Positives: Good size for the position even if he isn’t the 6’5”, 300+ pound monster he was listed as by Auburn. He has a very impressive burst off of the line of scrimmage, even if he is only 6’3”, 291 pounds like he measured in at the combine. His get-off helps make him extremely disruptive versus the run and the pass, and it led to a lot of tackles for loss this season at Auburn. He was arguably the most disruptive defensive lineman in the entire country this year, and his quickness had a lot to do with that. He uses his hands very well and does a good job of shedding blocks because of his impressive hand usage. He shows a nice swim move and frequently uses it to beat his man off the snap with one move. He has long arms and between his athletic ability, long arms and impressive hand usage he should be a disruptive under tackle in a 4-3 scheme. He shows a good motor and plays nasty at times which I like, and he consistently made a big play when Auburn needed it this year and I really like those kinds of players. He also demonstrates good pop as a tackler and his long arms help with drag-down tackles and seems to pursue well, especially for a defensive tackle.
Negatives: Despite impressive strength he does not stand up to double teams well in the run game. He will get too tall at times when he is asked to occupy blockers instead of penetrating up-field and that limits his ability to stop forward progress by offensive linemen. He could stand to get stronger and I imagine he will on a NFL weight training program and if he does that would help him occupy double teams in the NFL, though that likely wouldn’t be his primary job as an under tackle. He has drawn a lot of criticism for being a “dirty” player and in a league that has been cracking down on dirty hits (especially on the quarterback) you have to worry a bit about what kinds of fines and possible suspensions he might earn if he doesn’t quit hitting quarterbacks late or if he doesn’t stop spearing them to the ground. Additionally he really exploded onto the scene this year, so you have to be a bit concerned with him being a one-year wonder and leaving for the draft to get a big pay-day. He doesn’t as consistently dominate versus the run as he does versus the pass, and while he tends to pursue well his motor will run hot and cold. That is not uncommon for defensive tackles though, especially those with the talent level of Fairley.
Overall: Fairley is a very impressive prospect and I still think his level of disruption rivals what Kevin Williams has been able to do in the NFL when he isn’t being intentionally neutralized. However, he may not ever be as dominant versus the run as Williams has been at times. Regardless, Fairley is definitely a top five or top ten talent in this draft and I would be surprised if he fell outside of the top ten. He is a boom-bust prospect in my opinion because of his track record with dirty hits and because he only has one season of quality production (even if he was extremely dominant). But you have to be careful when assuming that players, especially defensive tackles, will play like that for many years to come. It seems to me that no position produces more amazing seasons one year before their pay day than defensive tackle and often they play lights out, get their money and then regress the following season. No one thought that would happen with Albert Haynesworth when he got his pay-day, but look at him now. So there is reason to be cautious about Fairley because of his one season of production, but if he continues to work hard and improve I see no reason that he won’t be a very disruptive under tackle in the NFL.
Projection: Top 10. I can’t get any more specific than that right now because while he may have top five talent I think he may be the #2 DT on a lot of draft boards behind Marcell Dareus thanks to Dareus’ showing at the combine as well as his impressive track record of production at Alabama.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point Of Attack: 3.5
Pass Rush: 4.0
Thanks for reading! Expect more scouting reports one some of the first round talent in this years draft soon!