While at Auburn, Fairley helped his team win a national title. Leshoure, a bruising running back, dazzled at struggling Illinois.
But as highly-anticipated as their rookie seasons with Detroit were, injuries sidelined the pair of rookies -- Fairley for the start of the year; Leshoure for the entire season. Both have a world of potential to reach. But will they be able to shake off their recent legal issues and become productive players?
It's probably not the smartest idea to use the word "high" to describe anything about either one. They were both busted recently for marijuana possession. Now, if the Lions know any better, taking into account a player's character should be of the highest priority. OK. I apologize for that one. But I couldn't resist.
Two ill-advised moves made for no shortage of headlines bashing the two young talents. Whether or not the Lions admit it, Leshoure and Fairley's actions reflected poorly on the organization. Drafting players with character should be of the utmost importance come Thursday, the start of the 2012 NFL Draft.
One of Detroit's targeted cornerbacks, Janoris Jenkins of North Alabama, has a checkered past that has been the subject of media attention. His marijuana use raises concerns. Is he so selfish that he's willing to jeopardize the well-being of others to catch a buzz? Is he capable of stopping?
The Lions need a cornerback and will likely take one in the first round of the draft. But another player of interest, Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard, recently had a run-in with a police officer. He reportedly punched the officer Saturday after an incident at a Lincoln bar.
Jenkins and Dennard, should, in theory, be off the Lions' radar. Dennard probably is. Striking an officer of the law is enough to turn teams away. But as for the marijuana use, it may not be too pressing of an issue.
"The league has really changed over the years," Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said. "If you go back 10, 15 years ago, and a guy had a positive test, that was a big deal. That was something to be very concerned about. It still is, but not at the level it was years ago. There are certain things we want to hear from guys. There are certain things we don't want to hear from guys. It doesn't help us to tell you (media) what those things are.
"We've talked to players that have had those concerns, and we've evaluated all those situations, especially the ones who are high picks, early guys. We've talked to all those guys and asked them about their situations, and we've reached varying levels of comfort with different players."
Veteran Lions receiver Nate Burleson's approach seems a little different, perhaps more strict and serious, than Mayhew's. Burleson is proud of the Lions' progress, going from an NFL laughingstock to a viable NFC-North contender at 10-6 in 2011.
"I'm just going to say tighten up," Burleson said recently on NFL Network. "We've done too much to get to where we're at. There's been a black cloud hanging over Detroit for so long, so for us to go from 6-10 to 10-6 and feel like we're heading in the right direction and just a few mistakes happen, we've got to tell the young guys to get it together."
Burleson's political take on marijuana is unknown. Maybe he doesn't see it is a danger to the general public. But for guys whom he takes the field with each Sunday -- and each week during practice -- it's an enemy. He works too hard to achieve on the field, and the last thing he and the Lions need are guys who can't can't "get it together" to ruin all that hard work.
It would be best if the Lions avoided any player with marijuana-related issues all together. That sounds a bit naive and unrealistic, sure. But this year's draft class is deep with cornerbacks. Surely there is one out there that can pass a drug test, not punch a police officer and make wise decisions when away from the locker room.
And those are the players the Lions should target.
Adam Biggers has followed the National Football League for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.