published Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

NFL draft: Dareus, Fairley big picks

Former Auburn defender Nick Fairley runs drills for NFL football scouts during Auburn Pro Day on March 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst)
Former Auburn defender Nick Fairley runs drills for NFL football scouts during Auburn Pro Day on March 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst)

DRAFT COUNTDOWN

Sunday: Newton rises again

Monday: Ingram’s issue

Tuesday: Wonderlic concerns

Today: Dareus vs. Fairley

Thursday: Replacing Peyton

Former Tampa Bay and Oakland defensive tackle Warren Sapp doesn’t see a need to compare the two most menacing monsters in this year’s NFL draft.

“One had a career, and one had a year,” Sapp said recently on NFL.com.

Marcell Dareus, who was solid for three seasons at Alabama, and Nick Fairley, who dominated in 2010 for Auburn, are expected to be the first two defensive tackles taken Thursday night. They likely will be among the first 10 picks after comprising one of the most discussed tandems in recent weeks in terms of who should go before the other.

With one day remaining until the show begins in New York City, most projections have the 6-foot-3, 319-pound Dareus going second overall to the Denver Broncos and the 6-4, 291-pound Fairley going eighth to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans’ defensive line coach is Tracy Rocker, who had the same role at Auburn the past two seasons.

“Marcell Dareus is more complete when you talk about on-the-field comparisons,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said. “No, he is not the athlete Nick Fairley is, but he’s stronger versus the run and provides more versatility in terms of being strong as a nose tackle and as a five-technique in the 3-4 front and as a traditional defensive tackle in a 4-3 front.”

Dareus had 33 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for the 2009 Crimson Tide and saved his best for that season’s BCS title game. In a 37-21 victory over Texas, he knocked Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy out of the game and returned a Garrett Gilbert interception 28 yards for a touchdown to earn defensive MVP honors.

He had 34 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season, when he was suspended the first two games after taking two trips to Florida last spring for parties that were attended by one or more agents. Such an incident can raise red flags through the draft process, but that has not been the case at all with Dareus.

In its ruling days before the start of last season, the NCAA labeled Dareus “one of the most truthful student-athletes we have ever interviewed.”

Fairley was the defensive MVP of last season’s BCS title game, when Auburn slowed Oregon’s fast-paced offense in a 22-19 win. It capped an out-of-nowhere rise to prominence for Rivals.com’s No. 28 offensive guard prospect in the 2007 signing class who spent two years at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Miss., before arriving on the Plains.

After tallying 28 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks for the Tigers in ’09, Fairley erupted last year to compile 60 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two caused fumbles, two recovered fumbles and an interception. His year was not without controversial moments — most notably a personal-foul penalty against Georgia and an unsportsmanlike-conduct flag against Oregon — and the concern now is whether he will give his all on every snap.

“He takes more plays off than your average defensive tackle,” McShay said. “He is not as good versus the run as he is as a pass-rusher, and I also think there is a major concern about him translating to the NFL and getting paid, having his paycheck and continuing to work. Why is he just a one-year wonder? Is he going to work?

“Those concerns will hurt him, but he’s too talented to fall out of the top 10.”

Fairley had the fastest 40-yard dash time of the two (4.84 seconds to 4.93) at the NFL combine, but Dareus had the faster 10-second split (1.66 to 1.72). Not that Sapp believes there should be a tale of the tape between these two.

“You have a body of work with Marcell Dareus,” he said.

Houston’s troubles

Former Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine, according to a FoxSports.com report Tuesday. The 6-3, 270-pounder was ESPN analyst Mel Kiper’s No. 1 outside linebacker last fall and among the top 15 or 20 overall prospects, but he no longer is being projected as a first-round pick.

Houston was suspended for the first two games of Georgia’s 2009 season for an undisclosed violation of team rules.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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