Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Auburn made a living out of defying expectations this season, but unfortunately for them, expectations have finally won out when it's come to early draft declarations. Cam Newton announced he was taking his skills to the NFL last night, and today Lombardi Award winner and national championship game defensive MVP Nick Fairley made it official: he's forgoing his senior season on the Plains to go pro as well.
Though Fairley reportedly became emotional during the announcement and thanked the "Auburn Nation" for their support, the decision couldn't have really been all that difficult. An unstoppable force on the Tiger defensive line this season and one coming off of a dominating performance in the BCS title game, Fairley is the No. 1 defensive tackle in the draft according to many and could go as high as the No. 1 overall pick. Barring some kind of catastrophe in pre-draft workouts, Fairley is a mortal lock to go in the top five; our draft gurus here at CBS have him at No. 3 and No. 4 in their current mocks , respectively.
Combine that kind of payday with the facts that Fairley is already four years out of high school (having spent two seasons, one a redshirt, at a Mississippi junior college) and has won virtually every honor there is for a defensive lineman to win on both the team and individual level, and there was really only one choice for Fairley to make. Like his teammate Newton, Fairley was more blinding supernova than enduring college star -- he started only two games and recorded just 3.5 tackles-for-loss in 2009, before blowing up for 24 this year -- but that won't keep him from being remembered at Auburn (and in college football in general) for a long, long time.