After his spectacular sophomore season in 2012, in which he caught 118 passes for 1721 yards and 14 touchdowns, Marqise Lee made himself one of the elite professional prospects heading into 2013. In fact, many believed that he would’ve been the first receiver selected had he been eligible for the draft this season. Unfortunately for Lee, a combination of bad quarterbacking and injuries have made his 2013 season less successful thus far, and it’s unknown how his draft stock will be affected.
After forming a good connection with now-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley last year, Lee hasn’t been able to find the same level of chemistry this year, as the Trojans have switched between Max Wittek and Cody Kessler. Kessler now seems to have settled into the job, but Lee has been out after suffering a sprained knee on September 28 at Arizona State and there’s no definite timetable as to when he’ll return. Though Lee is missing the opportunity to further impress NFL teams, he should be thankful, as it was initially believed that his injury may have caused him to sustain ligament damage.
Unless Lee suffers a setback, he should still be taken in the top half of the first round. Some evaluators have Texas A&M‘s Mike Evans or Clemson‘s Sammy Watkins as their top receiving prospect, but Lee has shown the innate ability to get to the ball and make plays, so it would be surprising if no teams considered him to be a legitimate No. 1 receiver worthy of being taken early.
- Exceptional leaping ability; can get up in the air and make catches
- Great sideline-to-sideline speed which enables him to get to balls thrown over the middle
- Has the speed to get down field and stretch defenses
- Moves like a running back in open space and can use his power to gain plenty of yards after the catch
- Has some issues with staying open which have caused his quarterbacks to throw unnecessary interceptions
- Could get better separation when faced with double coverage
- Seems to struggle with hanging on to deep balls thrown his way
It’s still early, but it seems like Lee will have trouble replicating the success of his 2012 season. Through five games played, Lee has 30 catches for 385 yards and just one touchdown. Now that he’s dealing with a knee injury, it’s unknown when he’ll return to game action, and even when he does come back he’ll probably be dealing with the pain for the rest of the 2013 season.
2014 Draft Projection: First Round