Draft Daily: Why USC WR Lee Makes Sense At No. 22

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State

Against Chip Kelly’s Oregon squad in 2012, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee caught 12 balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns in a 62-51 loss.

He lined up all over the place in that game – outside, in the slot and in the backfield. He drew a pair of penalties in the end zone and gave the Trojans excellent field position on multiple occasions with tremendous kickoff returns.




"He may be the best receiver I've had the opportunity to coach against," Kelly said at the time, per USC's Web site. "He's impressive on film, but even more impressive when you watch him in person."

Lee was considered by pretty much everyone as one of the top two or three wide receivers in the game in 2012, catching 118 balls for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. The year before, he had 73 catches for 1,143 yards and 11 scores (including an eight-catch, 187-yard game against Oregon).

But in 2013, the numbers weren't as impressive: 57 grabs for 791 yards and four touchdowns.

Lee battled a shoulder injury before the season started and then suffered a knee sprain in September that slowed him down. Combine those with the fact that he was playing with a new quarterback and multiple head coaches (Lane Kiffin was fired during the season), and there seem to be legitimate reasons why Lee wasn't as productive as a junior.

Now, NFL teams are tasked with determining what they might be getting with the 6-foot, 192-pound receiver if they draft him. Making the decision perhaps more difficult is that Lee didn't run as fast at the combine (4.52) as many expected.

But as you can see, he does possess some athletic traits:

The Eagles have shown pre-draft interest in Lee. After taking a closer look at his games (from 2013 and 2012), the guess here is that Lee will be a player the Eagles strongly consider with the 22nd pick if he's available. Below are examples of why I feel that way.

Let's start with this play against Stanford:

When the QB is in trouble, Lee consistently does a great job of adjusting his routes and coming back to the football. Here, he catches the ball in a tight space and gets his foot in-bounds. Lee's footwork near the sidelines is outstanding.

One thing that stood out from watching Lee is how polished he is. There is nothing raw at all about his game. Lee is a player that should be able to step in right away and have an impact.

Here’s an example of him getting open in the red zone against Stanford. He makes an excellent adjustment on the football and once again gets his feet down in bounds for the score.

Lee is not a burner, but he is a big-play threat and shows great instincts in picking up yards after the catch.

According to Rotoworld, Lee averaged 7.05 YAC in 2013, which ranks top-five in this year's draft class.

Here's a 3rd-and-13 play against Fresno State. Lee runs an in-breaking route, makes the catch and takes off for a touchdown.

Break-away speed doesn't appear to be an issue on plays like this.

Another example of Lee's YAC ability. Here, he runs a comeback route against Stanford, jukes multiple defenders and picks up extra yardage.

Lee has really good short-area quicks and footwork. I see no reason why he couldn't be effective both on the outside and the inside - something Kelly values with his receivers.

And one more example of the YAC against Fresno State:

Another comeback route. This time, Lee makes a defender miss and takes off down the sideline.

When I started watching Lee closely, I wanted to see whether his size was an issue. As you can see from the spider graph above, he's not the biggest guy. But what I discovered is that he's plenty physical to be effective in the NFL.

This play came in the Oregon game I mentioned at the top of the post:

Lee knocks the cornerback over on the jam and gets behind the defense for a big play.

And here's another example against Stanford. Lee drags defenders along with him for a 27-yard gain.

In Philadelphia, this is known as a "Brent Celek special." But it's equally impressive coming from a 192-pound receiver against one of the nation's more physical defenses.

In the games I watched, Lee flashed good hands, but the numbers suggest drops were an issue for him last year. Per Rotoworld, Lee dropped 12.3 percent of the catchable balls thrown his way. That's something he'll certainly need to work on.

He also didn't do a lot of damage downfield last year. Only 3.5 percent of his grabs were on passes 20 yards or past the line of scrimmage (per Rotoworld). Given his disappointing 40 time, that's something NFL GMs will have to consider when slotting him.

