The Best of the Best: Marqise Lee

We’re now four days away from the beginning of the 2013 college football season, which means it’s time for part seven of my Best of the Best series.  This 10 article series will take a look at my top 10 draft eligible players in college football.  This isn’t necessarily a prediction of where I feel they will be drafted, but more my thoughts on where these 10 rank against all other college players.  While I fully expect all of these players to be top 15 draft selections next year, there could always be fluctuation with a premium placed on positions like Quarterback and Offensive Tackle.  With that said, it’s time to look at my number three prospect, USC Wide Receiver Marqise Lee.

Image

Tale of the Tape

6′

195 lbs

Career Numbers

191 receptions

4144 all purpose yards

27 touchdowns

Marqise Lee came to USC as a player with only one High School season of experience at the Wide Receiver position, and a player who many expected to be a standout safety.  However, he’s not just found a home at Wide Receiver, he’s turned into one of the most dangerous Weapons in college football.  Lee is an explosive play maker who is elusive, and hard to get a hand on in the open field.  He’s shows great fight for the 50-50 ball, and uses his body well to block out a defender.  He flashes the ability to be a complete receiver, however he needs to be more consistent in most areas.  So lets take a look at one of the Best of the Best, Marqise Lee.

Play Making Ability

  • Lee is a natural play maker.  He has a quick burst off the line, and is exceptional in space.  He is able to change direction fluidly fooling defenders, and shows the vision and drive to fight through space.                                                     Image
  • At the start of this play we see Lee lined up on the outside of the formation.  The DB Tony Grimes backs off providing cushion for Lee, instead of deciding to try and jam him on his release.                                   Image
  • As the play develops, Lee runs a shallow route and makes the catch around four yards past the line of scrimmage.  The defender at this point in time has good position on him to make the tackle for a short gain. Image
  • As Lee turns and sees the closing defender he immediately stabs the ground and takes his momentum back to the outside of the field.  This move causes the defender to freeze.                                                                 Image
  • With the defender now behind the play and fighting to regain position, Lee is able to break to the edge of the field.  Also of note, TE Randall Telfer has done his job on the play and is down field to block out the safety. Image
  • With the safety effectively removed from the play by Telfer, the last defender who has a chance to stop the play before it becomes a sizable gain is the original defender.  He makes a diving tackle attempt that Lee is able to run through. Image
  • Lee finishes the play demonstrating his explosiveness after the catch as he out runs all the chasing defenders to the end zone.  He also shows great control of his body, tiptoeing the sideline along the boundary. Image
  • As the play begins, Lee takes the pitch to the left and works his way to the edge. Image
  • He is able to make the defender Sutton miss in the backfield, and continues through the play. Image
  • As the defender closes in on him, Lee realizes the other side of the field is relatively open, and looks to cut the play back. Image
  • Lee makes an exceptional cut inside of the defender leaving him vulnerable to an incoming block. Image
  • He shows great strength to fight through the trash, and run through numerous tackle attempts. Image

His QB helps him out, blocking the defender with the best angle, and Lee is able to turn a loss or no gain on the play into a significant gain down field.

Explosiveness

  • Even though he doesn’t possess sub 4.4 speed, Lee is an incredibly explosive receiver.  He’s quick off the line, and once the ball is in his hands he shows the ability to take it the distance on most plays.               Image
  • At the start of this play against Arizona Lee is again given a free release by the defender who is aware of what can happen if he lets Lee get behind him. Image
  • As Lee makes the catch you can see he has six defenders in close proximity to close in and make the play, with just one blocker. Image
  • As the first defender fails in his tackle attempt Lee begins to accelerate across the field and away from the defenders. Image
  • Now Lee has really put the defense in a bad position, he’s managed to evade several of the defenders that were in position to bottle him up.  Now the only worries are the man to the left and slightly up field of him, and the safety closing in from the bottom of the screen. Image
  • The safety is able to get a hand on Lee to slow him down slightly, however Lee shows good ability to run through the tackle attempt and keep going. Image
  • With the safety now out of the picture Lee escapes towards the sideline, maintaining his distance from the chasing defenders. Image
  • Even with a defender in close proximity, he is able to maintain enough distance to finish the play for a touchdown. Image
  • Another example of his explosive ability is demonstrated in the same game against Arizona. Lee makes the catch about 12 yards down field, with a defender in decent position to make the play.                               Image
  • Lee immediately looks to turn up field.  The defender who at this time has a pretty good angle on him begins to close in. Image
  • As Lee continues up field, he accelerates quickly, and is able to out run the defenders tackling attempt. Image
  • As Lee continues to accelerate, he leaves three defenders in an impossible situation.  There is no play to be made. Image

Lee finishes the play pulling away from all players including his blocker Robert Woods, and walks into the end zone for a touchdown.

