Before he ran the 40 yard dash at the NFL Combine there were already mixed reviews about Marqise Lee. Some felt the injuries weren't worth the risk, others felt he was just a product of volume at USC. It seemed like you either loved Lee or hated him as a prospect and nothing in between. 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 to be a #1 receiver.
To be successful at the next level, receivers need to make every route look the same. They also need to be able to be press coverage with the minimum amount of wasted movements. Also, at the stem of your route, it shouldn't take extra steps to create separation. The margin for error is so slim in the NFL, that one false step can be the difference of you not getting open.
In college, because of Lee's excellent athleticism and burst, he could simply out run most defensive backs to gain separation. Lee does have a tendency to get too high coming out of his breaks, and round his routes. The below GIF is a good example.
This next example looks good on the surface, but for me, Lee is taking too many steps here. NFL defensive backs will jump on the route as soon as he begins to chop his feet at the stem of the route.
You can see right at the top of his route, he takes an extra step, and rounds his route. It isn't needed before he breaks.
Lee does have good awareness as far as sitting down in holes in zone coverage. Lee has no problem running any route on the route tree as well. He just needs more polish on his in/out breaking routes. This is a coach-able issue, what you can't teach is Lee's burst in and out of his cuts.
Lee actually does a good job of "hand fighting" to create separation, either at the line or at the top of his route. He just doesn't do it enough at the line of scrimmage, and that's why physical corners could give him issues at the next level. He has problems getting off press coverage at times.
At the Combine Lee ran a 4.52, and I got a good chuckle out of that, because Lee plays much faster than that. I expect to see that number creep down to the low to mid 4.4's at his pro day. When in coverage 1-on-1, Lee is going to run right by you if you're playing press or you don't have help. Don't do it.
To be fair, Lee was fighting a foot injury in 2013, but if you go back to 2012, like the GIF above, and the next GIF, you can see Lee certainly has another gear.
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 was on the USC's 4x100 track team and has a personal record of 10.74. He can fly out fly.
Probably the most frustrating thing about Lee is the inexplicable drops. It's really a lack of concentration, 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 a spectacular catch, like the one below.
Then he'll drop a touchdown. Last year it was a big issue, and this year he had 2 big drops against Hawaii, a touchdown versus Notre Dame, and then this against Arizona State.
These drops aren't only drive killers, but will lead to points for the opposing team. Lee has very good hand eye coordination, you can see it. He has quick hands and he'll pluck the ball out of the air. Unfortunately, he doesn't rely on them enough. He has a tendency to body catch. Lee had an alarmingly high drop rate, of 12.3%, per Todd McShay. The drops are just something you can't dismiss
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 Lee is a ridiculous athlete, he has a huge catch radius. We've seen time after time Lee win a 50/50 ball because he out leaped the defender. Lee has very good body control in the air, and does a good job of coming down with the ball.
I think Lee could be even better in those 50/50 situations. He doesn't always high point the ball, he also has a tendency to mistime his jumps. He gets away with it now, but that won't be the case in the NFL.
I'd like to see him high point the ball and track deep passes better on a more 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 it's caught, the ball winds up on the ground after he's hit due to the lack of strength.
This is what separates the Demaryius Thomas/Keenan Allen's of the world from the Sidney Rice/Vincent Browns of the world. What can you do after the catch? You really can't coach this ability and in today's quick passing game, yards after catch his a huge part of offenses today.
This is where Lee shines. He does a great job of turning into a running back as soon as the ball is caught.
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 does a great job of maximizing the yards he can get after the catch.
|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|
Lee graded out as a 7.81, so an early 2nd round talent. 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 would go to a team that has a #1 receiver so the coverage isn't dictated towards him.
How He Fits with the Chargers
Lee needs to get stronger through the catch point, as well as more physical throughout the play. The Chargers ask a receiver to win early in their routes, and the receiver opposite of Keenan Allen(a #1) needs to be able to stretch the field as well. Lee would be a great fit as well because he could be the screen receiver that Eddie Royal was a year ago. He'd have to improve winning at the catch point on intermediate routes, but Lee would be a good fit nonetheless in San Diego.