Miami Dolphins: Is USC's Marqise Lee on the First Round Radar?

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Miami Dolphins: Is USC's Marqise Lee on the First Round Radar?
Chris Carlson

The Miami Dolphins have the 19th overall selection in the 2014 NFL draft and mock drafts everywhere predict Miami will select an offensive lineman in the first round.  This logic is reasonable as the Dolphins' greatest roster needs are at right tackle and right guard.  Miami's next greatest need is a tackling machine at middle linebacker and C.J. Mosley is another sound option for the Dolphins.

But how about one of the top wide receivers in the 2014 class?  

The Dolphins' starter opposite Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, is recovering from a torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) sustained in last year's regular season finale against the New York Jets.  Last year's slot starter Brandon Gibson is attempting to return from a torn patellar tendon and insists he will be ready for the start of the season.  

The best case scenario offers Miami two rusty receivers.  The next man up is Rishard Matthews and while the third-year receiver, out of Nevada, is steady, the 2012 seventh-rounder is not a difference-maker.  

The Dolphins certainly cannot expect solid production from Armon Binns, who is returning from an ACL tear, or newly-signed players such as Damian Williams, Kevin Cone and Michael Rios.

The need for another top-tier receiver in Miami may be greater than evident at first glance and so the  Dolphins brought in USC's Marqise Lee for a pre-draft interview, per ESPN.com's James Walker.  

If Lee would have made himself eligible for the 2013 NFL draft, he likely would have been the first receiver drafted after posting 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns during his sophomore campaign.  The USC star's stock has dropped precipitously, maybe into the second round, because of an injury-plagued junior season and a 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash during the NFL combine.

At 6'0" and 192 pounds, Lee was not able to endure the punishment delivered by the PAC-12, having nagging shoulder, knee and shin issues in 2013.  Was it bad luck or a sign of things to come in the NFL?

Lee's game has plenty of positives starting with, as NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki described it, "terrific acceleration and short-area burst."  Throw the 40-yard dash time out the window as Lee is fantastic after the catch and in open space.  Lee is a polished route-runner, has superior offensive awareness and field vision.  There is no doubt that the Trojan captain can be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.

Marqise Lee will likely be available to the Dolphins in the first round and would be an exciting addition to aid Ryan Tannehill's development and Miami's return game.  The Dolphins have greater needs but a talent this good may be hard to pass up.

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