I read with interest Joseph Person’s excellent story in Sunday's Charlotte Observer on former Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who is one of the Panthers’ candidates for the No.1 overall pick in April.
Are there questions about Fairley? Sure. Always have been, it sounded like. The guy has a couple of major red flags – a grade-changing scandal (which he says he wasn’t aware of) in high school, and a reputation as a dirty player in college (based on the highlights, this one has some merit). Plus, he really only had one big-time season in college – in 2010, when he was thoroughly dominant. In 2009, he really didn’t do much at Auburn.
Is all that enough to pass on Fairley?
The Panthers no longer have a great option at No.1 since Stanford QB Andrew Luck decided to stay in school. But to me, Fairley has the slight lead at the moment to be the “best-available” option at No.1 – if the Panthers can’t find a good deal to trade the pick, which to me should be a very viable option at this point considering that the team’s depth is too far down at several positions.
But if no trade works out, right now I’d pick Fairley. Remember Kris Jenkins in his best years at Carolina, before he got too fat and his knees could no longer support that enormous body? He could be an ornery teammate, but he made life so much easier for everyone else, because he either took up two blockers on every play or he disrupted things.
Fairley reminds me of Jenkins, who had his own baggage but was so important to the Panthers’ Super Bowl run in 2003. I’d pick him over Clemson’s Da’Quan Bowers. I’d do that in part because the Panthers need DT help more than DE help and partly because unless you’re just a great DE, you can be taken out of a game a little easier than a DT (who is right in the middle of the defense) can.
So I’d say right now, about three months before the draft and noting that stuff can always happen in those three months, here’s where I am on No.1: Either pick Fairley or trade it.