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2021 Draft Prospect WR Terrace Marshall

A big receiver with unlimited potential

South Carolina vs LSU Photo by MG Miller/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

There are college players who can dominate, making other players better by taking focus off them. Many of these players disappear in the NFL because they are no longer the focus of an offense, and the level of competition is so much greater. There are also players who are never the primary receivers in college but maintain a high level of effectiveness in the NFL, like some slot receivers.

Then there are players like a Terrace Marshall who can do a little of everything because they are so gifted. It doesn’t make a difference whether he is the focus of the offense or just one of many. As long as Terrace is contributing to the team that is all that matters. Like any top receiver he wants the ball coming his way constantly, but football is a team game so when one shines the entire team benefits.

Marshall is a Louisiana native who went to LSU despite the fact that LSU was loaded on offense with Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, D. J. Chark, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Foster Moreau, Stephen Sullivan and Derrick Dillon. He wasn’t looking at someplace he would come in and dominate an offense. He wanted to be a growing part of a team despite the fact that Marshall was the number 1 rated wide receiver in the country in high school until he suffered a season ending injury in his ’ second game of the season against Pearl, Mississippi. Despite the injury he only slipped to the #6 WR in the country and was pursued by every top program in college.

Marshall is listed at 6’ 4” 200 lbs, but he is probably closer to 6’ 3” 190 lbs. He is still growing into his body. He will be much more developed after a few years in an NFL weight training and diet program. Marshall was timed in high school at 4.53/40, but he looks much faster than that now. He is very lean with great length. He should develop into a very strong receiver in the mold of an Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins body type. This of course will take a few years, but he has the potential to become a better all around receiver than even Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson.

As an 18 year old freshman Marshall had to learn the offense so he was only had 19 total targets on the year catching 12 of them for 192 yards and a 16 yard average with zero TDs.

In 2019 he missed 3 games with a severe ankle injury but still contributed to the championship season with 46 receptions (5th on the team) averaging 14.6 yards a catch and 13 TDs. He played primarily on the outside running intermediate routes with the occasional slant or dig route. He did run some deeper routes like this one against Texas in an early season barnburner of a game.

This is an old style post pattern that Marshall ran with ease against a defender playing soft coverage with a seven yard cushion then bailing on the snap. This 26 yard TD was a nice grab on a ball slightly behind him. Ja’Marr Chase was the deep threat on the team, but Marshall was 3rd on the team in TDs averaging a TD on over 28% of his receptions in 2019. Here is a better view of the entire play from the coaches film.

This was a nice play design by Joe Brady (OC at LSU in 2019) as he had Ja’Marr Chase on a short drag route across the field which drew the attention of 3 defenders. He then sent Stephen Sullivan down the left side of the field with an out breaking route towards the corner of the end zone. He has #2 Justin Jefferson in the slot who ran a 12 yard dig route which pulled up the safety in the middle of the field.

This left the entire middle of the field open for Marshall. All he had to do is beat his defender crossing his face to the center of the field. If the safety had stayed back in center field Joe Burrow had Justin Jefferson then wide open in the middle. This way all Joe Burrow had to do was read the safety to make his decision on who to throw to.

Marshall jumps for the ball to slow him down slightly so he didn’t have to reach back. He also gains position on the ball as the defender now has no way to affect the play. He can’t even interfere with the receiver as he is too far away.

Once the 2020 season started the offense looked quite different as compared to 2019 as Joe Burrow, Thaddeus Moss, Justin Jefferson, and even Joe Brady had moved on to the NFL. Ja’Marr Chase, CB Kary Vincent, and DL Tyler Shelvin all opted out before the season. The LSU football program had a record-breaking 2020 NFL Draft. A total of 14 players were taken in the three day event, setting a new school record and tying the record for the most players taken in a seven round draft.

This meant a new offense, a few new QBs, a rocky defense; it was like the program was starting over from scratch in a way. Marshall took over as the primary slot receiver replacing Justin Jefferson. It was a period of transition in Death Valley.

It has been said that when you have two QBs you have no QBs. Well the 2020 LSU team had 3 QBs who threw at least 130 passes on the year. This led to a stuttering offense at times although they averaged 32 points a game. The defense was atrocious as it allowed 34.9 points a game, the #98 of 127 FBS schools.

