Throughout the Internet age, players have never been as good as they are in the offseason. Fans vigorously dig through training camp reports hoping to find the one gem that will be the source of all the team's hopes and dreams. It happens every year. 32 teams "win" the offseason, as every single team has a player that "you have to watch for." Whether it was a free-agency pick-up you cannot believe your team snagged or the late-round draft pick who has an impossibly high ceiling, your team has one, and he'll be amazing.
...until he isn't.
The Detroit Lions are not immune to this phenomenon. In fact, some may say that they excel in offseason delusion. But I'm not here to judge, I'm here to celebrate. I'm here to make a team composed entirely of these training camp wonders.
First, let me lay down some ground rules. I am specifically looking for players with a high amount of offseason hype and little to no real production. So players who were slightly disappointing -- like your Dre' Blys of the world -- did not make the list. Secondly, players who were drafted in the first three rounds are ineligible. I want players whose hype was mostly unwarranted. High draft picks come with a certain amount of predetermined hype. This is not a list of draft busts; there are plenty of those already out there. Lastly, because the age of offseason hype is relatively young with the rise in training camp obsession due to the Internet, this list will only include players from this millennium.
With those out of the way, on to the list:
Quarterback - Kellen Moore
This is a particularly tough spot to fill, because for the past decade the Lions have put their faith in high draft picks to fill the quarterback position. The only other real candidate here was Daunte Culpepper. But Culpepper wasn't terrible in his time in Detroit, and I don't think anyone really expected him to be his former self.
Moore makes the cut here almost exclusively because of the influx of Boise State fans who suddenly became Lions fans the minute Moore was snagged up after going undrafted in 2012. It's not hard to find people clamoring that all Kellen Moore needs is a chance. When Moore managed to put together a somewhat decent 2013 preseason against third-string competition, that was all the evidence BSU fans needed.
Of course, reality was very different. Moore has never taken a regular-season snap, and instead of promoting him to backup this year, the Lions opted to go with Dan "End Zone" Orlovsky. It's entirely possible that Moore will not be on the roster in 2014.
Running back - Artose Pinner and Aaron Brown
Pinner, drafted in the fourth round in 2003, was slated to be the Lions' running back of the future. Though he lacked a little size and speed, he had those illusive "instincts" you cannot teach. The late, great Tom Kowalski was confident he'd be the starter by the end of his rookie season. When he left Detroit, Pinner had started a total of six games with the Lions after just three seasons. Many fans believed cutting Pinner would come back to bite the Lions, but he only lasted another two years in the league and started just one more game.
Brown, on the other hand, was the late-round speedster who, if he didn't make an impact on offense, would surely be a special teams stud. His rookie year, he did manage to make the team as the kick returner and even contributed a little on offense (131 yards on 27 carries). This only increased his hype as he turned to his sophomore season. Unfortunately, he carried the ball only 18 more times in his career, and Stefan Logan took over his kick return duties.
Wide receiver - Demario Ballard and Patrick Edwards
This was, by far, the most crowded position. In the past 10 years, the Lions have been in a constant search for a counterpart to either Roy Williams or Calvin Johnson. The results have not been pretty. Players like Bryant Johnson, Az-Zahir Hakim and even Nate Burleson were all supposed to come in and right the ship, and all failed. But the most illogical, most undeserved hype came from two players that no one outside of Detroit has likely ever heard of.
Ballard was a one-year wonder... in training camp. His huge stature (6-foot-6) made Ballard a hugely interesting prospect as a big red zone threat in his rookie year in 2011. On a daily basis, reports would come out of training camp praising his size and hands. But Ballard never made the team and settled for a career in the CFL and arena football... where it appears he never recorded a single reception.
Edwards' hype can be traced to a single source: Burleson. Last year, Burleson promised that Edwards would be a "big-time playmaker." Unfortunately, the undrafted wide receiver hardly made a blip on the radar. He had just 5 receptions in the first six weeks of the season before spending the rest of the year on the practice squad.
Tight end - Marcus Pollard
After enjoying the Peyton Manning bump for seven seasons, Pollard hit free agency as a 33-year-old veteran. The Lions immediately jumped at the opportunity and signed Pollard to a three-year deal, hoping to replace the aging, under-producing Stephen Alexander. What they got in Pollard was an aging, under-producing tight end. Pollard's career in Detroit wasn't a complete failure (he did have 516 yards and 3 touchdowns in his first season), but it was nowhere near what the Lions were hoping for.
Offensive tackle - Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard
Both Fox and Hilliard were supposed to be the offensive linemen of the future. Fox, drafted in the fourth round by the Lions, was going to be a developmental project who could have been the eventual replacement of left tackle Jeff Backus. However, Fox could not seem to shake the injury bug and didn't start a game in his first three seasons. Last season, however, with Gosder Cherilus gone to free agency and Fox's injuries a thing of the past, the hype train was back on track. Fox was slated as a starter to open the season, but he proceeded to suffer another injury in the first quarter of the season opener. He was in and out of the lineup for a while before undrafted tackle LaAdrian Waddle became the starter. This offseason, he became a free agent and took his talents to Miami.
There was less hope for Hilliard when he joined the Lions in 2009. He was mostly thought of as a depth guy, but there was always the pervasive hope that he'd eventually take over a starting job, especially when Cherilus didn't work out at right tackle. But Hilliard has never progressed beyond a backup role, and the fact that Waddle seems to have jumped him on the depth chart says everything.
Offensive guard - Damien Woody and Manny Ramirez
Woody, having just earned two Super Bowl rings in New England, was welcomed with praise and hope in Detroit for the 2004 season. "He knew how championship teams are supposed to act, and he's even been to the Pro Bowl!" we all thought. Though Woody remained a starter for most of his time in Detroit, he saw the team's running game plummet from 19th in the NFL to dead last during his time with the team. Needless to say, he did not get another ring.
The Lions eagerly traded up to grab Ramirez in the fourth round in 2007. While there was never a huge amount of hype around "Man-Ram" (after all, he's a guard), his production was low enough for him to make the All-Overhyped Team. He started in just three games in his first two years. After a somewhat promising season in 2009 (12 starts), Ramirez was cut a month into the 2010 season.
It's worth noting that Ramirez resurrected his career in Denver and remains a starter there today.
Center - N/A
Thanks, Dominic Raiola.
Alright, Pride Of Detroit, your turn. Who got snubbed? Which players did you overhype?