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NFL Mock Draft 2011: What Happened To Nick Fairley?

SB Nation has released their latest NFL Mock Draft and the 49ers are picking Patrick Peterson with the seventh pick in the first round, a pick that is virtually agreed on by everybody doing mock drafts on the internet (protip: there's a lot of us). Peterson is the number one cornerback in the draft and potentially the number one corner of the last five years. There's a lot to like about him, and here's what SB Nation had to say about the pick, below.

7. San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. A very large number of people believe that Peterson is the best player available this year. He certainly has the fewest question marks. Should he slide this far into Round 1, San Francisco would sprint gleefully to the podium to pick him.

As noted, that's a scenario that San Francisco should be looking for. One question this writer has is: what happened to Nick Fairley, the defensive tackle out of Auburn? For at least a few months, Fairley was consistently in the top two draft picks as going to either the Carolina Panthers or the Denver Broncos. In this edition of the mock (and many others like it), Fairley is falling all the way down to the Houston Texans at the eleventh pick.

11. Houston Texans: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn. Wade Phillips' 3-4 under defense is predicated on having elite talent at pretty much every position in the front seven. Fairley's athleticism gives him the range to play end for Phillips, and eliminates some of the worry about him wearing down during games.

The NFL Scouting Combine is a weird event, and every year somebody rises and falls to a point that I personally can't make sense of. Fairley skipped some drills and has some off-the-field issues, but he fell at a weird rate. Marcell Dareus is now the consensus number one defensive tackle, and that's totally understandable: Dareus is deserving of that number one spot, but as to why one person's rise must have a counter-weight and instigate another person's fall is beyond me.

It's being brought up because Fairley is still a top-two pick talent. If he'll be so useful to Houston's 3-4 defense at pick 11, wouldn't he also be useful for the 49ers in Vic Fangio's defense? He would play defensive end, and if his pro day is any indication, he would play the position as well as any potential draftee right now. With SB Nation's latest mock, Fairley and Peterson are both available at seven, and they're both considered top talent.

Peterson should still be the pick, but the point is that 49ers fans would be fortunate to have either player, at this point.