So Marshall took on the mantle of the go to receiver in 2020 even though he was working primarily from the slot. With his height, length, and speed he had had an advantage against most slot corners. Even though team would put one of their outside corners on Marshall they usually would play them in soft coverage like in this clip against Mississippi State.

This is as basic as it gets with Marshall running down the seam using a single small cut to get an advantage on the corner. The throw is well behind Marshall as he has to slow down and wait for the ball, but his big frame helps him get the ball at it’s highest point. The nice hand catch is also extra special as Marshall will need to develop strong hands to compete in the NFL. That is some of the development he will need to achieve to be successful. You can see the play develop from the higher camera view.

The average at best play fake somehow draws the safety up allowing Marshall to get deep on the play without over coverage. This was probably gleaned from film study as the majority of the time Marshall did not run many deep routes. This may appear to be a falsehood, but in reality Marshall was not a huge deep threat at LSU eve though his skill set screams vertical receiver.

Many of his highlights show Marshall as only a vertical threat. In actuality Marshall ran 308 of his 422 offensive snaps in 2020 from the slot. He only had 96 snaps as a outside receiver on the year. He had only 8 targets of over 20 yards on the year with 6 receptions and 4 TDs. On those targets he had zero drops. This is one of those 4 TDs on vertical routes In 2020. He is even being held on the play so he made the catch one handed.

Marshall is a big kid. He is going to develop into a powerful WR in a short period of time. He was underutilized as a deep threat at LSU because of lack of talent at the QB spot and the offensive line. You can’t throw the ball deep laying on your back or because you don’t see the mismatch. He has a body type that offensive coordinators dream of. He has length, speed, size, and a positive attitude that are the makings of a Pro Bowl receiver.

Watch him off the line as a 20 year old kid running a “9” route against a sophomore CB in Esaias Furdge who has good size for the position. He doesn’t even look like he is running hard. He just looks so natural.

Considering that this route is not a normal route that Marshall runs, he does a great job of not allowing the corner to crowd him or impede his progress. His size is a natural advantage plus his innate ability to feel where his defender is without looking is something that can’t be taught. He doesn’t even look like he is really trying, but he breezes by the defender, keeping him away then finding the ball like it was meant to be.

This next route is a deep out/corner route run from the slot position with Marshall as the player closest to the ball. He ends up in the corner of the end zone with the ball in his hands. It takes advantage of the size/speed edge Marshall has over the slot corner.

This route is not run very well as Marshall is rounding off the out cut plus he is not running full speed off the line. He needs to come off with more urgency. Marshall is lucky the corner could not have played this route much worse. He is 8 yards off his man with his feet near the end zone. He never gets a jam on Marshall to impede his momentum so he gets left behind when Marshall cuts left.

This next clip is more of the same as Marshall uses his size and length to move across the field until he clears traffic to give his QB a window to throw into. This is your basic drag route going from one side of the formation to the other.

In this case Marshall does a good job of running the route. He crosses the face of the defender then keeps him on his back so the QB can lead Marshall with a throw. Marshall can’t be running full steam because he could run out of end zone before he clears the traffic in front of him. Once he gets into the area of open space the QB fires him a throw just before he is being hit by an on rushing lineman. The coaches view shows a clear view of what the QB is seeing.

Marshall knows he is open so he puts up his hands to signal for the throw. You get a good idea on how large a target Marshall is with his excellent length and height. Once Marshall fills out a little more the difference will be even more pronounced. Still even now Marshall just looks so fluid in space, like he is gliding while others are running their hardest. He has a smooth style about him like he has everything under control. This is a 20 year old kid who is just scratching the surface of his talents yet he seems to play like a seasoned pro.

You just witnessed two short TDs by Marshall against Missouri. Well here is his third TD of the game, but it’s a little longer than the others. Marshall can be a threat all over the field on every level of the defense.

Marshall reminds me of the old Randy Moss line when running deep routes, “When I’m even I’m leaving” his defender behind. Marshall has that type of talent. Maybe not to the extent of a Randy Moss but he is a poor man’s version of the Hall of Fame wide receiver. This is just a straight “go” route down the seam from the slot position. It is also played very poorly by the free safety who is left in no man’s land trying to recover from being at the line of scrimmage. Another couple of views will show it more clearly.

Marshall never looks like he is running hard, but he just blows by all the defenders around him. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he should be in the 4.45/40 range when tested. He is a long strider, but he gets up to speed pretty quickly for a taller receiver.

