Fresh off a BCS National Championship victory, Auburn has lost two underclassmen to the 2011 NFL Draft since Thursday. Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Cam Newton declared for the NFL Draft on Thursday, and now defensive lineman Nick Fairley will join him as one of the top prospects to be selected.
Fairley was a disruptive force in the SEC in 2010, racking up 60 tackles, 24 for a loss (106 yards). As part of that, he had 11.5 sacks for a loss of 74 yards. He was named the Defensive Players of the Game in the BCS Championship for his five tackles (three for a loss), a sack and his forced fumble.
After that performance, Fairley has gained some attention as a possibility to be the overall No. 1 selection by the Carolina Panthers. But there is no clear consensus that he should be the pick. Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers has also been discussed as a possibility. With former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera taking over as the Panthers' new head coach, a defensive player is the most likely selection.
Should the Panthers pass on Fairley, the Denver Broncos at No. 2 could decide to take the 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive tackle/end. While there are questions over Fairley's maturity level and occasional display of nasty play, adding the talent of Fairley to a struggling defensive lineman would be of immense help in turning the defense around.