Has an excellent first step that is almost impossible to block one on one for almost every guard he faced. Does a good job when he can pin his ears back. Constantly seems to live in opponent's backfield and disrupting the passing game. Has a quick swim move to beat blocker, as well as using a nice rip move inside. Uses a spin as well. Has good range and moves well in space. Makes plays in pursuit and is able to sniff out screens.Has good strength, and can get leverage against bigger blockers. First step and long arms allow him to get leverage vs. the run, and press the pocket and line of scrimmage. Flashes a nice power move when working at nose tackle.
Doesn't make nearly as many plays vs. the run as he does vs. the pass. His motor seems to run hot and cold at times. Can wear down as games go on. Was flagged for a few personal fouls during his time in the SEC, and started to earn a reputation for dirty play. Doesn't do a good job stacking and shedding at the point of attack. Tends to rely on his spin move to disengage from blockers vs. the run, which can take him out of plays. Doesn't anchor well vs. the run and needs to work on getting off blocks. Needs to polish up his hand use.
Fairley was the dominant defender in the country this past year, taking the mantle from Ndamukong Suh. He put up Suh-like numbers as a junior, with 60 tackles, 24 for loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, and an interception. Primarily played a 3-technique in Auburn's 4-man front. As a sophomore, he was primarily a reserve, but finished with 28 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 1.5 sack, and 1 fumble recovery. Prior to that he was at Copiah-Lincoln CC in Massachusetts where he had 63 tackles, 9 for loss, and 7 sacks in 7 games. He was primarily an offensive lineman in high school, so he's still fairly raw and unpolished.
Fairley has the sort of frame that makes him an option as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, but he lacks experience there and would only fit in a disruptive sort of scheme like Arizona. He's not a really good stack and shed defender at this point. And while he has the long arms and frame to get really good in that area, he's not there yet. He's best playing in a 3-technique in a 4-3 defense. That's where he's comfortable, and that's where he can make the quickest impact. The thing with Fairley however, is I think he is fairly raw in terms of his technique, and I don't think he'll be as effective a run defender at his current weight as he was in college. He's a disruptive guy and that's where he's going to make most of his plays vs. the run, but I think NFL guards will be able to lean on him more, and without having that ability to really get off blocks consistently at the point of attack, he could struggle as a run defender early on. Eventually, he should be able to get better. If he can get up to the 300-310 pound range, take a few years to polish up his game, then he can be a dominant interior defender. His potential inside is being a guy like a Kevin Williams. But there is some risk with Fairley. He's fairly raw for an elite defensive tackle prospect, has a questionable motor, the dirty tactics, and the limited collegiate experience aren't things you like. He's too talented a guy to be a complete bust, but it would not be surprising if he isn't a dominant interior defender because he doesn't show the great work ethic and drive to get better. I don't think he'll be a bad NFL player, I think if he's disappointing, he'll be disappointing to a level where he's still a pretty good defensvie tackle along the lines of someone like Tommy Kelly. Kelly has been a good pass rusher for the Raiders, but can be an inconsistent run defender. Early in Fairley's career, I think the best way to develop him is use him as a situational player as he develops. And as he gets better, get him more opportunities on running downs. I just think early on, teams are going to find a fair amount of success running at him at the next level.
Fairley is a disruptive pass rusher that if he can develop can be a dominant interior defender in the Falcons defense. He's not as versatile in terms of his experience playing multiple techniques, but he does have the potential to get better. As a Falcon, he would probably be best early on playing a similar role as Peria Jerry, working mainly on passing downs, as he gets bigger and better with his hands to be a better run defender. He'll play a lot more than Jerry did this past year in that situational role, but it would not surprise if it takes two or three years before Fairley really starts to impact. And he may not even develop the sort of consistency as a run defender that the team will spell him quite a bit. He would have the potential to be a dominant interior defender for the Falcons, but potentially could weaken their run defense as a full-time player if he doesn't get better there.
Fairley has elite potential as a pass rusher, but he needs to be coached up and might have a longer length to impact than many expect. But his potential alone makes him well worth a Top 10 pick for a 4-3 team looking for a disruptor.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
Point Of Attack: 3.5
Pass Rush: 4.5
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.