Terrace Marshall is one of my favorite receivers in this Draft. I realize that Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Kadarius Toney are probably ahead of Marshall on most boards, but I don’t know if they have the type of ceiling that Marshall has.

Marshall doesn’t turn 21 years old until after the Draft. He is a talented but raw receiver right now, but I can see where he can develop into the best receiver in the last few years not just this year. I have always like LSU players. They recruit some of the best athletes in the country but do a so-so job of developing them. A player from Alabama gets some of the best coaching in the country, better than some NFL teams so they have less ability improve compared to a player from LSU.

Marshall seems like a good kid. He opted out of the 2020 season after 7 games to work on his skills for the NFL Draft. This is the Instagram message he put out when he decided to forgo the rest of the season and enter the NFL draft.

It think the Marshall is a very spiritual person and the line, “Since a kid, to play in the NFL and to retire my parents has been my #1 mission,” hits close to home for me. I too had a dream like that so my parents could retire early, but it wasn’t to be. So good for this young man. He even referenced his grandparents which leads me to believe this is a very caring person.

Marshall referenced his great uncle Joe Delaney as an inspiration when he was recruited to LSU. For those of you who don’t know about Joe Delaney, he was a running back who played two seasons in the National Football League. In his two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, Delaney set four franchise records that would stand for more than 20 years. He was a Pro Bowl player in 1981, but he died in 1983 when he tried to save 3 boys who were drowning. He could only save one boy before Joe himself drowned.

Of course any team would need to speak with Marshall to see what his desire to achieve is for the future. You want a player who will work hard to develop his talents to reach his potential. All players need to do this and Marshall is no exception. The only difference is that Marshall could develop into a Pro Bowl type talent with development whereas many other players don’t have that type of ceiling.

Marshall only played in 19 games the last two years (he opted out after 7 games this year) yet he had 94 receptions for over 1,400 yards with 23 TDs. Some came with Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson and some came without so Marshall can be a difference maker no matter who he plays with.

Areas he needs to work on are

Route running with an emphasis on getting in and out of breaks better and faster comes to mind. Marshall also has some stiffness in his hips like most taller receivers, but he can mitigate a lot of that with drills designed to increase agility and fluidity. If he can stick his foot in the ground without slowing before hand he then could rocket out of breaks and be wide open in the middle of the field. He also is fairly elusive in space which will help his YAC yards.

Concentration is a problem for a lot of young receivers with Marshall no exception. He had 7 drops this year out of 62 targets (12.7%), most of them coming on short (1-9 yards) routes. He had no drops on his 8 targets over 20 yards so this is just a concentration issue. He is looking to run or find out where the defense is before he catches the ball. This is a very coachable issue and can be corrected with work.

He also needs strength and conditioning work. Marshall will face a lot more press coverage in the NFL than he did at LSU so he is going to need to get stronger. He has a body type that can pack on another 20 lbs of muscle without hurting his speed or agility. He is just a very young man now so he will fill out in time anyway.This will give him better staying power with big corners who will try to push him around and also allow him to break more tackles after his catches. He forced only 7 missed tackles (about 1 a game) in 2020 so that can improve.

Bottom line

Marshall is a seriously gifted athlete with possibly the highest ceiling in the Draft for a wide receiver if he can develop. I have a low 2nd round grade on him because of some technical issues and the drops, but he will be listed much higher on my Draft day board because of his possible ceiling. Marshall can play anywhere running any route so he is a fit for all offenses. If the Jets could pair Marshall with Denzel Mims they could possibly develop into the best receiving duo in the NFL in a few years. They could grow right along with a new QB if the Jets choose to go that direction. I might be dreaming, but I could picture a situation where Mims and Marshall work together to push each other to become better receivers. Motivation and inspiration coming from a peer is always better than coming from a coach.

For a team like the Jets (or any team) that is searching for playmakers Marshall would have to be on their radar. A young player who can make splash plays plus open the field up for RBs and other receivers is a must on a rebuilding team. Once the LSU pro day comes I don’t think Marshall will make it to the 2nd round so the Jets would probably have to use pick #23 (or the pick they receive for Sam Darnold...hint hint) if they expect to secure his services.

Players with this much upside don’t come around that often. It would be wise to get one while you can.

That’s what I think.

What do you think?