Nick Fairley's season ended Wednesday because of a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks ago. So what can we say about the performance and future of the Detroit Lions' top draft pick in 2011 after two years in the NFL?
At the top, availability has been a concern. Fairley missed six games last season because of a foot injury and will miss a total of three games because of the shoulder. Big-time players need to be on the field for full seasons. It's also not clear if the NFL will issue a future suspension for a pair of offseason arrests last spring.
When healthy and in the lineup, however, Fairley proved to be one of the NFL's top playmaking defensive tackles this season. In the five games after jumping into the starting lineup for good, Fairley amassed 23 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles. On the whole, our friends at Pro Football Focus ranked him their fifth-best defensive tackle based mostly on his total of sacks, quarterback hurries (21), quarterback hits (eight) and stops (23). Stops are solo tackles, including sacks, that constitute an offensive failure.
Fairley looked like a young player at times, amassing 11 penalties, which tied for the third-most among all NFL players. But if Fairley can stay healthy and out of trouble, the Lions have the potential to field a dominant pair of playmaking defensive tackles -- Fairley and Ndamukong Suh -- for years to come.