Potential Patriots draftees: Nick Fairley

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Potential Patriots draftees: Nick Fairley

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

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

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

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Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.