Name: Marqise Lee
Weight: 192 lbs.
Strengths: Lee is overlooked a little due to a down season with USC, though it’s in part because the departure of Robert Woods allowed defenses to key on him alone. Having sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler replace Matt Barkley was an issue as well.
While he lacks elite speed, Lee has great acceleration, getting up to top his speed quickly. His explosiveness, along with savvy route running, and his ability to read coverages make him able to find open space to make a catch or navigate through traffic afterwards. Those same skills allow him to create separation even without blinding speed. Lee will attack the ball in the air and does a great job snagging a pass at a high point. Lee is also a good kick returner and adds something to special teams.
Weakness: While part of his down junior year came because defenses had only him to key on. Much of it was because of constant injuries and inconsistency. The injuries, in particular, will bother scouts as Lee isn’t incredibly big, which was certainly a factor in his knee issues this year. It’s going to make some ding him for durability. He also doesn’t show a ton of strength, and won’t break many tackles. Along with the injuries come the consistency issues and he had some real problems with drops and, at times, ball security. The drops weren’t merely an issue in 2013 either—even in his fantastic 2012 season, Lee had too many drops, many of which seem to be focus drops. He needs to change that at the next level, especially as he will see an increase in contested catches. We also see that Lee has a tendency to run backwards and give ground at times to try and get around defenders which might cost his team valuable yards at the NFL level. Overall, while he’s definitely got ability, Lee isn’t a polished, finished product.
Intangibles: By all accounts, Lee is a very motivated, hard-working player. His background shows someone willing to fight for what he wants and overcome obstacles. Lee’s home life wasn’t particularly stable—he moved between his grandparents and mother’s house, ending up in foster care and his older brothers were both in gangs and had trouble with the law (one dying in a gang-related shooting).
Despite all that, Lee made his way through the world, taking help from family and friends and worked hard to achieve his dreams. Lee doesn’t appear to be the type of person who will allow a setback to destroy him—either on the field or off of it.
Notes: The durability concerns are certainly valid after last year, though he never missed a game during the previous two seasons at USC. A lot of people dropped him significantly in their rankings because of it, and in a class as tightly knit as this one, I can’t blame them. We’re all looking for reasons to separate one player from another. Ultimately though, I believe the drop issues will be overcome and the durability issues not as big a deal as people believe. The fact that his knee might have been acting up during the draft analysis process gives me pause, but ultimately I still feel confident that 2-3 years down the road, we’ll be talking about a very good—and healthy—wide receiver.