Is Fairley being fairly evaluated?

There's an old saying in football: The tape doesn't lie.

Moreover, I trust my own eyes, even though I do wear contact lenses.

And through my eyes, Auburn's Nick Fairley was the best interior defensive lineman in college football last season, and it wasn't even close.

Who cares that he was lighter than expected and showed up at the NFL combine weighing 291 pounds? Who cares that he's closer to 6-4 than his listed height of 6-5? Who cares that he was branded by some as a dirty player?

What stood out to me was that nobody could block the guy last season. What stood out to me was that double teams most of the time didn't even work. What stood out to me was that he made plays when it mattered most, and what stood out to me was that he did all of this in the best conference in the land.

Maybe Fairley will slide down into the latter half of the top 10 picks in April's NFL draft. That's been the buzz coming out of the combine. Never mind that he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash and moved extremely well during drills. He wasn't tipping the scales at 300 pounds-plus and only had one big season in college (which is a fair concern), so now all of a sudden, he's not worthy of one of the top 5 picks.

There's never a sure thing when it comes to drafting players in the NFL. The draft is littered with busts and disappointments.

But how anybody could watch Fairley play last season and not think he rates as the most dominant defensive lineman in this draft is beyond me. One of the knocks against him is that he took plays off.

Maybe he did.

But ask the Oregon offensive linemen if he took many plays off in the BCS National Championship Game. Fairley dominated that game. He wrecked just about everything the Ducks tried to do offensively, and Oregon coach Chip Kelly conceded as much afterward.

Without Fairley, Auburn doesn't win that game.

Ask Alabama's offensive linemen if Fairley threw in the towel after the Crimson Tide stormed out to a 24-0 lead last season. When that game turned, Fairley looked like a locomotive steaming downhill on every play, and there was nothing Alabama could do to stop him.

If that's not enough, Fairley was the one who changed the complexion of that game for good with the Crimson Tide about to tack on another touchdown right before the half. One of the most enduring images from last season's Iron Bowl was Fairley on his knees after bulldozing through the Alabama line to sack quarterback Greg McElroy and strip him of the ball. In a split-second, Fairley was around McElroy and everybody else to pounce on the fumble, giving Auburn new life going into the halftime locker room.

Yes, Fairley did some questionable things after the whistle and drove a few too many quarterbacks into the ground, which only augmented his reputation as a dirty player.

But this just in: The guy can play. It wasn't a fluke that he finished with 24 tackles for loss last season, and it wasn't a fluke that nobody could block him.

If six or seven NFL general managers pass on him come April, the joke's on them.