Matt Barkley decided to come back to the USC Trojans for his senior season instead of entering the 2012 NFL Draft to complete some “unfinished business.” At the end of the day, though, Barkley simply succeeded in torpedoing his draft stock, tumbling from a sure-fire first round pick in 2012 to a fourth-round selection by the Philadelphia Eagles, serving as a warning to other talented juniors about the risks of returning to school for an extra year. Don’t expect Barkley’s favorite target at USC, wide receiver Marqise Lee, to make the same mistake.
Lee was a dominant receiver during his sophomore season and likely would have been one of the top receivers in the 2013 draft if he were eligible. He caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards with 14 touchdowns. He was also a playmaker on jet sweeps and on kick returns and was a threat to score every single time he touched the ball. His receiving prowess earned him the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver and he was one of the biggest snubs of the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
He’s forced to come back to USC for at least one more season but will face a decision after the 2013 season about whether or not he will throw his hat into the draft or come back for another season with the Trojans. With uncertainty at the quarterback position, however, it’s unlikely that Lee will be able to boost his draft stock too much more than he did in the 2012 season.
At the end of next season, Lee will undoubtedly once again be considered among the best receivers in college football. He has the skill set to be a major force at the next level and will have the opportunity to be a high draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. For his sake, he can’t make the same mistake as Barkley and needs get out of college when his stock is at its highest after his junior year.