Still, there's plenty to like about Lee. He's quick, physical, polished and had an extremely productive college career.

"Marquise Lee is the best college receiver that I've seen since I scouted Randy Moss," said Stanford coach David Shaw.

He was a captain last year and was named USC's most courageous player. Part of that had to do with this big 4th-and-2 catch he made in an upset against Stanford while dealing with a knee injury and a shin injury.

NFL teams will have to make sure Lee's medicals check out, although it's worth noting that he played in the team's bowl game in December and had seven catches for 118 yards and two scores. In other words, he looked healthy at the end of the season.

They'll also have to factor in why his 40 time was mediocre and didn't seem to match his game speed.

But all things considered, the guess here is that Lee will be a player Kelly covets, and he's a strong possibility with the 22nd pick.

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  • KimikoTamaoki

    YEZPLZ

  • TNA

    I like this kid’s footwork. Blazing straight-line speed can help create space, but so can quickness, route running and footwork. And creating separation is the name of the game in Chip’s offense.

  • NickS1

    Anyone know what his drop rates were for 2011-2012? Might help paint last year as an anamoly all together. 12.3% is high.

  • Tom w

    Id rather take odb or trade back to the late 30s and take a bigger wr who has the potential to be elite after being coached up. While polished, I think he has limited upside long term and his ceiling is much lower than the other wr prospects around him bc of his limited athletic ability … Weak 40, vert, 3 cone. Most importantly I think he is very similar to maclin and chip did say a few times he doesn’t want to draft add duplicate pkayer w similar traits. Think lee is better for a west coast offense like chiefs

    • peteike

      ahh good point, he looks a lot like Maclin, very similar size and game it seems

      • CJ

        Maclin has never been accused of being physical. Certainly not with enough evidence to convict no less.

  • KimikoTamaoki

    I think he is better than Mike Evans as a receiver. He doesn’t have his size but he is a better all-around player. I would be happy if we took him at 22.

    • Richard Colton

      Is there a second Mike Evans in the draft? Because the one I’m thinking of is literally head and shoulders better than Lee.

      • KimikoTamaoki

        Nope only the 6-5 one from TAMU. Lee will be a better pro than Evans.

        • Richard Colton

          Its a bold prediction. Because Lee going ahead of Evans would be way more of a head scratcher than Heyward-Bey going ahead of Maclin. Add Nostradamus to your name if it does, you’ll have earned it.

          • KimikoTamaoki

            Other than size I don’t see what Evans has on Lee.

          • Aussie Eagle

            Evans is faster and has better hands. IMO they are both going to be great, but in totally different ways

  • Sconces

    Does he win on jump balls or is that not really in his skill set?

  • cliff henny

    62-51…wait till you defensive nutjobs have to sit thru one of those games. MORE WEAPONS!

    • GEAGLE

      13-3!!!!!!

      Draft Barr #22 ROLB
      Trade For Dion LOLB
      Cut my beloved Meco
      Slide Barwin inside
      Lol DEFENSE!!! DEFENSE!! DEFENSE!!

      ….Thornton/Tuitt…Logan/Coleman…Cox/Curry/Kruger….
      Dion……………Kendricks…………….Barwin…………………Barr

      • Eagles1018

        Wow imagine………

      • cliff henny

        how’d you slide tuitt in there?

        • NickS1

          Let the man dream.

        • GEAGLE

          If I’m gonna be greedy might as well go all the way……looks like he will go 35-45…trade up or something

      • HowieGambleChipsAllDay

        I may have started a trend. Vote Connor Barwin for MLB 2015, and all you wildest dreams will come true!

        • GEAGLE

          You are a year late my friend…when we signed him I talked about his ability to take over for Meco want Barwin gets older ;)

          • Dillyweed McGillicuddy

            This is all a joke right? Connor Barwin is not suited to play inside. That is silly. He is a pure edge-setting/cover linebacker. I don’t get this logic.

