USC Trojans wide receiver product Marqise Lee is one of the top five wide receiver prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people view him as a the third-best WR in the class behind Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans. Lee was a revelation in 2012 with Watkins-like play, but he wasn’t as good last season. Some of those issues are due to worse quarterback play and injuries, but he also had major drop issues. His “down” year in 2013 has led some to believe that Lee might not be consistent enough to trust as an elite wideout in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see where he slots in on draft day among a very deep crop of wide receivers.
Lee is undoubtedly very talented, and I believe he has all the physical tools to be a No. 1 wide receiver in this league. He, unsurprisingly, believes he’ll be a WR1 in the pros. The potential top-2o pick told the USA Today’s Tom Pelissero, “I feel like I am the caliber to be that No.1 receiver. That’s my goal: to come in immediately and get it going.”
A smooth route-runner, Lee is very good at gaining separation on a variety of routes, and he has the ability to win on short, intermediate, or deep routes. But his technique is clearly lacking, as he’ll attack the ball in the air, won’t use proper hand placement when catching the ball, and he has a tendency to stick the ball to his body instead of cleanly catching it with his hands. This leads to too many drops near the sideline or in other contested situations, but he has such impressive athleticism that he’s able to acrobatically put himself in a position to attempt to haul in difficult passes. He is also dangerous after the catch, and we definitely saw that frequently in 2012.
Speaking of the differences between his 2012 and 2013 seasons, Lee believes that much of the drop-off was outside of his control, “I don’t know what scouts are seeing as far as me being this in 2012 and me being this in 2013. As far as production goes and doing my job — it’s the same. The only thing that changed is stuff I couldn’t control.”