Auburn star defensive tackle Nick Fairley is one of the best prospects available in the 2011 NFL Draft - and given the Buffalo Bills' need for impact defensive linemen, he should very much be in this team's draft conversations.
Fairley - who will be taking questions from Bills fans tonight on Twitter (@Nick_Fairley251, #AskFairleyBills) and who is also very engaging on Facebook - has already spoken with current Bill and former Auburn teammate Antonio Coleman about the NFL Draft process.
"I’ve asked him about the draft process, you know the waiting," Fairley wrote to SB Nation on Wednesday. "He said it’s nerve racking, but you do your best and just hope for the best. There’s nothing I can do at that point but wait."
After the jump, Fairley discusses his reputation as a dirty player, the pressures of possibly being picked No. 1 overall at his position, his pre-draft routine and his embracing the world of social media. This is a very interesting dude, Bills fans.
Coleman would not be Fairley's only teammate hailing from Auburn were he to land in Buffalo, as defenders Spencer Johnson and Reggie Torbor also hail from the University. Fairley seemed open to the idea of playing alongside Auburn alumni.
"Auburn alumni sound good to me," Fairley said. "It will feel like a homecoming."
Fairley made several devastating hits in his break-out junior campaign, and also drew the ire of opposing fans for several questionable blows that earned him his "dirty player" label. Fairley, unsurprisingly, doesn't see it that way.
"Everyone has an opinion and mine is that I play the game like it should be played," Fairley said. "I turn my motor on at the start of the game and don’t turn it off until it’s zero zero."
Asked about his ideal playing weight, Fairley said he'd like to be between 295 and 300 pounds. He also expressed confidence in his ability to play several different positions and techniques, whether he ends up in a 4-3 scheme or a 3-4. (Or, in Buffalo's case, both.)
Though he was cryptic on whether he would skip any events at next week's NFL Combine, Fairley seems ready to do most, if not all, of the drills. ("I'll be ready to show them everything I've got," he said.) I asked Fairley about possibly being the first overall pick - a goal he very obviously has his sights set on - and dealing with the pressure of avoiding the fates of former No. 1 overall DT prospects Dan Wilkinson and Steve Emtman.
"If you’re athletic enough to run down the field and strong enough to hold the block like me, then I think a DT can make a great number one overall pick," Fairley said. "As far as the pressure of being number one overall? I’m a competitor. Pressure drives me to be the best I can. I don’t worry about pressure. I thrive on it."
I also asked Fairley how he approached preparing for the NFL Combine - both from a physical standpoint, and from a job interview preparation standpoint.
"For the past month I’ve been putting all my effort into getting myself ready," Fairley said. "Working on my technique - hands and footwork. Before the combine I’ll research every team and go in to the interviews prepared."
SB Nation Arizona, who covers one of the NFL's most prolific Twitter users in defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, asked Fairley about his use of social media. The incoming rookie gave a rather enlightening, refreshing answer to that question.
"I really appreciate and am interested in how the fans feel, in what they think," Fairley said. "I can do that really well on Facebook and on Twitter. That’s why I do Q&As with fans all the time - so they know I appreciate them. 87,000 screaming fans in the Auburn stadium really made a difference. I read all of the posts in my Twitter and Facebook feeds and respond to as many as I can - MYSELF. And soon I’ll be starting something new just for the fans. We’re calling it 'Going Fairley'. Stay tuned."
Lastly, Fairley was asked about the idea that he may have to fight for playing time as a rookie depending on which coach he plays for. Fairley didn't blink at the idea that he might not play right away.
"I’ll fight for playing time," Fairley said. "I expect and will work to make an impact from the very beginning. Once you get a taste of what it’s like to have an impact - to make a difference for your team over and over again like I did last year for Auburn - you never want it any other way."
Once again, if you're interested in chatting with Fairley TONIGHT ON TWITTER (7:30-8:00PM ET), you can do so at #AskFairleyBills.