Oct 13, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley (98) against the Cleveland Browns guard John Greco (77) and center Alex Mack (55) during the fourth quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Lions won 31-17. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
The first thing I’m doing is looking at this picture and wondering why the Lions don’t get more holding calls. That aside, Fairley has been quiet, production-wise. He has two sacks on the season, both in the first game against Minnesota, and has been shut out since. He has six tackles and five penalties on the season, which is not a great ratio. He has started to play better in recent weeks, with 10 combined QB hurries/hits over his last three games. Still, statistically, Fairley hasn’t shown up.
While not nearly to the same degree as Suh, Fairley does affect the game in the middle of the field. However, Fairley’s run defense has been porous. and his pass rush only sporadically effective. He’s playing well, but not up to the lofty expectations the 13th overall pick have set upon him.
Every year a first-round draft pick doesn’t play up to a superstar level, the following year becomes their predicted “breakout” season. Fairley is currently halfway through his second one of those “breakout” seasons, without much to show for it. It’s important to note that Fairley isn’t playing poorly, but that doesn’t mean he’s playing up to expectations.
There are a lot of players the Lions would be worse off with than Fairley at defensive tackle, but the question has to be whether Fairley is going to reach up to his supposedly high ceiling and stay there. He shows flashes of his huge talent, then disappears, and it’s been the same way his entire pro career.