Despite having 2010 defensive rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh in the fold (not to mention 2009 pick Sammie Lee Hill and highly productive 3-technique Corey Williams), the Lions wisely stuck to their board and drafted Auburn DT Nick Fairley with the 13th pick of the 2011 draft on Thursday. As late as February, Fairley was being projected by some as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, so you can imagine the surprise in Allen Park when he was still available when it came to Detroit's turn on the clock.
Fairley fell to Detroit presumably because of character concerns (which I believe to be overblown), but he is an explosive, elite athlete capable of being a dominant force on the interior against both the run and pass. He has the quickness and burst off the snap to consistently penetrate the line of scrimmage as well as the power to hold the line of scrimmage and occupy blockers.
The acquisition of my top rated DT (and No. 8 overall player on my Detroit draft board) gives the Lions considerable versatility on their defensive front. Both Fairley and Suh are capable of sliding out to left defensive end (LDE) on rushing downs, which will allow the speedy Cliff Avril to stay fresh and explosive on the edge. Fairley's presence will also take some of the heat off of Suh, as offensive lines will not be able to double team him as much as they did during his rookie campaign.
|Fairley will be one of the preseason favorites for 2011 defensive rookie of the year.|
The leadership of Suh and Kyle Vandenbosch should be exactly what Fairley needs to keep a level head, and considering the talent and depth on Detroit's defensive line, it's safe to say that Fairley will be one of the preseason favorites for 2011 defensive rookie of the year.
Heading into the second round there is plenty of talent still on the board for Detroit to be able to address one of a number of glaring needs. It looks like North Carolina OLB Bruce Carter will be ready to go by training camp despite ACL surgery this past December, and the Lions could also look to bolster their defensive backfield with Virginia CB Ras-I Dowling, or look for a compliment to Jahvid Best like Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams or Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure.