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There aren’t a cluster of changes this week but there’s one significant fall and one other issue I want to discuss. First let’s talk about Nick Fairley dropping to San Diego at #18.
Without doubt Fairley was one of the most impressive performers during the 2010 college season. He consistently got to the passer, he’s electric off the snap and he’s got perfect size for the three-technique position. Fairley’s production was unmatched (13 sacks) and thanks to Oregon’s offensive line scheme he was too often left unblocked and able to dominate the BCS Championship game.
It was around that time that many people considered Fairley an option to go first overall. He could still be a very high pick because the talent is there yet if one of the big names is going to fall, I’m putting my money on either Fairley or Von Miller.
A lot of people have started to voice concerns. Mike Mayock has often stated his view that you either buy into Fairley or he’s not even on your draft board. There’s the one-year-wonder aspect, considering he was a complete non-factor in 2009. At the same time that one year of production was admittedly sensational. His attitude has been questioned and perhaps highlighted by his decision to reject the opportunity to work out for the Miami Dolphins (who own the #15 pick).
ESPN’s Todd McShay has highlighted the high bust rate at the defensive tackle position which could be a factor, stating: “The more you watch Fairley on tape, the more worried you get he’ll be a bust.”
Maybe this is just the latest edition of scaremongering? There’s nothing quite like a nice dose of negativity when discussing a big name prospect. Coincidentally, prospects like Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder have been elevated to star status with seemingly little justification. That is the way the draft rolls this time of year.
Even so I wouldn’t rule out a drop for Auburn’s defensive compliment to Heisman winner and probable #1 pick Cam Newton.
I first projected a drop for Fairley a month ago, pinning him at #14 to St. Louis. There are teams in the top-ten that could easily consider drafting a three technique (Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland or Tennessee) but all four will be given extremely viable alternatives. A lot of people have Tennessee taking Fairley, yet this is a team with giant holes at quarterback (Locker or Mallett?) and cornerback (Amukamara or Smith?) and could still make a surprise pick (I have them taking Julio Jones).
Once Fairleydrops past #8 you’re either banking on a 3-4 team making the choice and using him as a five technique or you’re preparing for a fall. Minnesota and St. Louis are logical homes, yet like the teams picking in the top ten will be presented with alternatives. In the Rams’ case that could be another defensive tackle – Corey Liuget is another talented player but has none of the character issues that come with Fairley.
Eventually someone is going to take that chance. I’m happy to admit that it could be a top-ten team rather than someone in the #12-18 range. If he keeps falling, it increases the likelihood that a 3-4 team will take a punt on his ability to work as a five-technique. It wouldn’t surprise me if San Diego moved down in such a scenario, potentially trading with a team like New Orleans that has a big need on the defensive line. Perhaps we should discuss the possibility of Seattle trading up from that position? Would you surrender the #25 and the #57 for a shot at Nick Fairley?
The second issue I wanted to address was the number of quarterbacks I have going in the top #15 picks. I hear the argument about how long it’s been since that number were taken early. This isn’t a normal year though, is it? Teams haven’t had the opportunity to make veteran additions due to the lack of free agency. If the court case on April 6th fails to prevent the lockout from continuing, we could be facing the prospect of a shoe-horned free-agency a fortnight before the season begins.
Will that increase the possibility of quarterbacks going early in the draft? I think for the top four prospects that will prove true and we may also see other quarterbacks over drafted.
I don’t think it’s optimistic to suggest the top-four will all be gone by Miami at #15. There are so many teams in the first half of round one that need a quarterback. Not all will go in that direction, for example I think given the option of Patrick Peterson or Locker/Mallett, Arizona will go with the cornerback. In my latest mock I also have Tennessee and Minnesota going in different directions. But I actually think it’s more unrealistic to expect only Gabbert and Newton to go early and then have this long drop off into the late first round or early second round.
I understand the issues with Locker and Mallett but I still think two teams will roll the dice. I can’t see Locker getting past Washington and Mike Shanahan at #10. If we do see three quarterbacks go in the top ten, that is only going to increase the value of Ryan Mallett. His issues are well publicised but Miami are a team that has added Joey Porter and Brandon Marshall to their roster in recent years. They have a huge hole at quarterback, yet many people presume they will draft another running back in Mark Ingram. Why?
If Mallett did go early, the question would then become – will we see the next tier of quarterbacks over drafted? After Locker and Mallett the next QB I have on the board is Ricky Stanzi with a R3/4 grade. I have Kaepernick in 3/4, Ponder in R4/5 and Dalton in 5/6. I suspect at least one of these guys is going to be a second round pick.