The depth of the 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver class is a blessing and a curse. For NFL teams, it offers immense opportunity to retool the wide receiver position. But some notable wide receivers also go overlooked by this depth. One such 2021 NFL Draft sleeper is Houston wide receiver Marquez Stevenson, a standout playmaker who deserves more draft attention than what he’s currently getting.
Marquez Stevenson 2021 NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Houston
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 5’10 1/8″
- Weight: 180 pounds
- Wingspan: 75″
- Arm: 31″
- Hand: 8 1/2″
Tony Pauline’s Marquez Stevenson Scouting Report
Positives: Three-year starter who continually displayed himself as a game-breaking receiver. Displays good recognition, is always on the same page as his quarterback, and plays with balance as well as body control. Quickly releases off the line of scrimmage, fires into breaks, and stays low on exit, snatching the ball out of the air with his hands. Sells routes and uses his frame to shield away defenders or protect the pass.
Competes to come away with the difficult grab even when defenders are draped on him. Nicely tracks the deep pass in the air, looks the ball into his hands, and makes the difficult over-the-shoulder reception at full speed. Possesses good eye/hand coordination. Plays to his 40-time.
Negatives: Struggles in battles. Easily knocked off balance or knocked to the ground by the initial hit.
Analysis: Stevenson was a big-play threat at Houston and projects as a vertical receiver who can also return kicks. He needs to get stronger, but he should flourish early in his career as a slot wideout.
Marquez Stevenson Player Profile
Marquez Stevenson is a dynamic player, but that wasn’t always the case. In high school, he didn’t have the same elite speed he has now. Clocking in at a mere 4.87 seconds, Stevenson was lost in the shuffle as a three-star prospect. That said, he still generated some modest interest.
By his senior season, Stevenson attracted offers from a host of schools. Among those schools were Baylor, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Miami, and TCU. But Stevenson bypassed all of his Power Five offers and instead chose to suit up with the Houston Cougars of the American Athletic Conference.
Marquez Stevenson’s career as a Houston wide receiver
Stevenson’s Houston career didn’t kick off as the young receiver had hoped. Stevenson missed the majority of his freshman campaign with a broken collarbone. He then proceeded to miss the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL suffered in spring practice. Expectations started to dwindle for the dynamic receiver, but he put the billowing concerns to rest with his 2018 campaign.
In 2018, Stevenson roared back from his ACL injury and dominated for the Cougars, amassing 75 catches for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns. As a redshirt sophomore, Stevenson accounted for 37.7% of his team’s total receiving yards and 20% of his team’s total receiving touchdowns.
Stevenson’s career after his 2018 explosion
For the rest of his Houston career, Stevenson remained a consistent threat in the Cougars’ offense. In 2019, he put up 52 receptions for 907 yards and nine more touchdowns. In 2020, the Cougars only played seven games due to cancellations. Stevenson also missed two with a leg injury. But he still managed to average four receptions, 60.2 yards, and one touchdown per game, while breaking the 100-yard mark twice.
For his career, Stevenson totaled 147 catches for 2,233 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also contributed as a ball carrier and used his speed to rack up 26 attempts for 231 yards and two scores. Stevenson accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl. There, he sought out to reclaim his forward momentum after a senior season impacted by external factors, and displayed good route running in the process.
Analyzing Marquez Stevenson’s 2021 NFL Draft profile
The physical traits truly pop off screen with Marquez Stevenson. Stevenson only ran a 4.48 at his pro day, but the Houston wide receiver has legitimate sub-4.4 speed on tape. He also has excellent burst into open space. He’s only 5-foot-10, 180, but he plays above his size well enough to compliment his speed. He’s not D.K. Metcalf, but he has enough size and length to adequately compete in contested situations and contort for off-target throws.
Stevenson is also a very fluid player, and he flashes the necessary lateral agility and twitch to be a good route runner. For now, he’s more of a seam buster and screen player with his speed. However, there are flashes where Stevenson can use his stocked potential energy to create displacement at his route stems. This is also apparent after the catch and on designed running plays, where Stevenson uses smooth mobility and good vision to earn more yards.
Expanding on Stevenson’s work at the catch point, Stevenson’s willingness to contort helps him compete against similarly-sized boundary cornerbacks. He also has the body control and ball tracking ability to haul in deep passes, which is important because a lot of his work comes deep down the field. Stevenson can be a bit inconsistent when he has to track the ball and make acrobatic plays, but he has the flexibility and the quick reaction to piece that together at the next level.
What can Marquez Stevenson work on?
Stevenson is an enticing physical talent, but he’s also raw. His main purpose was to provide utility as a deep threat and a run-after-catch weapon at Houston. Thus, most of his routes either entailed verticals with slight double-moves or bubble screens. When Stevenson was asked to actually infuse route nuance into the equation, he was inconsistent. Rarely were his routes refined or crisp, and there were times when he rounded out his stems and telegraphed his direction changes.
Stevenson’s main issue is route running; he’ll have to develop that at the next level if he wants to be more than an ancillary threat. However, as mentioned earlier, he does show flashes of abrupt quickness at his route stem, so he has the natural capacity to make it happen. Perhaps an issue almost as big is Stevenson’s injury history.
The Houston wide receiver missed most of his true freshman campaign with a broken collarbone. Then he tore his ACL, missing the entire 2017 season. Then, this past season, he missed two games in Houston’s seven-game slate. It’s encouraging that Stevenson returned so voraciously from his ACL tear in 2018.
It’s also encouraging that he maintained some level of consistency with his health in the years after. But suffering two significant injuries before reaching the NFL and a third minor one, it’ll be a question for him as he approaches the NFL.
Senior Bowl Performance
After being listed at 6-foot-0, 191 pounds before the Senior Bowl, Stevenson measured in a full two inches shorter than expected. That didn’t kick off his Senior Bowl week on a high note, but Stevenson performed admirably in practices, even if he didn’t stand out to the level of other receivers. Stevenson’s speed stood out on more than one occasion, and he also supplemented that with good change-of-direction skills and route running ability. Stevenson’s weigh-in hurt him, but he was able to do enough on the field to break even.
Marquez Stevenson’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Provided that Marquez Stevenson’s medicals checked out at the Combine, he’s an enticing value deal on Day 3, who could rise to Round 3 if teams value his offseason performance well enough. Stevenson will rank near fellow deep threat D’Wayne Eskridge for me. Both are versatile players with their athleticism. Stevenson has a better breakout age, better size, and more upside. But Eskridge offers more polish as a route runner and more competitive toughness.
Stevenson has a ton of potential with his speed, and if he can add more polish to his game, he can be a versatile big-play wide receiver. And on top of that, he’s also an elite kick returner, with three special teams touchdowns over the past two seasons. That multiphase impact will be big for teams, especially if the Houston wide receiver makes it to Day 3.
Specific team fits for Marquez Stevenson
Teams always need more depth and rotational upside at wide receiver, so Stevenson’s fits will comprise a good chunk of the NFL. Stevenson is an adequate player to stack with another early-round receiver. However, he also has enough physical ability to be a stand-alone at the position for teams whose needs are limited to the slot. The Chiefs, Chargers, and Titans could benefit from Stevenson’s addition, but the list doesn’t stop there.
Stevenson will need added development at the NFL level, but his searing speed gives him plenty of potential. Stevenson’s amalgamation of traits makes him an explosive deep threat early on. He also has the necessary skill set to add more RAC and route running elements to his game.
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