Nick Fairley came to the NFL Combine as the top defensive lineman, if not the top prospect, in the 2011 NFL Draft class. All Fairley did on Monday was come out and show why scouts hold him in high regard, breezing through the measurable drills and impressing in position-specific workouts. If there was any doubt he was worthy of a top-five pick before the combine, it was likely erased after a strong performance on Monday.
Fairley didn't post a top-15 40 time, a testament to just how fast the defensive linemen were moving in the drill. However, he did break the five-second barrier, joining 29 other defensive linemen as the group tore up the track. For a man of his size, even tough he's not among the heaviest of linemen, the straight line speed he display left many pleased with his performance.
Yahoo!'s Doug Farrar singled out Fairley, noting he displayed exceptional athleticism and agility in the linemen drills.
He's projected by many to be the best at his position, but even so, Fairley impressed those who were already captivated by his game tape. He showed great intensity all day and displayed such exceptional turn and hit in the bag drills, it was easy to forget that he's not a rush end and inadvertently debit him for missing a step in the faster portions of the drills in which linemen must change direction
The question now isn't whether Fairley is a top-10 pick or where he'll slot in the draft, but whether he'll go first overall to the Carolina Panthers. Even if he doesn't, it's tough to see Fairley falling past the first few picks when considering his entire body of work and incredible season at Auburn. His performance at the combine, from the interviews to the workouts, simply confirmed what plenty of scouts had seen before: Fairley is one of the best in the 2011 draft class.
For more results from the workouts, check out the rest of our 2011 NFL Combine StoryStream.