Pros: Fairley is explosive off the snap, and he's always looking for a gap to push through and get to the quarterback or ballcarrier. Bulls back single blockers with alarming strength and can split double-teams with that same strength as well as an effective series of hand moves. Slants very quickly off blocks in front of him and can push past blockers at an angle.
Fairley has the size and disruptive ability to be a very effective three-tech in a four-man front, but he's also stout enough to play straight over center in a three-man or hybrid front, making him a potential franchise player in just about any defense. Engages only as long as he has to -- even before he's winning strength battles on plays, he's always looking upfield. As a one-tech, forces the flow away from him and draws double-teams. Has a great inside roll to the quarterback; starts in a straight line and closes in very well. Sure tackler with violent intentions.
Cons: Has had frequent and well-documented issues with an inability to play inside the rules; he's developed a reputation as a cheap-shot artist. He's received multiple penalties for late hits and has a tendency to get nasty after the whistle. Can be drawn offside, and his aggressiveness can be used against him in a general sense. His after-throw quarterback hits, while legal and unflagged at the NCAA level, will likely draw him some flags and fines in the NFL, especially if his rep travels with him. Questions about his work ethic will have to be put to rest.
What does he bring? Fairley isn't quite the Warren Sapp-type player who demolished offenses when he was in Tampa Bay, but he reminds of the Sapp who played a bit more upright in Oakland from 2004 through 2006 and started to allow an "illegal" side to his play. That's not to say that Fairley doesn't have the talent to be elite at that level, but he'll have to clean up his act on the field before he can take that next step. It may be that he's just a severe Type-A guy who needs that aggression corralled by the right kind of coaching. If that happens, look out, because a properly directed Nick Fairley could be a very dangerous individual ... in all the right ways.
Is it the right pick? Well, you can pencil Ndamukong Suh in for about 20 sacks next year. Who on earth are the Lions' opponents supposed to block?