Over the last several days, we've been taking a close look at Auburn star defensive tackle Nick Fairley. From two scouting reports (physical and character) to an Auburn fan's perspective on the 2010 Lombardi Award winner.
We've got two more posts coming on Fairley, and both of them will start to narrow the focus on Fairley's fit with the Buffalo Bills. Tomorrow, Der Jaeger will break down Fairley's schematic fit into George Edwards' defense. As the set-up to that piece, I spoke with Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft about a few points of contention I'd had about Fairley.
First and foremost: from an experience standpoint, there's not a lot different between Fairley and Marcell Dareus. Both players were rotational players early in their careers, and didn't become full-time starters until 2010. Yet Fairley is the player labeled as the "one-year wonder," while Dareus is viewed as one of the safest prospects in the draft. I asked Kadar about this, and the answer, apparently, lies in production - just not statistical production.
"It's kind of impossible to compare the two based on their statistics," Kadar told me. "Fairley had a lot more opportunities to make plays in a gap-shooting 4-3 scheme. Dareus' main duty at Alabama was to hold the line and plug holes, allowing the linebackers to roam freely. I think if you wanted to compare Fairley using statistics, you have to look at Gerald McCoy last year. Obviously no one can be compared to Ndamukong Suh, statistically or otherwise. But Fairley projects similarly to McCoy."
Knowing that the Bills are working around Kyle Williams at nose tackle, playing a lot of under front and flipping between the 30 and 40, I asked Kadar how Fairley might fit into an under system at end, similar to how Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are utilized in Arizona. Kadar took well to this idea.
"He would fit extremely well, but that's a fairly unique scheme based on what Campbell and Dockett can do," Kadar said. "Still, the basic principle of the ends in a 3-4 is to occupy blockers, allowing the weak-side inside linebacker to make plays. So Fairley could do that, but I'm not sure many other teams would use him like Campbell and Dockett."
(For the record, I believe that the Bills are one of those teams that would utilize Fairley in that fashion. First and foremost, they've repeatedly said that they'll scheme around a player's abilities to maximize his potential. With Williams at the nose in an under front, lining Fairley up next to him is a fairly formidable idea.)
I was caught a bit off-guard late last week when former NFL personnel man Greg Gabriel, now of the National Football Post, opined that he thinks Fairley is capable of playing left (strong-side) end in a 4-3 defense. I've been toying with the idea of the Bills taking a defensive lineman to complement Williams, and knowing that the team moves to the 4-3 a lot, if Fairley is capable of playing the end in the 40 front, I think it would clearly boost his value on Buffalo's board. Kadar is not as keen on the idea as Gabriel is.
"The only scenario where Fairley should be playing end in a 4-3 is if other players are injured," Kadar stated. "The first reason is because he'd be so much better as a 3-technique defensive tackle. At least at the college level, he's a proven commodity in that role. The other reason is because Gabriel questions whether or not Fairley is consistent down after down. That is easier to mask if a player is playing inside. It's unfair to judge someone by how they look, but does Fairley even look like 4-3 defensive end to anyone?"
(Actually, no, not really at all. In our physical scouting report, we pointed out that Fairley has a fairly - pun - unique body type. He belongs inside, even though I do think he has the footwork and range to get by comfortably on the edge.)