two big questions about Fairley. First, was he just a one year wonder? He didn't do much in 2009, and than exploded in 2010, so just how good he really is, is a fair question. Secondly, there are some serious doubts about his motor and effort. The motor might be the reason he dropped to the Lions at 13.
How he fits. Detroit needs to improve their back seven, however, the same thing was said last year and the Lions said an improved pass rush would help the secondary. They were right about it.
Detroit is absolutely loaded along the defensive line now. Detroit is probably in the best position to take a player with motor questions because of two players on the defensive line, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh. Those two are excellent leaders, even though Suh has only played one year.
Having Suh and Fairley inside with Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril at the ends. This leaves tackles Corey Williams (who played great last year), Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen and ends Willie Young, Lawrence Jackson and Turk McBride fighting for the back up rolls. Having both Fairley and Suh in the game at the same time will be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. Both are capable of beating double teams and sacking the quarterback.
I don't know if the Lions are thinking this, but I wouldn't be totally shocked to see Fairley line up at defensive end periodically. He has the speed and quickness to beat an offensive tackle, so it could be something to keep an eye on during training camp.
Overall I like the pick. I would have been happier if they had been able to trade down and address the need at either linebacker or corner. However, drafting a top five talent at 13 is nothing to snub your nose at. The Lions will have to address the secondary in Round 2 and their linebacker need in Round 3. I would expect a receiver or running back in Round 4 or 5.
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