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 physical scouting reports: WR Julio Jones.
Today's physical scouting report will look at the athletic prowess of Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Though he was barely on the draft radar until his phenomenal junior season, Fairley is still highly regarded, and will almost certainly be a Top 10 (or maybe Top 15) pick this April.
Defining Trait: Burst. Fairley has elite athleticism; he's not built like a classic defensive tackle with thick legs and a hefty midsection, which allows him to move around, quite frankly, like a linebacker. Because he typically plays the game between 290 and 300 pounds, he's not carrying huge amounts of weight - allowing his natural quickness and explosion to shine through. Add in the fact that he can be hyper-aggressive and relentless, and you see, quite often, a dominating player that appears unblockable. His first step, dominating will, and elite closing burst define Fairley as a prospect.
Pass Rush. The aforementioned quickness and explosiveness make this the strength of Fairley's game. Has long arms to keep blockers at bay, and has a somewhat developed repertoire of rush moves, including a dominant swim move. Can get skinny and split double teams. Has an outstanding bull rush, which makes him nearly impossible to block one-on-one. Was dominant rushing the passer as a junior, and has the potential to be dominant in the NFL. Relentless motor that borders on over-aggression, which works to his advantage in many cases, but can also lead to breakdowns in gap integrity and other responsibilities, as he'll focus solely on getting to the quarterback.
Run Defend. Good recognition. Powerful hand punch helps him control blockers. Excellent upper body strength overshadows questionable lower body strength; may not anchor as well in the pros as he did collegiately. May lack the lower body strength to consistently anchor at the point of attack (though he did so at Auburn), and is better off being schemed to disrupt lanes than stack and shed until his strength improves. (This may limit mental mistakes, as well.) Has excellent range and will chase down plays from behind. Leverage can be hit-or-miss, and has a tendency to stand at the snap rather than stay low and maintain leverage. Powerful (some may say dirty) tackler with good instincts. May command double-teams simply because of his penetrating abilities.
College Production. This is a major concern for Fairley. He was not a full-time starter until his junior season, and used rotationally as a sophomore, he had a minimal impact for the Tigers. The leap in production has many scouts questioning what type of production they can expect in the NFL. Lack of experience is a major concern, as well, as Fairley has really only been playing on the defensive line since his final year in high school. But there's no question that his junior production was phenomenal.
Nick Fairley: College Statistics
|Nick Fairley Totals||27||88||27.5||13.0|
Athletic Traits. Extremely light on his feet. Elite first step and elite burst. Thin in the lower body, which helps his quickness, but hurts his anchor. Looks sloppy in the upper half, but has excellent strength. Long arms lead many to believe he could play the five technique with increased strength, though he's never done it. Athleticism is borne out of playing not only defensive line, but tight end and offensive line while in high school.
Nick Fairley - 2011 Combine Results
Injury Issues. Finished the 2010 season playing through a shoulder injury. Recovery from that same injury prevented him from doing the bench press at both the Combine and during Auburn's pro day.