Leading up to a game against Oregon State in Novenber 2012, Stanford coach David Shaw was asked to compare the Beavers’ receiving duo (Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks) with the one at USC (Marqise Lee and Robert Woods).
“Well, first of all, I don’t mind going on record as saying that I think Marqise Lee is the best college receiver that I’ve seen since I scouted Randy Moss,” Shaw said.
He's wasn't just throwing that out there either -- Shaw was a quality control coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during Moss’ final season at Marshall. And while the future Hall-of-Famer fell to No. 21 overall in the 1998 draft, his talent was never in question.
When Shaw made the comparison, it sounded about right. At the least, it would have been difficult to argue against. Lee was on his way to what were then Pac-12 records for receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,743). It was Lee, not former No. 1 overall pick Keyshawn Johnson, who was named USC’s first Fred Biletnikoff Award winner.
At the time, there was no question he would be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft. Maybe top 5.
Out of the first round? No chance.
And even as he struggled to meet the bar through nagging injuries, quarterback struggles and coaching turmoil in 2013 -- the Pac-12 blog didn’t name Lee one of the conference’s top-25 players for the 2013 season -- it was hard not to write it off as a season-long aberration. Aberration or not, it’s going to cost him a lot of money.
The first receiver picked in last year’s draft, West Virginia’s Tavon Austin, received $12.8 million in guaranteed money after getting picked at No. 8 overall by St. Louis. The first receiver selected in the second round last year, Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, received $3.8 million guaranteed.
Feeling bad for someone who is about to make a life-changing amount of money to fulfill a childhood dream isn't the correct feeling, but, still, $9 million buys this house and leaves roughly $3.5 million. And that's just the minimum difference in guaranteed money.
Lee’s size came into question through the pre-draft evaluation process -- he measured at 6-foot, 192 pounds the combine -- but that didn’t hurt Austin, who measured 5-foot-8, 174 pounds. Austin ran a superior 40-time (4.34 to 4.52), but it would have been tough for a team to choose him over Lee.
Of course, none of this matters in the grand scheme of things. Lee should be one of the first players drafted in Friday’s second round, which means he’ll likely have the opportunity to contribute immediately. For a player with Lee talent, that should be enough.
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