Nick Fairley DT Auburn
|Has the ability to be an unblockable force. Quick off the snap which allows him to get a jump on most lineman and helps him bull rush his way into the backfield. Surprising athleticism for a guy his size, capable of chasing down ball carriers. A high-energy guy.|
|Work ethic is definitely a concern. Barely made an impact until he turned it on in 2010 and suddenly he developed into the game’s premier defensive lineman. Strength is good, but it’s clear that he doesn’t kill himself in the weight room. There’s definitely reason to wonder if he was simply seeing dollar signs all season and will morph back into a non-factor once he cashes in. He’s a dirty player, and behind closed doors I’m pretty sure he’d admit it. Repeatedly flagged for late hits, many of which would have drawn hefty fines and possible suspensions in the NFL.|
|In terms of pure talent and potential, Fairley may be the best player in this year’s draft class. However, concerns about his work ethic and dirty play should make teams at least pause to consider the potential ramifications of drafting a player like this. The dirty play alone won’t scare anyone off – any coach would rather have a player who plays to hard than someone who’s too soft – but it does raise a red flag that’s worth looking into. Ultimately Fairley’s talent is too great for him to fall far in the draft, but he is definitely a boom-or-bust prospect and there could be a few teams that chose to pass because of the character issues.|
There’s no denying the fact that the Browns need a wide receiver, and as a result many mock drafts currently have them selecting Green with the 6th overall selection.
I can’t say that Green isn’t a possibility for the Browns, but it’s less likely than you may think.
For starters, I think there is a very strong possibility that Green is off the board by No. 6. The Panthers, Bills and Bengals could all realistically take Green before the Browns even get a shot at him. [I currently have him going to Cincinnati.]
The real reason, however, that I don’t see Green winding up in Cleveland is that the Browns simply have far greater needs elsewhere. Everyone wants their team to get a shiny new toy to play with on offense, and Green certainly fits that description, but receivers don’t turn franchises around. Just ask Calvin Johnson and Lions or Andre Johnson and the Texans. Arguably the game’s two best receivers have a combined zero playoff appearances.
In order to rebuild the Browns, president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert (it’s actually Heckert who controls most of the draft day decisions, although Holmgren has the power to overrule) first must fix the defense.
The hiring of Dick Jauron as defensive coordinator means the Browns are transitioning back to a 4-3 scheme. That alone means they need to focus on defense in the draft, but on top of that they recently cut ties with two of their most productive linemen, Shaun Rogers and Kenyon Coleman. Additionally, Robaire Smith, Matt Roth and Brian Schaefering are set to become free agents.
If the season started today, the Browns would probably be forced to start Derreck Robinson and Marcus Benard at defensive end with Ahtyba Rubin and Travis Ivey at tackle. Yikes.
If this were a normal year, the Browns could attempt to address the defensive line in March and early April by bringing in some veteran free agents. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though that will be an option. As a result, the Browns may be forced to fill that void in the draft.
Fortunately for the Browns, this is the year you want to need a defensive lineman. Between Da’Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley, Marcell Dareus, Robert Quinn, Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt, someone is sure to impress Cleveland’s staff and I strongly suspect someone from that group will wind up wearing the orange and brown in 2011.
At the moment, defensive line looks like their most pressing need. However, that could all change if Champ Bailey decides to leave once free agency opens (if it ever does).
If we ever get to the point where teams are allowed to negotiate with free agents, Bailey would certainly have good reasons to leave Denver. He’ll be 33 in June and has won just one playoff game in his seven years with the Broncos. If he wants to chase a championship, Denver probably isn’t the place to do that.
Bailey’s departure would leave the Broncos with journeyman Andre Goodman and troubled rookie Parrish Cox as their starting cornerbacks. Cox, however, may not even be available for all or part of the 2011 season and beyond, depending on the outcome of his arrest for sexual assault.
Given these potential departures from the Broncos secondary, Patrick Peterson may start to look like the most attractive option in the draft. He compares favorably to Bailey, and is one of the most talented corners to enter the draft in a number of years.
The Broncos may also be swayed toward Peterson due to the depth in this year’s defensive line class. The difference in talent between Peterson and potential early 2nd-round options (Brandon Harris, Aaron Williams) is far greater than the difference between Fairley/Bowers and a player such as Cameron Heyward, who may still be available with the 36th pick.
Typically by the time the college season wraps up we have a pretty good idea of who the No. 1 pick will be. If not, it’s usually at least narrowed down to two names. This year I believe there are four legitimate options for the Panthers, and I don’t expect them to make a decision until just days before the draft.
I expect the consensus to be that the Panthers should take Da’Quan Bowers. The current poll on our site has Bowers favored with 43 percent of the vote [as of 11am on Jan. 12].
Bowers makes a lot of sense. Charles Johnson stepped up as an effective pass rusher in the absence of Julius Peppers, but Johnson is one dimensional. Bowers is a much more complete lineman, who can be effective on all three downs.
Even if the Panthers want Bowers, however, that doesn’t mean he’ll be the pick.
The Panthers have turned into a cheap organization. They limited their coaching search this offseason to first-timers for that very reason. They’re loyal to their players – perhaps to a fault – but they rarely reach into their pockets to sign big-name free agents.
As a result, the Panthers may be inclined to essentially create a bidding war for the No. 1 pick.
Here’s how it could work. The Panthers may indicate that they’re favoring Bowers, but reach out to Nick Fairley, A.J. Green and Patrick Peterson as well. There’s no guarantee that any of them will come off the board within the top five, so they may be willing to bring down their asking price in order to guarantee themselves a significant contract.
