Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Stephon Gilmore is turning heads at training camp - so much so that the first-year player is suddenly the team's top cornerback, is being likened to Darrelle Revis by his own teammates, and carrying an increasing burden to perform well in 2012.
All of the Gilmore hype prompted reader Robert to ask me the following question over the weekend: "Brian, can you remember any Bills first-round pick being as hyped as Gilmore is right now?"
The short answer: no, I don't think I can. But then again, I'm only 26 years old. My memory doesn't travel into yesteryear as well as those of some of our more experienced Bills fans. For instance: I've only heard about the fervor that Jim Kelly brought to town when he came back to the team in 1986; I was less than a year old at the time, and therefore never experienced that particular brand of excitement surrounding Bills football.
In fact, I can only really remember back to the 2002 first-round selection of Texas tackle Mike Williams and relate it to any kind of palpable feeling about how the pick was received by the fan base. Even in that case, the nascent nature of my fanhood leaves those details fuzzy; I remember a lot of excitement about the size and athleticism package, but apparently that's what my 16-year-old brain focused on solely. Still, he might come closest for me.
Between 2003 and 2010, my memories have either faded or are incomplete; Willis McGahee, Lee Evans, J.P. Losman, Donte Whitner, John McCargo, Marshawn Lynch, Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Maybin and Eric Wood pretty much ran the gamut of possible emotions to have about first-round draft picks, and none of them came close, in my opinion, to matching the early hype on Gilmore.
But I do think that last year's first-round pick, Marcell Dareus, came pretty close. In terms of how hyped he could have been coming out of training camp, Dareus was hampered by the fact that it's just not easy to gauge how a rookie is performing in the trenches. It's much easier to look at cornerback/receiver battles in shorts and say "hey, this Gilmore kid is looking good" for the average fan, so while Dareus was extremely well-received by the fan base, I don't think his hype comes close.
So my answer for Robert is no; I don't recall a Bills rookie that was as hyped as Gilmore has been these past couple of weeks. But then again, I just don't have the sample size that many of you do. So help me out, Bills fans: can you think of a former Bills rookie that received hype comparable to being compared to the game's best at his position within the first two weeks of his first training camp?
Also, we'll end on a much more important bonus question: is the Gilmore hype even warranted?