As Marqise Lee returns home from the NFL combine, it appears as if his status as a first-round choice in the upcoming draft is secured.
In a draft that features several receivers with projected first-round grades, Lee is settled right behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins in most rankings, and chances are that either Lee or Texas A&M's Mike Evans will be the second receiver taken.
Once Lee is drafted, the next step will be to translate his impressive athletic gifts into success at the NFL level. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Lee was one of the more dynamic playmakers in college football in the past three seasons, with a Biletnikoff Award and a slew of USC records on his resume.
In order for Lee to make it big in the pros, however, he will need to buck one of the more mysterious trends from USC football in recent years -- the inability of Trojans receivers to really shine in the NFL.
It’s not as if there has been a lack of talent at the position over the last decade. Players such as Mike Williams, Dwayne Jarrett, Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert all put up huge numbers while wearing cardinal and gold but, for various reasons, never saw that production continue once they moved into the pro ranks.
Seven of the top 10 pass-catchers in USC football history played in the last decade, but only Robert Woods -- entering his second season with the Buffalo Bills -- is still active in the NFL with a chance to achieve elite success.
It’s not really something that can be easily explained when you consider how successful those players were at USC. Granted, they were also surrounded by quarterbacks such as Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, running backs like Reggie Bush and offensive linemen such as Ryan Kalil. And most of those receivers were either coached or recruited to USC by Pete Carroll, who is riding high these days as a Super Bowl champion.
When you think back to the dominance of Williams or the excitement of 4th-and-9 from Jarrett, it becomes all the more strange to understand. Steve Smith was on his way to a nice career with the New York Giants before a knee injury really halted him, so that means you have to go back to Keyshawn Johnson -- who played at USC in 1994-95 -- before you really see a USC receiver who put up huge numbers in the NFL. Johnson is ranked No. 29 on the all-time NFL receptions list with 814.
Of course, all of that means little for Lee, or Woods, as both players will stand on their own merits, but it does offer a chance for the oddity to come to an end. USC receivers have had a lot of success over the years, and it would be good for Trojans fans to see their favorite sons continuing that at the next level.