Why Marqise Lee Is a Fantasy Football Value

Marqise Lee is the most talented Jaguars receiver, and has a chance to lead the team in receptions and yardage.

Marqise Lee wasn’t the most highly touted rookie wide receiver of the 2014 draft class (he went sixth at the position), and he wasn't the biggest or fastest, either. But Lee is a talented receiver whose opportunity may be the best of any rookie wide receiver in the league.

Although the Jaguars have improved in the offseason, they'll still be behind in most games, and will continue to pass the ball. If their top-11 total of 592 drop backs from 2013 continues, there will be plenty of targets to go around for the rookie from USC. But before I go and look further into Lee’s opportunity in Jacksonville, let’s talk about what Lee did in college, which makes him such an intriguing receiver.

Lee at USC

Shawn Siegele of RotoViz did a piece on Marqise Lee in June, chronicling why the receiver could end up being the standout of the 2014 class. One of the most interesting nuggets of the article, which you can read in its entirety here, was that Lee “dominated” (according to the advanced metric Dominator Rating) a total of 18 games in his college career, more than Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans combined, who only “dominated” a total of 16 games in their careers.

After his 2012 season at USC, Lee was being billed as an early first-round pick, and draft pundits everywhere were raving about him. But after several minor injuries, spotty quarterback play, and an overall inconsistent 2013 campaign, Lee’s stock began to fall. After running a relatively disappointing 40 time (4.52) at the combine, Lee fell out of the first round. The perception of Lee as an elite receiver quickly dissipated, and the Jaguars became the beneficiary with the 39th pick.

Recency bias has caused many in the football community to view Lee as a subpar athlete, and simply an average receiver. In contrast, Sammy Watkins was picked with the number four overall selection in the 2014 draft, and has been hyped as a physical freak. But are the two receivers really that far apart in terms of athleticism? Take a look at their combine numbers.

HeightWeight40 TimeVerticalBroad Jump20 yard shuttle
Watkins6'12114.4334 inch126 inch4.34
Lee6'01924.5238 inch127 inch4.01

In addition to besting Watkins in the vertical, broad jump, and short shuttle, Lee also posted a higher Catch Radius and an Explosion score, according to Siegele. Lee is, of course, a bit slower than Watkins, but his overall athleticism is quite impressive. It can be argued that Watkins is a superior player and athlete, but the gap in talent may not be worth the 35-pick difference. If Watkins is being hyped as a potential weekly starter in fantasy, there is no reason to think Lee can't produce in a similar fashion.

Opportunity in Jacksonville:

Lee’s fall in the 2014 draft may end up being a blessing in disguise, as he landed with a team desperate for talent at receiver. With his main competition being the always hamstrung Cecil Shorts , fellow rookie Allen Robinson, and the pedestrian Mike Brown, expect Marqise Lee to start from day one. Reports out of Jaguars camp indicate that Marqise Lee is already practicing with the starters, and with his talent, he should be able to secure the job by the end of preseason.

As noted earlier, the Jaguars were 11th in the league in total passing plays last season, and were sixth in the league in pass-to-run ratio. Even if they're a little more run-heavy with newcomer Toby Gerhart this season, a slight regression should still put them at the top half of the league. That is, of course, if game flow continues to force the team to pass as they come from behind.

For reference, lets take a look at how Cecil Shorts', the leading receiver for the Jaguars over the last two years, target numbers have looked over the last couple of seasons.

YearRecYardsTargetsSnap %

Shorts was able to receive over 100 targets in each of the past two seasons while missing a sizable chunk of snaps. Shorts missed three games in 2013 and two games in 2012, and was still able to sustain fantasy value due to the volume of the Jaguars passing game.

Marqise Lee is a more physically talented receiver than Cecil Shorts, and has a chance to not only start opposite Shorts, but supplant him as the Jaguars reception and yardage leader in 2014. Take a look at the comparison between Lee and Shorts, in terms of their respective combine performances:

HeightWeight40 TimeVerticalBroad Jump20 yard shuttle
Shorts6'02054.5934 inch114 inch4.07
Lee6'01924.5238 inch127 inch4.01

Marqise Lee is faster, quicker, and is a flat-out superior athlete compared to Shorts. Lee can do everything Shorts can as a receiver, and doesn’t necessarily have the lingering injury problems that consistently hamper Shorts. If Marqise Lee simply stays healthy, he looks like a lock for a minimum of 100 targets, with potential for many more if he is effective. Lee has been effective in preseason, too, and the Jaguars have been reportedly looking for ways to actively get him the ball.

Opportunity is knocking in Jacksonville. and Lee has the opportunity to show the NFL why he was the Biletnikoff Award winner in 2012, and why he dominated 50 percent of the games he played in college.