Marquel Lee – 6’3″ / 235 – Wake Forest DOB 10/21/1995
Many experts expected Oakland to draft a linebacker much sooner than round five of the NFL Draft. With the player who many believed to the best LB available in round one it seemed inevitable. However, Reuben Foster did not jive with GM Reggie McKenzie’s plans. In fact, the value that Oakland found in rounds one (Gareon Conley CB Ohio State) and two (Obi Melifonwu SS/TE Assassin UConn) rivals any value picks of the whole draft. The Raiders then added a biscuit eater in round three (Eddie Vanderdoes, DT UCLA) and a beefcake in round four (David Sharpe, OL Florida).
Finally, in round five a LB was in their crosshairs. Some quality LBs went before Oakland’s selection. Blair Brown of Ohio went to Jacksonville, Jayron Brown of UCLA went to Tennessee, Anthony Walker of Northwestern went to Indianapolis and Matt Milano of Boston College went to Buffalo. Finally, with the 168th overall pick, Lee became the newest Raider.
Lee was ranked outside DFF’s top 20 LBs in the pre-draft process. There also wasn’t public or even IDP intrigue for a player who recorded nearly 300 collegiate tackles. He was given draftable grades but he was clearly a day three prospect at best. Draftbreakdown.com only felt it necessary to upload one game tape of Lee’s. That tape was versus the Seminoles of Florida State and it was one of his worst games of 2016.
It is hard to argue against his production but there are certain traits lacking in Lee’s play. The big one that initially stands out his inability to break off blocks. Too often when Lee was asked to shoot a gap or seal the edge he would allow blockers to get underneath his pad level. This appears to be simple a lack of finesse on Lee’s part. He needs to be taught to extend his 32 1/2 inch arms (51st percentile) and sting would-be blockers right between the numbers. He did put up 25 bench reps (73rd percentile) at the combine so he’s shown he has a solid and strong core.
Lee has also not shown much coverage ability which causes some people to label him as a two-down player. With Oakland presently using a 4-3 base that two-down label could legitimately stick to Lee for at least this season. However, speculation on the future is that Oakland could be rolling out a 3-4 base in 2018. Former Charger DC John Pagano is now in the building as an assistant head coach & assistant to the current DC Ken Norton. Pagano ran the 3-4 in San Diego and you can expect his influence on the game plan, sets and play calling to slowly increase.
If and/or when Oakland shifts to a 3-4 Lee would become the attack backer. This could still limit him in sub-packages but he would be more effective as a true early-down thumper. His fellow ILBs (Cory James or Ben Heeney-if he is still in the league) would be the coverage backer. They would float in space while Lee shoots the gaps and does lateral damage. Much like the Chiefs have done with tackle hound Derrick Johnson for years, that would be Lee’s function in the Raiders 3-4. Oakland also has aspirations of using Melifonwu versus TEs in obvious passing situations. This would relieve Lee of that role but it could also keep him on the field in certain packages.
He is instinctual and strong which are two key attributes to being a successful IDP player. With the right instruction and growth the Raiders could likely own another draft gem. As always GM McKenzie’s deep approach to scouting led to unearthing a day three potential starter. Lee has a lot to prove but taking a late flier on someone with his kind of opportunity is exactly what adds value to your overall team depth.