Southern California receiver Marqise Lee is going to go in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. Lee erased any doubts about this with a solid performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
It was certainly fair to have those doubts after his lackluster 2013 season.
Last year, as a junior, Lee pulled in 57 catches for 791 yards and four touchdowns.
That came in a season of turmoil for USC and in one where Lee picked up several nagging injuries. It was also a huge letdown after he won the Biletnikoff Award with a scintillating sophomore season.
That season, Lee recorded 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns, and everyone had him pegged as a surefire first-round prospect.
At the combine, Lee was able to put his frustrating season behind him and simply flash his skills.
Take a look at his results:
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Bench press||Broad jump||Vertical Jump||Shuttle|
|6'0"||192 pounds||31 3/4"||9 1/2"||4.52||N/A||127 inches||38 inches||4.01|
These results aren't going to send teams into a frenzy over the prospect of drafting Lee, but they are solid numbers.
His time in the 40 was less than most wanted to see from him, but Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News put his 40 time in perspective:
Marqise Lee is known more for game speed than straight line. If 4.5 is his time, it may hurt, but not that much.— Josh Katzenstein (@jkatzenstein) February 23, 2014
When it came to running while trying to catch the ball, Lee was at his best.
ESPN's Garry Paskwietz had this to say about Lee's performance catching the ball:
Lee showed good hands -- including one solid sideline catch where he was able to make the grab and turn up field -- and he responded well to coming up limping after going down on one deep ball.
Meanwhile, all of this left NFL.com's Gil Brandt impressed:
Marqise Lee really helped himself today. But Sammy Watkins was head/shoulders above every other WR. #NFLCombine— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 23, 2014
Sure, he's not on Watkins level, but Watkins is a possible top-five selection.
Lee is a natural pass-catcher, and he has the ability to get the ball at its highest point. That, combined with strong leaping ability, is vital to Lee given his lack of height.
He is also strong in and out of cuts. That kind of explosion is reflected well in his jumping numbers.
His 38" vertical leap and his 10'7" broad jump were both among the top 10 at his position.
These skills are going to make Lee a threat all over the field.
What Lee also has going for him are some of the more subtle aspects of his position. He runs good routes and he is a willing blocker. Those qualities are far more rare in top talents than they should be.
These factors mean that Lee is a worthy first-round prospect, and given the teams in need of receiver help, it means he will not make it past the first round.
I can't find a scenario where Lee is on the board past the 23rd selection, where the Chiefs are predicted to draft.
Running back Jamaal Charles led the Chiefs in receiving yards last season, and although Dwayne Bowe is a strong No. 1 receiving option, the Chiefs have no other receiver they can depend on.
After the above-mentioned Sammy Watkins, the top receivers in this class figure to be Texas A&M's Mike Evans and Lee. If any of these wide receivers are still on the board, the Chiefs would be foolish to pass on them.
Which receiver will have a better NFL career?
Auburn's Kelvin Benjamin, LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Penn State's Allen Robinson could also go in the first round.
Watkins is going early; after that, there will be a run on receivers in the middle of the round.
All of the following teams come after selection No. 10 in the first round and have a strong need at wide receiver: Tennessee Titans (11), St. Louis Rams (13), Baltimore Ravens (17), New York Jets (18) and then the Chiefs at No. 23.
Now, I'm not saying all of these teams will draft a receiver, I'm saying that is far too many teams to pass on a talent like Lee.
In the end, I see Lee being the third receiver off the board after Watkins and Evans, and he will come off the board well before the end of the first round.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's results tracker.