The University of Southern California currently features two of college football's best wide receivers. Marqise Lee and Robert Woods are both Biletnikoff Award contenders, and both look like future first-round draft picks. But which standout Trojan will have the better NFL career?
A quick look at the two USC wide receivers doesn't reveal many differences. Marqise Lee stands 6'0" and weighs 195 lbs. Robert Woods is listed at 6'1" and 190 lbs. Neither player has A.J. Green or Calvin Johnson-like size, but both are sleek, linear players with bodies built for speed and quick cuts.
When it comes to pure speed, USC has loads of it. Robert Woods doesn't lack speed, but it's not his strength. Woods can accelerate off the line to generate separation, but post-catch he's not a classic sprinter like Marqise Lee.
Lee is able to catch and explode, picking up more yards after catch than Woods and giving the offense more of a dynamic threat on crossing routes and in space. Lee's speed is more like what NFL teams are looking for from a wide receiver who doesn't possess a big frame.
Lee and Woods will be stacked up at the line of scrimmage by defensive coordinators, and both should expect to see a lot of press coverage in the NFL. With that on the line, the speed of Lee gives him an edge over Woods in the pro game.
The USC offense is NFL-ready, so both Woods and Lee are getting great experience and repetition in a pro scheme. When evaluating the two as route-runners, Woods gets the edge.
Marqise Lee has become more of a vertical threat, a guy who can get up the seam or break free on the edge for big pickups on deep passes. Woods is the technician of the two, working more on combination and underneath routes to exploit defenses that peel their safeties back to stop Lee.
Woods' ability to plant and go makes his route running his best asset. While a bum ankle will give some teams reason to worry about Woods, his route-running skills will quickly translate to the NFL. Where Lee is more likely to physically dominate a defender, Woods will outmaneuver them.
One thing you won't see from the USC receivers is dropped passes. Both Woods and Lee have strong, sure hands that allow them to reel in passes near and far.
With Robert Woods you see him catching a large number of passes working toward the sideline. He shows excellent body control to contort his frame in a way to extend his arms and hands to make catches while running laterally. Woods excels at simple in-and-out routes, allowing him to bait cornerbacks inside with his speed and then breaking to the sideline and catching across his body.
Lee is the more acrobatic of the two; you'll see more of his catches on SportsCenter each night. Lee is a leaper, and a red-zone threat when he's able to find man coverage. If you put it up in the air, Lee will high-point the ball and bring it down. His vision and ability to adjust when tracking the ball are elite.
NFL Player Type
Robert Woods' speed, size and route running compares well to a Greg Jennings-type player. He'll be more of a possession receiver, but one who can pick up big yards after the catch with excellent vision and speed.
Marqise Lee doesn't have the size of most deep threats, but he is a vertical presence. Like Mike Wallace, Lee may not have elite size, but he makes up for it with strong hands and speed to kill.
Which player will be the better pro? So much of that depends on the scheme and team around them, but if drafting the two players, Marqise Lee grades out higher.
Lee doesn't have the ankle concerns that Woods does, and he's a more dynamic receiver as a deep threat and red-zone presence. Woods has the potential to be very good, but Lee has the tools to be great.