General manager Martin Mayhew seems to think he could be even better with a few less pounds on his frame, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Fairley, who weighs 300 pounds, was in most opinions the best at his position coming out of college following a national championship alongside Cam Newton.
When the Lions drafted him, it seemed he would give Detroit twin nightmares on the interior of its defensive line. However, results were slow in coming. His rookie year, Fairley only played in 10 games and had 15 tackles with one sacks. In his second season, the Lions watched him turn a corner with 5.5 sacks and 34 tackles in 13 games.
This year, Fairley posted his best numbers with six sacks and 35 tackles, showing consistency. According to Pro Football Focus, Fairley still has ample room to grow. The Auburn product ranked 30th among defensive tackles with a 5.8 overall rating, slotting in 15th in pass rushing but 48th against the run.