Is Marqise Lee a #1 WR in the NFL?

I love scouting period because what one person thinks is a great play, the next thinks is a terrible play. That’s why covering the draft has been so fun for me.

Marqise Lee is a perfect example. It seems like you either love him or hate him, and there’s nothing in between. That’s not the case with me. I think Lee has a ton of talent, and should be quite successful at the next level. However, I don’t think he can be relied on as a #1 receiver, and I’ll explain why.

Route Running

You can run a 4.2 but if you aren’t a good route runner at the next level, you won’t be successful. Receivers need to make every route look the same, need to be able to beat press coverage without any wasted movements. It shouldn’t take extra steps to get out of your break to create separation. The margin for error is so slim in the NFL that 1 false step can be the difference of you not getting open.

In college, because of Lee’s excellent athleticism, he can simply out run most DBs to gain separation. Lee does have a tendency to get too high coming out of his breaks, and round his routes. This is a good example.

This next example, looks good on the surface, but for me, Lee is taking too many steps here. NFL DB’s will jump on the route as soon as he takes that extra step out of his break.

You can see right at the top of his route, he takes an extra step that isn’t needed before he breaks.

Lee does have good awareness as far as sitting down in holes in the zone. Lee has no problem running any route on the route tree as well. He just needs a little more polish on some of his routes.

Lee actually does a good job of “hand fighting” to create separation either at the line or on the top of his route. He just doesn’t do it enough at the LOS and that’s why physical corners might give him issues at the next level.

Speed

The phenomenon of the combine, how fast can you run?

When in coverage 1-on-1, Lee is going to blow the doors off you if you’re playing press. Don’t.

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It’s effortless. Lee gets to top speed in about 3 or 4 steps and has a long, but quick stride. He’s a home run threat every time he’s on the field because of his speed. Lee is on USC’s 4 X 100 track team and has a PR of 10.74. He can flat out fly.

Hands

Probably the most frustrating thing about Lee, is the inexplicable drops. Just a lack of concentration is what it is, but it hasn’t been fixed. Drops are drive killers. They happen, but shouldn’t as often as they do with Lee. He’ll make the spectacular catch

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Then drop a touchdown. Last year it was a big issue, & this year he had 2 big drops against Hawaii, a touchdown against Notre Dame, and then this against Arizona State.

These drops will lead to points, for the other team in the NFL.

He has very good hand eye coordination, you can see it. He has quick hands and he’ll just pluck the ball out of the air. Unfortunately, he doesn’t rely on them enough.  But you can’t just dismiss the drops.

Ball Skills

Not to be confused with actual hands, but this is how he adjusts to the ball, if he high points it, catch radius etc.

Because he’s a ridiculous athlete, Lee has a huge catch radius. We’ve seen time after time Lee win a 50/50 ball because he simply out leaped the defender. Lee has very good body control in the air, and does a good job of coming down with it.

I think Lee could be even better. In these 50/50 situations, he doesn’t always high point the ball. He also has a tendency to mistime his jumps. He gets away with this now, simply because no one is on his level athletically, but that won’t be the case in the NFL.

I’d like to see him high point the ball and track deep balls better on a consistent basis. I’d also worry about Lee and contested catches at the next level. Over the middle when the defender hits him, even after he’s caught it, it winds up incomplete due to lack of strength.

YAC Ability

This is what separates the Demaryius Thomas/Keenan Allen’s from the Sidney Rice/Vincent Browns. What can you do after the catch? You can’t coach this ability, and in today’s quick passing games, YAC is a huge part of offenses today.

This is where Lee shines. He does a great job of catching the ball and immediately turning into a ball carrier.

This trait alone will make Lee successful in the NFL.

At times he will cut across field too often and look for the home run play when it isn’t there. But more often than not he’s does a great job of maximizing the yards he can get after the catch.

Blocking Ability

When you see long running plays in the NFL, it’s usually a direct result of the receiver making a block. An underrated, unappreciated part of a receivers game.

Lee is a surprisingly good blocker. Lee shows great technique and effort when blocking. He looks like he enjoys it, and backs have to appreciate this. Whether it’s chasing the play down-field, or locking on to his defender while keeping his hands inside, Lee is a very good blocker.

Lee has great effort when he’s blocking, but when he’s running the decoy route, or a route he knows he’s not getting the ball, the effort isn’t the same. Here, Lee kind of loafs off the ball.

Grade

As always, the grading scale can be explained here.

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10   8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round   8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round   7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round   7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round   7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round   6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round   6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round   5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round   5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round   4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations   4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable     < 4.0

 

Trait Weight Grade
Route Running 4 3.4
Speed 2.5 2.5
Hands 3 2
Ball Skills 3 2.6
YAC Ability 2 2
Effort 2 1.7
Blocking 2 2
Separation Skills 2 1.7
Awareness 2.5 2.3
Athleticism 2 2

Lee’s graded out at a 7.9, which tells me he’s going to be a good player in the NFL. He should blow up the combine so I’d be surprised if he didn’t go in the 1st round. At this point, the drops and durability issues are a concern. But you can’t deny his big play ability. In an ideal situation Lee goes to a team that has a #1 WR so the coverage isn’t dictated towards him.

My player comparison for Lee is Pierre Garcon. A very good player in his own right, who is great after the catch, a very fast receiver, who has the occasional drop. I think both players are fast, but not great at changing directions.

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