Even NFL players had to be impressed at last season’s “Iron Bowl”, the annual game between Auburn and Alabama in which the Tigers came back from a 24-point deficit to edge the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa and keep their national-title hopes alive. The two schools are sending a pair of defensive linemen to the NFL’s first round, and the player who deemed better in college likely won’t be the higher pick.
Auburn’s Nick Fairley had a brilliant junior year and won the Lombardi Award, along with the Defensive MVP of the Tigers’ BCS title win over Oregon. He didn’t have the best combine, though, and only a solid Pro Day is keeping him from slipping outside of the top 10. It appears as though he won’t fall any lower than eighth, where Tennessee will pick as they need to fortify their line, and Fairley can play anywhere in a 4-3 scheme. Another factor: new line coach Tracy Rocker was Fairley’s mentor at Auburn.
However, Alabama’s Marcell Dareus should end up going before Fairley for a few reasons. He seems to have a better work ethic than Fairley, who is explosive but takes plays off. Dareus is also decorated as he was the Defensive MVP of Alabama’s 2010 BCS title win over Texas, and like Fairley he can play all over the line, but he’s bigger. Dareus can also play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 system, while Fairley is more suited to the 4-3, so that should help him out. Denver has the second pick and they’ve pinpointed the defensive line as their major need, so it wouldn’t surprise us if the Broncos snagged Dareus, who had an excellent combine. While Fairley may have more upside, Dareus is ready to play right now.