ATLANTA GA - DECEMBER 04: Nick Fairley #90 of the Auburn Tigers cheers during pregame warmups before facing the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4 2010 in Atlanta Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
This post is part of a continuing series in which we break down 13 2011 NFL Draft prospects - our Baker's Dozen - that should interest the Buffalo Bills. Previous character scouting reports: WR Julio Jones.
Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was once considered the front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It's not commonplace at all to see Fairley projected in that slot these days, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, scouts are concerned about the fact that Fairley only had one year of top-level production; prior to his phenomenal junior season, Fairley was a rotational player and barely on the league's radar.
Fairley isn't just fighting his "one-year wonder" status, though. There are questions about his maturity level and attitude that are doing just as much damage (and in reality, that's not a lot of damage to begin with) to his draft stock as anything else. A deeper look at Fairley's perceived off-field risks lies after the jump.
Maturity. Fairley's maturity was first questioned as a direct result of the on-field edginess he displayed, and that you'll read about momentarily. Having made it to Auburn from the junior college ranks, it's a bit concerning to read these types of reports from league personnel men:
Most of the people I talked to pointed out that Fairley's maturity issues are not overly concerning over the long haul, and that he's still merely walking a fine line between being fun, boisterous and intense on the field and getting himself into trouble. From what I've gleaned, it's concerning, but only enough to affect his placement within the Top 10. A strong NFL locker room will do wonders for Fairley in this department.
Dirty play. As mentioned, most people that I've spoken with that are concerned about Fairley's character believe that his general lack of maturity has manifested itself most obviously in questionable on-field decisions. Thanks to several vicious hits and a relentless attitude, Fairley has developed a reputation of being a dirty player - a cheap shot artist that crosses the line of intense football into an area of ill intent. You be the judge:
The first three videos show many of the questionable hits Fairley made during his junior season. The last shows some of that lack of maturity - one league insider that I spoke with said he was more concerned with that bit of showboating than he was with the hits.
When we interviewed Fairley in mid-February, we asked him about the perception that he's a dirty player. Fairley made no apologies for his on-field demeanor.
"Everyone has an opinion and mine is that I play the game like it should be played," Fairley said at that time. "I turn my motor on at the start of the game and don’t turn it off until it’s zero zero."
Long story short: Fairley's attitude issues are very real. The point of disagreement is generally on how severe they are, and how much his draft stock will be affected.