Position Ranking: #1
Strengths: Shows elite ability and dominant traits as an interior lineman; can be unblockable when he lowers his pads and releases off the ball with timing. Ideal combination of size, strength, athleticism, and aggression. Impressive short area burst and quickness off the snap; gifted physically to be one step ahead of everyone else. Able to consistently collapse the pocket and force double teams. Showed the quickness to make plays off tackle and towards the opposite sideline; Chases the ball aggressively. Very Good functional strength and is able to play bigger than he already is. Showed he could hold two gaps in run support when he chose to sink his hips and anchor. Very good closing burst. Quickly establishes himself when asked to drop into underneath coverage and sells the inside release. Able to get underneath angle blocks and blow up the stretch run. Showed the speed and burst to rush from a standup “30” technique and penetrate the interior.
Needs Improvement: Effort is not 100% on every snap. Content at times to lay on blockers or give half the effort. Stamina was a notable mark on sustained drives. Quick to drop into coverage but not always as quick to react once he was established. Continued to play after the whistle; took obvious and deliberate cheap shots and incurred a few ‘unnecessary roughness’ penalties. Had only one full year as a starter in the NCAA.
Bottom Line: Nick Fairley has the physical ability to be a dominant player at the next level. His ability to get underneath blockers, split the interior, and win matchups on strength (even when he loses on technique) are as good as the best in the NFL. While Fairley’s size is not ideal as a 3-4 nose tackle, he has the strength and quickness to fit very well in a 1-gap 3-4 scheme at the nose, similar to Jay Ratliff of the Dallas Cowboys.
When Fairley’s heart and mind are in the game he can impose his will and take over the interior at both aspects of run or pass. But in games I observed it was just as often that Fairley was a non factor (based on effort) as he was a huge, disruptive factor. His natural abilities and playing demeanor are very similar to Albert Haynesworth. If coaches can get Fairley to play with consistent effort to the whistle on every snap, and not after the whistle, he has the tools to be a great defensive tackle.
Draft Projection: Top ten pick.