NFL drafts are constantly second-guessed ... in every market. The Detroit Lions' drafts have been no different. They have hit some home runs and struck out on some.
Where good teams cannot afford to miss is their early-round picks, especially in the first round. In 2011, the Lions used the 13th overall selection on Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Fairley was an All-American and Lombardi Trophy Award winner in 2010, boasting 24 tackles for loss - third most in the nation - and 11.5 sacks, while helping the Tigers to a BCS National Championship. He hasn't been a bust as a professional, but he has lacked consistency and dedication.
Fairley is not the first, nor will he be the last, ultra-talented player to "underachieve." He has been given plenty of opportunities, and yet, also been given plenty of warning with the new coaching staff - warning to play up to his potential.
Jim Caldwell has preached accountability from Day One, and he will not tolerate anything but 100% effort. There is no reason for Fairley to be falling back into bad habits of eating poorly. There is no reason for him to be gaining 10 pounds, after being commended by coaches for losing the weight in the first place.
The hard thing for many fans, and even coaches, to judge is heart. Players can have all the talent in the world, but if they don't want to improve, it's a waste. Coaches can't make a player want to get better. That has to come from within.
Nick Fairley has to have the desire to be the best, and by demoting him and choosing not to extend his contract, the Lions have shown serious concerns about his desire. It's fair. Just about every player in the NFL has talent. What separates the average players from the great players is the will and thirst to work at being better than everyone else.
Calvin Johnson works harder than anyone on offense. Ndamukong Suh does the same on defense. They are considered elite at their position because of their skill, but their work ethic enhances that ability.
The Lions knew the talent they were getting in Nick Fairley ... maybe what they underestimated was the size of his heart. It's alright for the team and fans to expect more. It's now up to Fairley to show everyone how bad he wants it, and prove that his appetite for success equals or surpasses his appetite for food.
Matt Shepard is the play-by-play voice of University of Michigan basketball, Eastern Michigan University football and the Detroit Lions television network. He can also be found on TV locally on Fox Sports Detroit and nationally on the Big Ten Network for college hockey and baseball.Learn more.