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By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

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Jonathan Bales

Thus far this offseason, I have analyzed tape of six defensive tackle prospects:  Cameron Jordan (Cal)Cameron Heyward (Ohio State)Phil Taylor (Baylor)Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple), Drake Nevis (LSU) and Corey Liuget (Illinois).  I’ve also taken a look at Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn.

As of now, I would rate those six players as follows:

Tier One

Phil Taylor

Tier Two

Cameron Jordan
Muhammad Wilkerson
Adrian Clayborn
Drake Nevis

Tier Three

Cameron Heyward
Corey Liuget

I see Taylor as a potential monster inside.  It is worth noting that he is the only player who would remain at defensive tackle (nose tackle) in the Cowboys’ 3-4 scheme.  The six other prospects are all potential defensive ends.

Today’s feature would also fall into the latter category.  I hesitated doing a scouting report on Auburn’s Nick Fairley because 1) everyone seems to know his game pretty well and 2) there seemed to be little chance Fairley will drop to the Cowboys’ No. 9 selection.

After a sub-par showing at the Combine, however, Fairley is perhaps a legitimate option for Dallas in the first-round.

Scouting Report

Fairley can be a dominant player at times.  He’s very explosive off of the football and can create havoc in the backfield.  He uses his thick lower body and long arms to ward off offensive linemen.  He does a really nice job of getting his hands into linemen, allowing him to fully extend his arms, disengage, and make plays.  As far as his power/speed combination, Fairley may be the best in this draft class at the defensive tackle position.

A lot is being made of Fairley’s average time in the 10-yard split, but he generally displays outstanding quickness on tape.  Although he has the power to anchor at the point-of-attack, Fairley is also sudden enough to get into the backfield in a hurry.

Fairley’s major problem at this point is consistency.  He started just two games prior to the 2010 season, and he was only average then.  Within individual games, Fairley takes plays off and, at the end of contests, sometimes wears down.  I have major questions about his ability to play hard every snap.  That might be easier if he’s in a rotation in Dallas, but who wants to pay top 10 money to a rotational player?

Fairley plays big in big games, which is certainly a positive, but he also plays down to low competition.  He really seems to only step up when absolutely necessary, leading to questions about his work ethic and love for football.

To me, Fairley is a boom-or-bust pick.  He has an incredible skill set, but what will he do when he’s an instant millionaire?  I’m not very confident that he’ll continue to work to better his game.

Further, I’m not sure Fairley can thrive in a 3-4 defense.  He’d certainly be an upgrade over any of the current defensive ends on the roster, but in my opinion, Fairley is best suited as a three-technique player in a 4-3 scheme.

Projection

Fairley still figures to get selected by a team before the Cowboys’ No. 9 overall pick.  If he does end up dropping, I don’t think he should be an automatic selection for the ‘Boys.  First-round players should have very few concerns (particularly about work ethic) and, more importantly, very high floors, i.e. not much bust potential.  That is particularly true in the top 10.  I think Fairley has a high chance of under-performing relative to his draft spot.

In my defensive linemen rankings above, I would place Fairley in the first tier, but I actually have him rated just behind Phil Taylor.  I realize I am the only person in the United States to do this, but Taylor offers the same upside as Fairley at a position which I consider “more important” than 3-4 defensive end.  Remember, my board is built as if I was a member of the Cowboys’ organization; it isn’t simply generic rankings.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

USC OT Tyron Smith

Miami CB Brandon Harris

LSU CB Patrick Peterson

UCLA FS Rahim Moore

Baylor NT Phil Taylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

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15 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential 2011 Draft Pick: Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn

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  2. Rick says:

    I’m not sure you put 2 Jay Ratliffs on the same defensive line. Ratliff’s a fantastic player, but I don’t think that makes much sense schematically to have such an undersized front.

    Now, if they would just move Ratliff to end and get a “real” nose guard…

  3. willis says:

    Rick, your point makes sense but at the same time Fairly has such burst that I find him intriguing. Personally I think its the old adage of speed vs size, but I would love to get fairly and ratliffto play the ends with a big 340 lber like phil Taylor inside

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Man, I just had that vision. Fairley and Ratliff in the 5 technique w/ a true NT (won’t be Taylor is we pick Fairley at 9 as Taylor will be gone by 40). Jerrell Powe or Kenrick Ellis will still be available but I don’t think Dallas would like to go w/ 2 rookies starting.

    I’d like to see how Josh Brent is developing or the possibility of getting Aubrayo Franklin or Brandan Mebane.

  5. Tyrone–I don’t think Mebane is a “true” NT, or he is at least undersized. I know Franklin is a pure nose and if I had ranked NTs, he would have been up there.

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  9. johncoleman says:

    The only issue I have is an inconsistent motor.

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