ESPN's Mel Kiper continues his look forward to the 2014 draft with some position-by-position rankings all this week.
Kicking it off are the top-10 wide receivers. And, no surprise, USC's Marqise Lee is right at the top of the list. After an outstanding 2012, that saw him capture the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver, Lee will be adjusting to life with a new quarterback. There is a question how much that will impact his 2013 numbers, but no one is denying his next-level ability.
Writes Kiper: At maybe 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Lee isn't the kind of physical presence that you'd expect of a game-changing matchup problem like recent top-10 picks A.J. Green, Julio Jones or even Calvin Johnson. But he plays a little bigger than his size, is extremely reliable and productive, and we just witnessed a draft where a 5-8, 175-pound wide receiver went in the top 10 -- and a team traded up to get him. Lee has proven extremely difficult to cover, and as you watched USC last year you'd see teams roll extra coverage to him -- and it still didn't work, as evidenced by the 118 passes he caught.
His challenge this year is to stay productive, and to not get frustrated by both the coverage attention and his new QB. Say what you want about what happened with Matt Barkley in the draft, but the guy was an accurate QB at the college level and got his best players the ball.
This last part is interesting -- because there are those who would submit that the Trojans became too one-dimensional and forced the ball to Lee, getting away from other aspects of the offense and losing balance.
During the Pac-12 blog's spring visit to USC, head coach Lane Kiffin talked extensively about the mental challenges facing Lee in 2013. Here's a link to that story from last month.
It's also a little odd not to see more Pac-12 names -- which goes to show how special last year's crop was -- including Lee's teammate Robert Woods, Markus Wheaton, Keenan Allen and Marquess Wilson, who were all drafted.
Writes Kiper: Crichton has a big-time motor. As a freshman, he was second in the Pac-12 with 14.5 tackles for a loss, and that jumped to 17.5 tackles for loss in 2012. He also forced six fumbles as a freshman. Crichton has a quick get-off, gets defenders off balance with his burst and does a pretty good job of clearing his inside arm and bending to turn the corner. But what makes him special is his effort level, and if he marries that to more technical savvy as a pass-rusher, he's going to have a huge season.
Curious to not see USC's Morgan Breslin, who should be among the nation's top pass-rushers, on this list. Wondering if Kiper is counting him as a defensive end or a hybrid outside linebacker/rush end -- which is his new role in the Trojans' re-worked odd front. If that's the case, the list of outside linebackers from the Pac-12 should be impressive.