By Tom E. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series of looks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: Nick Fairley.
Nick Fairley, 6-4, 291DT,Auburn
The Skinny:Simply dominant. Took over games at the line of scrimmage for the National Champion Auburn Tigers. Won the Lombardi Award after having a junior season in which he had 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Mean, edgy player who could be a fierce weapon on the defensive line. He'd play the defensive tackle spot in the 3-4 and kick inside in the 4-3.
Gotta Have Him:"New England could be the one spot he could be a Pro Bowl player," says Wes Bunting, the draft analyst for National Football Post. "Talent-wise, I think he's better than Marcel Dareus (widely seen as a top-five pick). He could be one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. The Patriots have had athletic guys before but Fairley is different." Fairley would be playing next to Vince Wilfork in the right defensive end spot. He can two-gap with great effect.
Don't Need Him:The concerns about Fairley's commitment have driven him down the hypothetical draft boards so that he's even worth talking about for the Patriots at 17. And that doesn't even mean he'll be there at 17. The Patriots would almost certainly have to go up close to the 10th spot to get him. Is that a move they want to make for a kid who - though never in any legal trouble - has somehow got everybody worried about his commitment and desire?
Forecast:Practically speaking, the Patriots would have to go up to possibly 10 (where the Redskins are itching to deal out of) to get a shot at Fairley. And it's been speculated he could be gone to Tennessee at No. 8. But the "rap sheet" on Fairley shouldn't scare off New England. They have a fairly mature defensive group and a solid team structure that would help Fairley see what is expected. "He's a former junior college kid and people I've talked to say he still acts like a juco kid," Bunting said. "Immature. Does he love football or does he love what football gives him? Motivation is a big thing. But it looks like he has a passionfor thegame. He's nasty. He may just need some mentors. There's a little Warren Sapp in Nick Fairley."
Patriots Draftability: 7