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I’m Now Fairley Suh-tain the Lions Made the Right Pick

It’s always a shock when you spend months researching and preparing for several scenarios and you think you have a good idea what to expect, and then something unexpected happens instead.  The Lions taking Nick Fairley was something that I didn’t prepare for at all, and actually I didn’t even have Fairly on my draft board.

I removed Fairley when concerns about his work ethic surfaced around the combine.  I loved his physical ability, but work ethic concerns and 300 lb defensive tackles remind me of the Shaun Rogers roller coaster.  I removed Fairley from my board and spent little time researching him because of the work ethic concerns, but also because I never expected him to even be an option.

Now that I’ve had some time to go back and review my notes and some of the game film I have on him, I am far more prepared to evaluate the selection than I was 12 hours ago.

Fairley very closely matches the physical style of Ndamukong Suh and he has a nasty temperament as well.  He is an explosive upfield penetrator with good awareness and he dominated the best conference in college football.  Pairing him with Suh, Corey Williams and Sammie Hill gives the Lions the best defensive tackle group in the league, and frankly it isn’t even close.  When you have the opportunity to turn a high value position group into one of the best in the league, it’s a very valuable opportunity.

The Lions front office and coaching staff highly values defensive tackles, probably more than almost any other team.  The Lions’ defense is built around a disruptive defensive line and the fastest way to a quarterback is a straight line.  The shortest distance between a quarterback and the defense is defensive tackle.  If you have four tackles that are able to disrupt the middle and get after the quarterback, it makes your defensive ends’ jobs easier because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket.  This pick ensures there will be very little, if any dropoff when the Lions rotate their tackles.

The work ethic concerns are amplified for me because I never get to meet or interview these prospects.  However, the Lions did interview him and they value work ethic, drive and heart.  I don’t see any scenario that Gunther Cunningham, Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew all sign off on a kid that has work ethic issues.  Combine that with the veteran leadership and work ethic already in that defensive line group, and the work ethic concerns are greatly diminished in my mind.

When you have the opportunity to get a top five talent in a high value position, it’s very difficult to pass that up.  I underestimated the Lions’ value placed on defensive tackle and I never envisioned a scenario that four quarterbacks going in the top 12 would allow Fairley to fall to the Lions.  Fairley will help the Lions’ pass rush, he will help the Lions’ run defense and he will help keep the other three tackles fresh.  Was he the right pick?  Time will tell, but I’m more comfortable with why the pick was made now that I had time to assess it.

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