Thirteen months ago, it was commonly believed that Marqise Lee was a first round talent. He was fresh off of a record-setting season that won him the 2012 Biletnikoff Award and just missed out on being a Heisman Trophy finalist. The NFL and its pundits salivated at the prospects of Lee playing on Sundays.
Fast forward to Friday morning, and Lee wakes up on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft and can go no higher than 33.
Something clearly went wrong, and that something being a knee sprain that cost him three non-consecutive games in 2013.
Lee’s production as a junior took a big hit due to the knee trouble, and it slowed him down at February’s NFL Scouting Combine.Together, his statistical regression and slower-than-anticipated speed slapped Lee with an injury-prone tag, and scouts could no longer overlook his knack of dropping balls.
Thus, the slide into Day 2 commenced, as rumored-suitors like Carolina and New Orleans took other receivers in the first round, while Kansas City and the Jets simply passed and focused on other positions.
Where does Lee go from here?
He likely finds himself being the next receiver taken, as he’s consistently been rated higher than other available wideouts like Davante Adams, Donte Moncrief and Jordan Matthews.
But it’s the NFL Draft and anything can happen. Like any of these scenarios…
Potential landing spots
Cleveland Browns (Pick No. 35): Instead of drafting Sammy Watkins at No. 4, the Browns traded down and took cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8. They then traded up for Johnny Manziel at No. 22, while keeping their second round selection intact. Wide receiver is their biggest need –in addition to offensive line help– and Lee is likely the best available. Barring the Browns being the Browns, Lee to Cleveland would make too much sense for all parties, especially given that neither Houston at No. 33 or Washington at No. 34 are in the market for a receiver. Should the Redskins take a guard like UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo ahead of the Browns, the decision on Lee gets much easier.
Oakland Raiders (Pick No. 36): The Raiders are still looking for a replacement for Jim Plunket and might be hoping that Fresno State’s Derek Carr squeaks by Houston’s 33rd overall pick. But if Carr’s not available at No. 36, Lee could be at the top of their draft board given that there’s a significant drop off in quarterback talent after Carr (not that that’s ever stopped the Raiders from picking anyone, ever, though).
Jacksonville Jaguars (Pick No. 39): News came out last week that the Jags aren’t holding their breath on Justin Blackmon suiting up this upcoming season, adding to their need at receiver. Lee could be their guy given that Sammy Watkins seemed like a viable selection at No. 3 before they took quarterback Blake Bortles. Given Jacksonville’s history of disastrous first round receiver selections including R. Jay Soward, Reggie Williams and the aforementioned Blackmon, maybe it was better to wait until the second round. Bortles to Lee rings, kinda.
Potential trader-uppers for Lee
New York Jets (Pick No. 49): The Jets have long been rumored to be Lee’s best suitor, and passing on Brandin Cooks in the first round only makes them more starved for a receiver. It would be a shock if Lee was still available at No. 49, but trading up to beat the Browns or Jaguars to the punch seems viable. They have a wealth of picks later in the draft, including three in the fourth round and four in the sixth round as compensation for losing free agents. New York could potentially package one or two of those fourth rounders with the 49th pick and move up into the early second round for Lee.
Detroit Lions (Pick No. 45): As with the Jets, the Lions have three picks in the fourth round, passed on a capable receiver in the first round (Odell Beckham) and have a thirst for a receiver. Detroit had plenty of buzz around Sammy Watkins and considered trading up for him before Buffalo swapped picks with Cleveland to take him at No. 4. Could Lee be the guy they trade up for? He certainly would be cheaper in the second round than Watkins would have been yesterday.
Philadelphia Eagles (Pick No. 54): The Flying Pac-12ers could use another west coast playmaker following the departure of DeSean Jackson to rival Washington. Chip Kelly has shown a propensity to draft guys he coached against and recently told the media that “Lee may be the best receiver I’ve had the opportunity to coach against”. That said, Philly has already passed on Lee once at pick No. 26 when they took defensive end Marcus Smith out of Louisville. Two third round picks including the 83rd overall selection from Pittsburgh could allow Kelly to trade up for Lee, should they choose to do so.
Teams likely out of the Lee-stakes
Kansas City Chiefs: The most glaring need for the Chiefs resides at receiver, where they’re rather thin beyond Dwayne Bowe. KC doesn’t pick have a pick in the second round and only have five picks left in the draft due to trades involving San Francisco and Dallas. While they could certainly use a player like Lee after passing on Kelvin Benjamin in the first round, they’d likely have to give up a lot to trade up for him. It’s probably more likely that they hold out for a receiver at the end of the third round, where someone like Penn State’s Allen Robinson could fall to.
Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints: They all drafted receivers in the first round. So yeah, they’re probably not going to be looking for Lee in the second round.