At the end of the 2010 college football season, then-Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley was widely pegged as the favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Fairley tumbled to the 13th selection due to off-the-field concerns, and he’s done little to silence them through two training camps and one statistically quiet rookie year.
Fairley was arrested twice this offseason and got off to a painfully slow start at training camp.
“He struggled early when we started camp, and he’s starting to get into shape,” Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “… Nick lacks some of that maturity, and he had to work overtime.”
Lions camp has been going on for almost a month. So it’s probably an ominous sign that Fairley is just now rounding into shape. He has three tackles through two preseason games.
“He’s got all the tools to be a very good player,” Cunningham acknowledged. “The biggest problem for him, he’s going to have to grow up fast and be consistent. … Because if the offensive line smells blood, they’re going to get him.”
Fairley conceded that he’s “not where I want to be,” and he’s yet to seriously push starter Corey Williams for playing time next to Ndamukong Suh. When they drafted Fairley, the Lions probably thought they’d have a starter by now.
And Fairley still hasn’t heard back from the league about his likely forthcoming suspension.