After a big sophomore season at USC that saw him lead the country in receptions (118) and finish second in the country in receiving yards (1,721), Marqise Lee almost surely would have been a first-round pick if he could have declared for the 2013 NFL Draft. But he had to stay in school, and after an injury-marred junior season that saw him catch just 57 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns Lee was still selected in the second round (39th overall) by the Jacksonville Jaguars in May.
Lee has a chance to move into a prominent role right away, but should fantasy football owners take notice of the 2012 Biletnikoff Award winner on draft day?
The Jaguars were already going to be a bit short-handed at wide receiver with Justin Blackmon serving an indefinite suspension, but Ace Sanders has been suspended for the first four games of the season and Cecil Shorts is now expected to miss a big chunk of training camp with a hamstring issue. So almost by default Lee will be counted on immediately, and general manager David Caldwell has already suggested he’ll play in the slot some as well as the “Z” receiver spot that has been vacated by Blackmon.
Lee had 25 touchdowns over his first two seasons at USC, with an NFL-caliber quarterback (Matt Barkley) throwing him the ball. So the transition to catching passes from Chad Henne or fellow rookie Blake Bortles should be fairly seamless, all things considered. Jacksonville had the 11th-most pass attempts in the league in 2013 (592; 37 per game), and it’s fair to assume they’ll be throwing the ball plenty again this year.
I can’t confidently project big numbers for Lee this year, but with better health and an opportunity 60-70 receptions for around 800 yards with a handful of touchdowns is a realistic expectation. That puts him on the radar as a WR4 or WR5 in deep re-draft leagues, and I particularly like Lee’s upside in PPR formats based on potential target volume alone. It should go without saying Lee is worthy of attention in dynasty leagues, but he is currently the 10th wide receiver off the board in rookie drafts (via Fantasy Football Calculator.com) and that makes him a steal in that format right now.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.