This year’s NFL Draft provides an interesting comparison between two players who would have been slam-dunk high picks if allowed to leave college after their sophomore seasons. Jadeveon Clowney, who — despite all the slings and arrows he’s anonymously taken after a pedestrian junior season — is still the odds-on favorite to go first overall on May 8. And Marqise Lee, who may have lost a bundle because of the NFL’s eligibility rules. Lee was the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate receiver in 2012, and a consensus All-American. An eye-popping 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns will have that effect. He was just as dynamic in the return game. USC’s game plan was often: Get Marqise the ball and let him go. But injuries, instability in the coaching staff and a drop-off in complementary talent led to a disappointing third — and ultimately final — collegiate season. Lee posted career-lows in catches (57), yards (791) and touchdowns (four). His draft stock, in turn, suffered a similar slide. In his latest mock draft, Mel Kiper has Lee as the fifth receiver off the board, behind Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr. and Kelvin Benjamin. Meeting with reporters at February’s Scouting Combine, one could sense that dynamic when Lee talked about the questions he got from NFL teams during his private interviews. “Injury of course, trying to rush it back,” Lee said, referring to a knee issue that vexed him for much of 2013. “It’s a little bit my fault. Loss of focus as far as not looking the ball all the way in before getting too comfortable. Not looking the ball all the way in before I make a run, running before catching the ball, things like that.” Compounding the problem, Lee’s 40-yard dash time (4.52 seconds) wasn’t exactly blazing, and he didn’t run at his Pro Day. Now, Lee hasn’t completely fallen out of favor. He’s still one of 30 players invited to New York for the first night of the draft — an indication that he’ll likely still go in the first round.
Miami Dolphins show interest in USC wide receiver Marqise Lee
Miami Herald | Apr 29