By now, you've seen the link 3k posted earlier, the link to Doug Farrar's latest 2011 NFL mock draft at Yahoo...the one where he has the St. Louis Rams picking Auburn DT Nick Fairley with the 14th selection in the draft. As 3k said, it's a very remote possibility. Stranger things have happened, but a chorus of pundits are spending ay more time talking about Fairley's character issues now than they are his talent. Prospects falling due to character concerns is not unheard of, just ask Dez Bryant. While still an unlikely scenario, it begs the question: at what point does the reward outweigh the risk?
Rams GM Billy Devaney has been criticized for taking "safe" players in the draft in recent years. Picking OT Jason Smith with the second pick in 2009 saw that charge leveled against Devaney, and there were even some using the same argument regarding the James Laurinaitis and Rodger Saffold picks (though I'm sure those folks have since had their crow and moved on).
Each of those picks met crucial needs for the Rams, just like Fairley would. The difference between then and now is that that was a young Rams team rebuilding the nucleus of the roster and needing high character guys, future leaders, to form the foundation of the team for the future. Now, the Rams have some more leeway to bring in some players who are a little riskier in the character department. The question is whether or not the risk is worth a first round pick.
Justified or not, Nick Fairley just can't seem to escape the character questions, both on the field and off of it. Here's what Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said about Fairley today:
You see him take an awful lot of plays off. If you don't buy into him, he's not even on your board.
And the Twitter-verse is filling up with Albert Haynesworth comparisons. Fairley has been considered a top three pick in the draft; he has that kind of talent. Therefore, it's a little shocking to see someone with Farrar's credibility mocking a fall from top five to fourteen in the first round.
Were that to happen, do the Rams coaches and front office believe that they can tune up Fairley's motor well enough to make him an three-down defensive tackle in the NFL? Even without the off-field concerns, it's a multi-million dollar question. Even if he becomes an effective rotational player, that's still an irreplaceable first round pick that could have been used somewhere else.
So mull the hypothetical question presented by this mock draft: if a talented player falls that far because of character concerns, should the Rams take the risk? Can Steve Spagnuolo, his coaches and the veteran players that now form the team's foundation speed the maturation process along and develop a top-notch football player?