USC's all-time leading pass catcher exploded onto the scene from the very start of his career and when Marqise Lee finally hears his name called in this weekend's NFL Draft, his emotional journey emerging from a struggling childhood developing into a future NFL star will finally be complete.
As a freshman, Lee earned the starting job at receiver opposite former high school teammate, Robert Woods, and immediately made an impact. Lee nabbed a touchdown in all but three games and finished the season particularly strong at Oregon (eight receptions, 187 yards, one score) and vs. UCLA (13 receptions, 224 yards, two scores). He was named the 2011 Pac-12 Freshman Offensive Co-Player of the Year and also made the All-Pac-12 second team.
Lee followed up his rookie campaign with an even better sophomore season as he started all 13 games and set Pac-12 records in receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,721). At Arizona on Oct. 27, Lee recorded a Pac-12 record 345 receiving yards on 16 receptions, one short of the USC record for a game. He won the 2012 Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's top receiver, and became the first Trojan to win the award.
Lee was also named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American. During his junior year, Lee's production dropped in part due to defenses keying on him (Matt Barkley and Woods departed for the NFL) and a knee injury that he battled nearly the entire year. Still, he left USC an owner or shareholder of 24 program records and three conference records, and as one of the best wide receivers ever to don the cardinal and gold.
Freshman Year: 73 receptions, 1,143 yards, 11 touchdowns
Sophomore Year: 118 receptions (Pac-12 record), 1,721 yards, 14 touchdowns
Junior Year: 57 receptions, 791 yards, 4 touchdowns
TOTAL: 248 receptions, 3,655 yards, 29 touchdowns
DRAFT COMBINE ANALYSIS
40-yard dash time: 4.52 seconds
Vertical jump: 38 inches
Broad jump: 10 feet, 7 inches
Shuttle run: 4.01 seconds
PRO DAY ANALYSIS
USC Pro Day: Marqise Lee talks to the media (via WeAreSCProductions)
Todd McShay's latest mock draft has Lee projected to go in the first round (No. 23 overall) to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Analysis (April 29): The Chiefs could look to trade back here to get back the second-rounder they used to acquire Alex Smith last year. But if they stay here, a wide receiver makes sense given that it is one of the biggest needs on the roster. Lee doesn't have the timed speed of some of the other receivers in this class, and he had some issues with drops in 2013, but he has excellent fluidity as a route-runner and is faster on the field than his 40 time would indicate.
Mel Kiper's latest mock draft also has Lee projected to go in the first round (No. 23 overall) to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Analysis: Given their needs and the depth in this draft, I could see the Chiefs moving down if they can add a pick or two. They don't have one in Round 2 thanks to (the success of) the Alex Smith trade. However, if they stay put, they could use a receiver who can help immediately -- K.C. really is a "win-now" team on the personnel side despite a huge leap in 2013 -- and Lee comes in as a possible steal, given his uneven junior season after he'd firmly established his value for evaluators.
CBSSports.com's Rob Rang on Lee:
COMPARES TO: Victor Cruz, New York Giants - Like the 6-0, 204-pound Cruz, Lee lacks the frame to wow scouts but his agility, acceleration and soft hands make him a natural playmaker. It is unknown whether Lee can salsa, but he's a breathtaking talent who should have plenty of opportunities to develop touchdown dances of his own in the NFL.