Playing it safe or going for the more talented player?


One of the classic arguments around this time is whether or not to venture a high pick on a very talented player or on a less talented guy that has a higher floor.

In this situation, I’m referring to the debate between Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and Auburn’s Nick Fairley.

This may end up becoming a moot point, considering that Dareus’ buzz is that he won’t get by Denver at #2.  However, play out this scenario with me.

From a talent standpoint, I feel that Fairley has the physical tools and aggressiveness to become one of the league’s nastiest and dominant players.  I have him graded as my #2 overall prospect, despite the growing rumors about his work ethic and intangibles. Normally, I would factor those in more, but they are relatively unsubstantiated in the public’s view.  No one has really come out and said why they have that impression and I can only dock a player’s grade if I’m pretty sure there is an issue there.  I’d love to be able to pick Nick’s brain and get a feel for the kind of person he is.  The other concern with Fairley is that he is a one-year wonder, which is usually a sure sign of doom for an NFL prospect (but not always).

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been very impressed sifting through old interviews of Marcell Dareus.  He comes off as a pretty soft-spoken kid that is all about the game of football. Knowing that personnel guys love hearing that, many prospects are now coached to say how much they love the game.   What I look for  is when they name their favorite player.  If they can get specific, there’s a better chance they grew up watching the game as opposed to picking it up in high school because they felt they could make some money.  Incidentally, Dareus noted his childhood hero was Warren Sapp.

While he wasn’t a one-year guy, Dareus has disappeared in some games.  However, I love the fact that he shows up big in the most important games and has a willingness to play all over the defensive front.  It’s not that overly important, but I also like that he was successful under a strict coach like Nick Saban.  If a player can survive that type of disciplinarian coach, they are that much better suited to handle the rigors and professionalism of the NFL.  That is one of my concerns about Baylor NT Phil Taylor.  He mentioned in an interview how JoePa’s style at Penn State was not a good fit for him, and that he preferred the “looser” Baylor.  If he plays, for instance, under a Tom Coughlin, he might struggle.  With Dareus’ intangibles, I feel he can at least become a good starter even if he can’t completely iron out his inconsistencies.  With Fairley’s (rumored) intangibles, I feel he’ll either become one of the league’s best or be a complete waste of a draft pick.

While I have Marcell as my #4 overall prospect, they both grade out pretty close.  Even though it somewhat defeats the purpose of a draft board, I usually end up going with my gut anyways.  If Peterson is gone and it’s between Dareus and Fairley at #3?  Frankly, I’d probably rather play it safe in Dareus than go for the high-risk, high-reward in Fairley.