Look at it from Peterson’s perspective: a cornerback has never been chosen higher than 3rd overall – he may be driven to take less money simply to hold that distinction. On top of that, he could easily fall into the second half of the top-10 if he doesn’t go No. 1 overall. He is an elite prospect, but cornerbacks are rarely high on the wish list of teams selecting in the top five. As a result, he may be willing to take money closer to that of the No. 2 or No. 3 pick, simply to guarantee himself a big pay day.
The same can be said for A.J. Green. If the Panthers pass on him he won’t be selected until No. 3 at the earliest (the Broncos don’t need another receiver at No. 2) and could fall to No. 6 to the Browns. By accepting less money than a typical No. 1 pick, he could still guarantee himself more money than if he had fallen to Cleveland.
What makes all of this even more likely is the labor situation. If the NFL is in the midst of a lockout (yes, the draft will still occur in the even of a lockout) the Panthers may be even more motivated to favor a smaller contract over the guy who is truly No. 1 on their draft board. Likewise, the players may be more eager to guarantee themselves as much money as possible knowing that they may not be collecting a paycheck until 2012.
This strategy will take some time to develop, and likely won’t begin to take shape until about 10 days before the draft. It could create for a very interesting week leading up to the draft and could make some Panthers fans very unhappy. Settling for a player simply because he will sign for less won’t be a popular decision, but it may be the right one considering the current state of the NFL.
It seems like every day a new reporter finds “sources” to tell him that Andrew Luck is leaning toward staying in school. I’m inclined to call “BS” on anyone who says Luck is leaning towards staying at Stanford, especially since it sounds as though Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. But I’ll humor those who think he’s staying for a moment and throw together a quick mock draft based on the scenario that he stays. Here’s the top 10 of the “what if Luck stays” mock draft…
1. Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Panthers don’t need a quarterback, so they won’t take one unless Luck is there. Their pass rush was abysmal this season, and they missed Julius Peppers even more than anyone could have anticipated. Bowers is coming off a monster year and should be an instant-impact pass rusher at the next level.
2. Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
With Josh McDaniels gone, the Broncos may be ready to give up on Tim Tebow after just three games. However, I don’t think they’ll reach for someone like Newton or Mallett with the second pick. The safe bet is to take Peterson, the best available player. Champ Bailiey may not return, and even if he does he’s on the downswing of his career.
3. Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
One of the biggest decisions any team has to make this offseason is the Bengals’ looming decision about Carson Palmer. They could cut him loose and draft a new franchise quarterback here. I don’t think they’re willing to give up yet, however. A.J. Green is an elite talent and could be the young receiver Palmer needs to get the offense back on track.
4. Bills – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
The Bills need a quarterback to build around and should be able to get one in this year’s draft. But who will it be? Mallett, Locker and Newton are all worth considering. It’s pure speculation at this point, but I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will lean toward the strong-armed Mallett.
5. Cardinals – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Cardinals are another team in need of a quarterback, but I expect Ken Whisenhunt to push for them to bring in a veteran. As a result, they’ll turn their attention to the defense in the draft, landing either Amukamara, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley here.
6. 49ers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Until a GM and a coach are in place it’s tough to predict how the 49ers will handle the draft. But one thing is certain: they need a quarterback. If they need to make a decision between Newton and Locker, expect Newton to be their guy.
7. Cowboys – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jordan isn’t nearly the most well-known of the top 3-4 defensive ends, but I believe he is the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will be looking to improve the defense, making Jordan a strong possibility here.
8. Texans – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
The Texans need to address their secondary, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they must turn their attention to the defensive line. Fairley is an elite pass-rushing interior lineman who reminds me of Ndamukong Suh.
9. Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Lions offense is progressing, but the defense still has some holes. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t worked out and the Lions will likely look to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Quinn may be the best pass-rushing end available in this draft class.
10. Browns – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns are now committed to Colt McCoy, but now they need to supply him with some weapons. Jones, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin and Torrey Smith could all be options depending on who leaves early for the draft.
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley took at least one blatant cheap shot at Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray on Saturday, and made multiple other questionable hits.
The SEC said yesterday that they will not suspend Fairley for Auburn’s next game, despite Georgia’s best efforts to communicate their displeasure to the league office.
While Fairley won’t be suspended, it’s safe to say that his performance has caught the eye of the NFL – and not in a good way this time.
The NFL is clearly handing out stiffer penalties to repeat offenders, so you have to wonder if Fairley’s college days will influence his standing with league office at the next level. It’s very possible that the league will hit him with a more severe penalty than a typical first-time offender to send the message: “you got away with this in college, but it’s not going to fly here.”
Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
What Cameron Newton is to Auburn’s offense, Fairley is to their defense. He was barely on the radar screen entering the season, and suddenly he looks like a top-10 pick.The junior is a dominant penetrating defensive tackle who compares favorably to Gerald McCoy. I’ve moved him up to No. 5 on my Big Board, and I fully expect him to leave after his junior year.
Cameron Newton – QB – Auburn
Like Fairley, Newton wasn’t even an afterthought in the preseason draft projections. Now it looks like he may be a 1st-round pick and rumors are swirling that he’s likely to leave after this season. He’s far from a polished quarterback, but he is every bit as athletic as Vince Young and definitely has a bright future.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos – WR – Iowa
The more I see DJK, the more I like him. There’s really nothing remarkable about him, but he is too consistent not to like. He reminds me of Jordan Shipley – not very tall, not real fast, but just knows how to play the position. He looks like a 2nd or 3rd round pick and his stock will definitely get a boost from his kick-return skills.
Adrian Clayborn – DE – Iowa
Clayborn may still be a top-10 pick, but his senior year has been a disappointment. After a dominant junior campaign, which he capped off with a great showing in the Orange Bowl, expectations were high. He’s been good, but hasn’t quite reached level of dominance that we hoped to see. There’s still plenty of time for him to turn things around, but the first two months could have gone better.