Dec. 2, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck (12) is pressured by Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) in the first quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
Number 2: Nick Fairley, Nose Tackle
Player: Nick Fairley
Ht/Wt: 6’4″, 308 pounds
Positional Overview: After being run over by the Patriots LeGarrette Blount for the 2nd consecutive postseason, the Colts could clearly use an upgrade in the middle of their defense. While current starting nose tackle Josh Chapman hasn’t been terrible by any means, he’s ideally suited as a rotational defensive lineman on a really good defensive unit. The Colts have to also like Montori Hughes as a back-up, but just like Chapman, he should be just that.
Show Me The Money: As the 13th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Fairley remains the ultimate “boom or bust” candidate. At times, he’s been completely dominant along with the Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh on the inside of their defensive line. Never lacking talent or natural ability, it’s whether a coaching staff believes in themselves enough to get it all out of him. He can be a dominant force inside and in order to be a truly great 3-4 defense, it starts at nose tackle. The Colts simply haven’t had a nose tackle that can consistently command a double team and still make plays.
Buyers Remorse: For a player that has already had some weight, maturity, and motor issues, it may eventually end up being a horrible decision in hindsight to give him a big money long-term contract. While Fairley has been dominant at times, in addition to his weight issues, he’s also struggled staying on the football field. This season, he appeared in just 8 games this season due to a knee injury, making 14 tackles and 1 sack. A long-term contract could be a bit of a risky proposition for any team, let alone the Colts.
Outlook: The Colts have to get better in the interior of their defensive line, and Fairley is the type of gamble that could really pay off. It looks as though the Lions will only be able to keep one of Suh and Fairley, as both are free agents this offseason. Even after missing half of the season because of a knee injury, Fairley was still the 18th best defensive tackle with a +9.8 overall grade per ProFootballFocus. In fact, his +5.7 grade overall against the run placed him at 13th overall. It would be a “homerun or nothing” signing. However, the Colts defense desperately needs a true difference maker at nose tackle inside, and Fairley has that type of true potential.