Detroit Lions: This rookie is not ready for a bigger role

Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

During the offseason, this Detroit Lions‘ rookie turned heads, but his hype has not translated into reality this season. He’s simply not ready.

When the Detroit Lions take the field for organized team activities in the summer, a number of unexpected players stand out and make their case for a roster spot. It happens every year.

Fans fall in love with the idea that the Lions found a true underdog, a diamond in the rough, who only needs a real opportunity to shine. I like to call it Patrick Edwards Syndrome.

Back in 2012, Edwards earned a spot on the Lions’ practice squad as an undrafted free agent who put up some exceptional receiving numbers at the University of Houston. After recovering from a season-ending injury that year, the hype reached a fever-pitch after a strong endorsement from teammate Nate Burleson, who guaranteed Edwards would be a “big time player.”

It just never materialized for Edwards, who amassed a total of just five catches for 42 yards in four games in his short pro career.

Players like Edwards fail to emerge not due to lack of opportunity, but because the gap between practice and game is a wide one. NFL players earn their opportunity, and if they cannot separate themselves against starting-level competition in practice, they will not be able to contribute in any meaningful way on Sunday.

The reality is that practicing in shorts and racking up gaudy numbers in the preseason means very little. It simply means they are better than most guys who will end up never making an NFL roster.

This year’s fools gold is Brandon Powell.

Powell, a rookie out of the University of Florida, flashed some potential against back-end roster players, hauling in 16 passes for 103 yards to go with some promising kick return ability.

Fans hopped on the hype train early, suggesting that Powell’s “skill set” renders it unnecessary for the Lions to extend the services of Golden Tate. It was sheer blasphemy that Tate’s heir-apparent had arrived; the YAC King would be easily replaced by an undrafted rookie.

When the Lions traded Tate in October, those same fans who expected Powell to take over that role were forced to wait. Theo Riddick took over some slot duties, but the team signed Bruce Ellington off the street and immediately integrated a total stranger into their offense instead of Powell.

Then Marvin Jones went down. Still no sign of Powell. Then Bruce Ellington went down.

Only after the disappearance of three wide receivers did Powell get a meaningful look on offense, if you want to call it that.  It speaks volumes that it took so many injuries, including one to a mid-season free agent, for Powell to even see the field.

He saw the most action this past Sunday against the Bills, where he caught three passes for 11 yards and carried the ball one time for four yards.

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In a time where the Lions are desperate for a playmaker on an anemic offense, Powell is now getting those opportunities, but the potential has not yet translated into reality. He may have a future, but the only reality right now is that Powell is not ready for the big time.