The expectation going into 2020 was that LSU WR Terrace Marshall Jr. would act as the Tigers WR2 behind star receiver draft prospect and 2019 Biletnikoff winner Ja’Marr Chase. However, Chase has made the decision that he’s going to opt-out of the 2020 season and prepare for the draft. His decision makes sense because most analysts view him as one of the top wide-outs in the class and a first-round talent. Shockingly, Marshall was a much higher rated recruit than Chase coming out of high school in 2018. What are Marshall’s strengths and weaknesses? Could his draft stock skyrocket after Chase’s decision to opt-out?
WR Terrace Marshall Jr.
Marshall to this point
Marshall was one of the three best wide receivers in the 2018 high school class and the highest-rated recruit in the state of Louisiana. He hails from a football family. His uncle is the late Joe Delaney, former Pro Bowler and Rookie of the Year. As a senior, he tested like an elite athlete who possessed elite size for his position and was recruited by every major football program in the country. Marshall committed to LSU, his hometown team, and was an impact player for their national championship team last year.
Despite being the most highly recruited receiver on the roster, Marshall was just a complimentary piece to the most explosive passing offense in NCAA history. I’ve already mentioned Chase as a likely first-round pick in 2021, but Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire were also both first-round selections in the 2020 draft. As was 2020 Heisman winner, quarterback Joe Burrow.
Now, going into the 2020 season, Marshall will be the go-to target for the Tiger’s offense. He’s one of two returning starters and the only skill-position starter returning. Expect the LSU offense to run through Marshall, as he attempts to develop into one of the top receiving weapons in the nation.
Marshall is an elite physical specimen. Listed at 6’3 and 200 pounds, Marshall has ideal size for the position. His size is most evident in contested situations. He does a great job shielding defenders away from the ball at the catch point, and his length is evident when the ball is in the air. He’s not quite as dominant at the catch point as his teammate Chase, but it’s still a strength of Marshall’s game.
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He’s also an elite athlete, running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash as a senior in high school. His straight-line speed and jumping ability are both evident on tape, and he should be a strong tester at the NFL Combine. Marshall possesses the ability to separate vertically due to natural burst and long speed, and he’s a hard runner with the ball in his hands. He has the look of an NFL X-receiver but he has to show he can function has a number one target at LSU this year.
Despite catching 13 touchdowns last season, Marshall has not displayed the ability to be a consistent threat. He had seven games of under 50 yards receiving and that’s a number he’ll need to dramatically improve on. As the de facto number one in the new LSU offense, Marshall will need to produce more consistently on a game to game basis.
As I mentioned earlier, he’s a strong athlete but I wouldn’t call him quick, elusive, or fluid. He has a long body and gains speed by taking long strides. His lack of stop-start ability make him an average route runner and minimal threat after the catch. He could work on varying his releases and sharpening his breaks on routes, but it’s unlikely he ever develops into a route running savant.
If we’re talking about Marshall’s production upside in 2020, we’re talking about a player who could very well lead the nation in receiving yards. The LSU offense lost well over 4500 yards of receiving offense from last year, and Marshall is first in line to reap the benefits.
If Marshall can produce like one of the top receivers in the nation, it will put the NFL on notice as to what he can do at the next level. Playing in the SEC, he competes against real NFL talent week in and week out. I believe with a very strong season, we could see Marshall go as high as the top 50. Marshall is a fun prospect whose path to becoming a top wide-out is now wide open.