With the Cowboys headed for the top of the draft board come April, we thought we'd get a jump start on introducing you to the players who could wind up being a big part of the next Cowboys team. Next up is Nick Fairley.
Name: Nick Fairley
Position: Defensive Tackle/Defensive End
Why He Should Be the Pick: Check out what Ndamukong Suh has done as a rookie for the Lions and you'll get an idea of the impact Fairley might have in his first NFL season. He is second in all of college football in tackles for loss, a good indication of just how disruptive he's been up front in the SEC this season.
Fairley has been something of a surprise after coming to Auburn from junior college, so you might have worries that he's a flash in the pan who can't keep up the good play. He's gotten better and better as the year has progressed, however, and has all of the tools to keep growing as a player with more coaching and training.
The Cowboys certainly have a need up front. Marcus Spears is a free agent, Igor Olshansky isn't a game-changer and Stephen Bowen probably isn't as good as Olshansky. Another playmaker up front will make the secondary better as quarterbacks without time to throw tend not to play all that well.
Why He Won't Be the Pick: Fairley has been strictly a defensive tackle to this point and the Cowboys scheme, unless it changes, calls for him to play defensive end. It's not a major shift, although it might be enough of one that the Cowboys decide against rolling the dice.
There's also the little issue of Fairley's disregard for the rules. He's earned a reputation for hitting quarterbacks late this season, and it's not likely to go away as he climbs to the next level. The focus on illegal hits makes him a big risk for penalties and/or suspensions that would hurt the Cowboys almost as much as the rest of Fairley's game would help them.
Likelihood: Shake the Magic 8-Ball and you'll get "Outcome Unclear." Fairley isn't going to drop out of the top 10 picks, but ending the year with a flourish could make him the first non-quarterback selected. The Cowboys aren't likely to pull themselves totally out of the muck they've created, but picking second or third no longer seems likely. We'll call it eight percent for the time being.
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