Marqise Lee has not had an easy path to the NFL by any means. Growing up, Lee dealt with a lot of family issues. Both of Lee's parents are deaf, so Lee had to learn sign language to communicate with them. When he was just a child, his mother gave up custody on him and his siblings because she couldn't handle it anymore. Lee lived with his grandparents after that, and his grandfather died when he was in sixth grade. Instead of moving in with his grandmother in Los Angeles, Lee and his sister joined a foster home. Lee had two older brothers who were involved with gangs, and almost joined himself. However, they refused to let him join out of respect for his brothers. His brother Terreal was eventually murdered in a gang-related incident, and his other brother Donte was charged with attempted murder and was sentenced to prison.
Lee has gone through a lot, and he has had some anger issues in the past. In 2012, Lee put up a Pac-12 record high 345 receiving yards along with 2 TD's on 16 catches in a 36-39 loss to Arizona. USC had one final chance to possibly win the game. With only a few seconds remaining, Barkley heaved a Hail Mary pass from the Arizona 48 yard line. Lee had a chance to grab it as it was batted away by an Arizona defender, but couldn't come up with it. There was not much he could do. And he never really had a good chance of coming up with it, but he still called it a "personal failure". 345 yards and a personal failure. Bill Plaschke of the LA Times describes the incidents after the game.
All of these obstacles, and all you see is a smile on Marqise Lee's face when he takes the field. I'll admit, I didn't know a whole lot about Lee before starting this FanPost. But I can now say that he's gained another fan. These stories are my kryptonite.
Marqise Lee arrived at USC in 2011 and had a pretty solid year for a Freshman. He was 6th in the Pac-10 in receptions (73), and 6th in receiving yards (1143). That year, his counterpart Robert Woods had a career year with 111 receptions, 1292 receiving yards and 15 TDs. The following year, Marqise Lee saw an increasing role while Robert Woods started to take the back seat. Lee broke Pac-12 single-season records in receptions (118, previously held by Woods, later broken by Brandin Cooks), and receiving yards (1721). When Robert Woods declared for the NFL Draft following the 2012 season (and had a pretty good year with the Bills this year), it was thought that Lee might even have a better year in 2013. Unfortunately, Lee injured his knee against Arizona State and had to miss a few weeks. He then later tweaked the injured knee against Notre Dame in his first game back and dealt with the lingering pain all year.
One thing I really loved about Marqise Lee while watching his tape, was that he fights hard every play. Whether it's trying to fight for extra yardage, or going in for a block, he gives it his all. Although Lee is not the biggest and strongest WR out there, his blocking is extremely underrated. He's not one of those WR's that will focus more on the flashy plays and will take a play off if he's not involved. He realizes that every play is big, and if you're a defender taking a play off on him, then he will punish you. The plays at 2:35 into the next video and the play after at 2:50 are good examples. In the first play they hand the ball off and Lee drives his man down the field a good 10 yards. In the second play Lee actually engages and throws his man down to the ground.
Like Sammy Watkins, Lee is a very versatile WR. He has returned plenty of kicks/punts with success, and runs plenty of screen routes and reverses. In this play on 3rd and 3, you see Lee line up as a halfback in shotgun formation. He runs a simple swing route and the ball is thrown poorly, yet he is able to make a one handed grab thrown behind him and get the first down and more. In this play, Lee is going up against Oregon's star CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in zone defense. Ekpre-Olomu has decided to stay at Oregon for another year, but probably could have gotten drafted in the 1st round if he decided to enter the draft. Ekpre-Olomu is known for being a physical CB, but in this play Lee runs straight at him and knocks him on his ass. He then precedes to run straight past the safety and catch a long TD pass. Pretty awesome. One negative with Lee is that he tends to dance around too often instead of running north/south. In this particular play Lee is thrown a bubble screen and immediately has 4 defenders chasing him down 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Rather than just taking the few yard loss or trying to run forward and muscle through for at least no gain, he tries to dance around a few defenders and ends up fumbling the ball. While dancing around is usually a bad thing, sometimes you get plays like this next one... Another problem with Lee is that he sometimes has a hard time finding the ball in the air on deep passes. I saw several times where he would struggle locating the ball and end up having it hit off of his hands or head and end up with an incompletion.
Why We Should Draft Him
Marqise Lee probably could have been a top 5-10 pick if he decided to enter the draft in 2013. He could end up going in the top 10 still, but it is less likely. This is mostly because of injury concerns from this past season. If the Lions end up drafting Lee, I'm betting that it will be because Watkins and Evans have already left the board. I really like Lee as a prospect, but I'm not sure if I'd pick him at #10. I'd be ecstatic to have him on our team if we were able to trade down a few spots, pick up an extra mid/late round pick and still get him. So far after viewing the top 3 ranked WR's in this class, I view Lee as the 2nd best WR right behind Watkins. I think right now he has a better skillset than Mike Evans. However, I would still take Evans over him because of the immense amount of upside Evans has. I feel like Lee has a lower ceiling than Watkins and Evans, but could probably produce more right away.
Verdict: If Watkins and Evans are gone by the 10th pick, try to trade back a few spots and acquire an extra mid/late round pick and pick up Lee around 11th-18th pick. If not, take him at #10 anyways.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
As a Lions fan, I'm just so skeptical of drafting WR's coming off injuries given our history of WR picks. If Lee didn't have that initial knee injury this past year and tweak it shortly after, he might be a top 6-7 pick this year. If I'm Mayhew, and I look back at the risks I've taken in the earlier rounds on smaller players, I'm probably not going to let history repeat itself, and I'm going to pass up on Lee. I can see Watkins, Evans and even Kelvin Benjamin turning into #1 WR's for teams if they max out their potential, but I'm no so sure I can say the same for Marqise Lee. Lee is a special receiver, but he's not a guy who can go up and win jump balls consistently and he doesn't exactly have "elite" speed for a receiver. He'll beat you occasionally on deep balls, but I see him mostly as a "move the chains" type of receiver.
Lee had a down year in 2013 and a lot can be blamed on injuries, but he had some pretty bad uncharacteristic drops and fumbles before the injury. He had one drop against Hawaii on a deep pass that was right in his hands and should have been a touchdown. Before that he fumbled on a punt return in the same game. He also had a ball thrown right at him and went right through his hands ending up in an interception against Arizona State before his knee injury occurred. He also didn't have Matt Barkley throwing to him that year, which could count for something.
Don't forget to leave some feedback and discuss down below. Let me know who you guys think I should look at next. I'm probably going to take a look at some of the top cornerbacks in this draft coming up. But I know a lot of people are really high on Kelvin Benjamin, so I may do one on him next. If not, I'll definitely get around to him at some point leading up to the draft.