Fighting For the Play

  • Lee shows great effort on the field for 50/50 balls.  He high points the football exceptionally well in most instances, uses his body to shield defenders, and he fights through contact down field to put himself in position to make plays. Image
  • On this play we can see that an under thrown ball has put Lee out of position.  The defender is now in front of him, and is in the driver’s seat to make a play on this ball.                                                                                                  Image
  • As the play unfolds though, we can see that Lee ends up winning the match up, putting the Trojans in position to extend their lead in a huge upset win. Image
  • Another angle of the play shows us that Lee is able to time his leap and get slightly higher than the defender to make first contact with the football.  Lee finishes the play by hauling in the contested catch for a long gain inside the red zone. Image
  • On this play Lee demonstrates his ability to shield the defender on the jump ball in the end zone.  As the play begins the defender is left on an island. Image
  • The defender makes a critical mistake and does not jam Lee off the line.  This allows him to break towards the end zone uninterrupted. Image
  • Lee turns in towards the football, walling off his defender and making it almost impossible for him to make a play on the football. Image
  • Despite the defenders effort on the play, Lee has now gained position and he is able to out leap the defender and make the catch for a touchdown. Image
  • In this example we can see Lee being faced with contact very early in his route.  The defender has used a technique known as an armbar to pin Lee’s inside arm down, and slow him through his route.                 Image
  • Lee like all great receivers, continues to fight through the contact while tracking the ball through the air. Image
  • Lee is able to use his strength to break free, and instantly begins gaining separation. Image
  • Lee is able to finish the play, making the catch for a touchdown and not having to rely on the pass interference flag that was thrown. Image
  • On this last play to demonstrate Lee’s determination and effort, we will look at a touchdown Lee had against Washington.  Lee runs another simple shallow route, and turns back to his QB providing him an easy target on the four yard line. Image
  • After securing the catch, Lee immediately looks to turn up field and fight for the score. Image
  • Lee is contacted just short of the goal line, but instead of being driven backwards he stays upright and keeps his legs moving fighting to cross the plane. Image

Lee continues to fight and the result is buying enough time for his teammates to join the pile and move it across the goal line for a score.

Natural Hand Catching Ability

  • Lee flashes the natural hand catching characteristics, showing the ability to go up and pluck the football out of the air.  He has soft hands, and does well securing the catch.                                                                             Image
  • On this play you can clearly see how smooth he can look catching the ball with his hands.  The QB places the ball high, but Lee is able to time his leap correctly and put himself in position to make the play.                     Image
  • Now you see Lee show the ability to fully extend his body and pluck the ball out of the air. Image
  • Lee then finishes the play by showing off his incredible elusiveness.  He is able to evade two tacklers, and then walks into the end zone with an easy touchdown                                                                              . Image
  • On this play Lee runs a simple slant pattern.  He demonstrates sharp route running, which helps him create separation from the defender. Image

As the ball arrives, he once again shows the ability to attack it and make the hands catch, because he’s able to make the reception in stride, he turns the catch into an easy touchdown.

Needs Improvement

While every single player in my Best of the Best series has traits to their game that in my opinion make them stand out, they all have things they need to improve too.  So let’s look at a couple of areas where I would like to see Lee improve in 2013.

Over Aggressive

  • I almost hate to knock Lee on this, because it’s part of what makes him so special.  However, sometimes the young receiver can become a little too aggressive resulting in plays for negative yardage, or turnovers. Image
  • On this play Lee is lined up in the backfield, and will take a pitch designed to go to the left. Image
  • Lee makes the first man miss, but is surrounded by Bruin defenders with nowhere to go.  This play looks to be a lost cause. Image
  • Despite defenders closing in rapidly, Lee still looks to cut back to the other side of the field, instead of heading North and South to pick up what little yards are there.                                                                                       Image
  • Finding no cutback lane available, Lee decides to finally try to get what yards he can on this busted play. Image
  • All this dancing around in the backfield has caused Lee to neglect protecting the football, and as he is tackled the ball will come out.  Instead of looking for an all or nothing play like he does almost every time he touches the ball, he could have just taken the yards available and lived to fight another day.

Inexperience

  • Lee is a raw athlete who has only been playing Wide Receiver since his Senior year of High School.  His inexperience at the position shows up in several areas of his game.  When route running he can take too many steps throughout his routes, reducing the amount of separation he can gain.  Also he has trouble beating pressing Corners off the line at times due to unrefined technique, and experience in those situations.  Finally while he flashes the ability to be a great hands catcher, route runner and very capable blocker, inexperience leads to lapses in his technique and production in these areas.  This isn’t really a concern however, because he has become better in all of these areas from the start of his Freshman year to the end of the 2012 season, and I would expect him to make the same strides this year.

Final Thoughts

Lee is an incredible athlete who happens to play the Wide Receiver position.  He shows great ability to track the football in the air, and flashes phenomenal ball skills to attack the football at its highest point and make the hands catch.  At times he’s a great route runner, making sharp cuts and utilizing the entire route tree throughout games.  While he doesn’t have as much top end speed as fellow Best of the Best member Sammy Watkins, he does show enough explosive ability after the catch to outrun chasing defenders in most situations.  He also has an incredible first step, exploding off the line.  He’s incredibly lethal once he secures the catch, showing great elusive ability, as well as the ability to run through tackles.  Furthermore, he uses his body well to shield the defender from the ball, and fights for the 50-50 ball better than any Wide Receiver in the nation.  He’s also a very willing and effective blocker, though his technique could use some refining.

His biggest flaw is probably his desire to turn every play into a touchdown.  This is evident from the very first time you watch Marqise Lee play, as he is always looking for the cutback lane that will provide the potential huge gain.  Part of this is why he is one of the Best of the Best, however he needs to be smarter in these situations.  He regularly goes backwards to get across field, at times doing this on conversion downs.  While it has been mostly successful for him in the college game, he can’t make a habit of this going forward to the NFL.  His other “flaw” if you will is his inexperience at the position.  Lee’s only been playing Wide Receiver for three years now, and while he shows the ability to be a complete player at the position, he has lapses in his game from time to time.  As I mentioned before I’m not overly concerned in this as he’s already made great strides in this area.  However I would like to see him get better at fighting through more physical Corners, as well as refining his route running to create max separation.

Thank you for reading, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next player in my Best of the Best series.  Also, please feel free to send me any comments/critique to danguy013@gmail.com or feel free to comment/follow me on twitter @danny_g13

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