Why Marqise Lee Is The Most “Chip Kelly” Pick


USC WR Marqise Lee (9) carries the ball in the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“With the 22nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Eagles select Marqise Lee, USC.” Maybe we should get used to that idea.

The decision to add two more weeks to the pre-draft period this year has been criticized both by media and fans. These two weeks gave extra time for player evaluation, but they also created the phenomenon of “prospect over-analysis”, which in turn created confusion and made the wait for the NFL Draft even more agonizing.

Calling Marqise Lee the most “Chip Kelly” pick the Philadelphia Eagles can make is the result of my extra evaluation and over-analysis. This is not to say that the Birds will call draft Lee, no matter what. But looking into the small details, it looks like the talented receiver gets a tick in most of Kelly’s evaluation boxes.

Let’s start with this: the Eagles will draft a wide receiver early. Riley Cooper played well in 2013, but that was his only good season as a pro. Jeremy Maclin is coming off an ACL injury and a hasn’t played a snap in more than a year. He is also a free agent after the 2014 season.

Behind them, there is a bunch of unproven and inexperienced wideouts. What happens if either Maclin or Cooper goes down for four or six weeks?

Lee is considered a top wide receiver prospect. He is projected to be a mid-to-late first round selection. The Eagles hold the 22nd overall pick and by the time they will get on the clock, at least two wide receivers will off the board. Lee will be one of the best available at that point.

In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Eagles selected a total of eight players. Four of them were from the PAC-12 conference, where Chip Kelly’s former team, the Oregon Ducks compete. The Eagles’ head coach is not only comfrotable with picking players that played against him, but he looks to be after them. One of his 2013 picks was Matt Barkley, the quarterback of the USC Trojans. Marqise Lee was a member of the Trojans too and one of their best offensive players.

A lot of ink has been spilled on Kelly’s preference for “big” players, because they “beat up” the smaller guys on the field. That is true to an extent, but it doesn’t apply equally to every position. Skill positions (WRs, RBs, DBs) are more about athleticism and skill than size, hence the name.

Kelly knows this and that’s why he re-signed Jeremy Maclin. Maclin is not short, but he isn’t a big guy by any means – he is six feet tall and weighs 195 pounds. If you compare Maclin’s and Lee’s measurements, you will realise they are similar players.

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(Measurements provided by Mockdraftable.com)

Of course, they are not identical. Marqise Lee is an inch shorter than Maclin, but his leaping ability makes up for that. He is also a bit slower, but he is more agile (better time in 20-yard shuttle) and has slightly bigger hands.

Both receivers fit in the role of the possesion receiver that can also be a deep threat. Kelly prefers versatile players over one-trick ponies, that’s why he kept Maclin in Philadelphia. And that’s why he might select Marqise Lee in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Trying to predict a pick is not easy and the later the pick, the harder it gets to guess right. I do believe, however, that Lee is high on the list of the Eagles and a strong candidate to hold the midnight green jersey with number one on the back on Thursday night.