    • Richard Colton

      For you Cliff (as a Southerner and an Eagles fan) – it’s a shame we cut DeSean. Could have lined Jackson/Lee up in all sorts of crazy formations with names like “Chancellorsville” and “Fredericksburg.”

      • cliff henny

        man, i’m a yankee. trust me, my southern brother in law let’s me know every time he’s playing with his guns talking about the “Northern Aggression War”

        • Maggie

          Gotta be careful around the guy who plays with or fondles his guns. I was once married to one, who used to load up his .357 Magnum, then ask for suggestions as to which head he should aim it at. One evening he aimed it at his own head and my first thought was the cops might think I did it. With a 4-month-old baby to worry about, that marriage was OVER.

          • cliff henny

            well, he isn’t Christopher walken’ing it in ‘the deer hunter’ around me. all unload w/ gun locks.

          • Maggie

            Actually Christopher Walken is a little frightening no matter what role he plays, lol.

          • GEAGLE

            That explains EVERYTHING!!!!! Great comment..instantly gets inducted in your crap of fame

        • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

          that is a fun past time

  • GEAGLE

    Not in top 5 of my wish list…which is probably crazy since if we had this convo last year we would be talking about him as if he was Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans who everyone would want to trade up for…

  • ceedubya9

    Wouldn’t be mad with Lee at 22. Kelly knows what he wants for his offense.

    • JosephR2225

      Eagles better keep winning or we won’t be able to use this reasoning much longer.

      • ceedubya9

        Yep, winning would definitely keep the good will going.

      • peteike

        winning or losing doesnt make couch GMs any smarter

  • PaoliBulldog

    If ODB is on the board at 22, I’d prefer him to Lee.

    • Richard Colton

      Just saw ODB go #7 in a very respected mock. I’m starting to think #18 is his absolute floor.

  • Eagles1018

    Sheil you have convinced me. Let’s take him!

    Sincerely,

    Howie

  • HowieGambleChipsAllDay

    We have enough singles and doubles hitters. I want a slugger. If We can’t get someone with elite speed, than gimme a high flyer like ARob who can win us some 50/50’s. I don’t see us having any trouble moving the chains, we need a bigtime finisher once we get in the redzone

  • Maggie

    It’s difficult to ignore David Shaw’s opinion on any football matter.

    • Andy124

      Difficult, but not impossible. You just have to keep trying.

      Actually, he and McCoy were atop my wishlist for the Eagles job last year.

      • Maggie

        I liked Shaw and maybe Gus Bradley. However, it does look as though the FO probably does know what they are doing much of the time. ;~)

  • Andy124

    Booo. Too short. :)

  • Bulllwinkle

    He is very smooth. He reminds me of another USC receiver: Lynn Swann. Lee is actually a little taller and faster than Swann. Swann dropped in the draft because of his 4.55 – 4.60 40 speed. Swann did a pretty good job for the Steelers, if my memory is correct.

  • dislikedisqus

    And yet, Chip didn’t triple-team him like he did Cooks, who is also faster. Granted the rest of USC’s team may have been stronger, but actions do speak loder than words, and Cooks must have frightened the Ducks more than Lee.

    • Chris Henson

      Chip was an Eagle during that game.

  • Will

    It’s a shame I would love to draft the 2012 version but 2013 is reality…with 6 picks knee issues is not a trait I need to worry about. At 6’0 192lbs Lee is not a bigger people beat up little people WR…

  • FMWarner

    I’d be happy with Lee at #22. I live in LA and I’ve seen just about every game the guy has played in. He’s the real deal, and a lot of things broke wrong for him last year. I know buying low isn’t very popular around these parts, but it’s an Eagles trademark and in this case I think it’s warranted.

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Lee. Pryor. Ford. My 3. anyway id be happy. even. OBJ

  • Mark

    I think that’s one overlooked weakness that Jackson had, when the play broke down, he was rarely in a position to help his QB.

  • SoCalEaglesFan

    Not impressed with Lee. Not at 22.