By M. Britt Hayes
It seems the goal to Dynasty Football is to find the hidden gem. The player that no one else knows exists. That dark horse that’s buried way back in the draft that is overlooked by all, but is destined to produce. The Antonio Browns, and Tom Bradys of the of the world. The flyer pick, that actually flies. Everyone knows the feeling. He’s the player you draft with your 3rd or 4th round rookie pick with a smirk on your face while everyone else is thinking “WTF?!” So, who is this year’s Stefon Diggs?”
I present to you Marquez North.
Mr. North looks like what SkyNet would have created if they were building NFL wide receivers instead of Terminators. He’s 6 foot 2 inches tall , weighs 224 pounds, and just put up a 4.48 second 40 yard dash at the Combine. The former Tennessee Volunteer is more than a gym rat, tying for the fifth best bench press throwing up 17 reps of 225 pounds. He posted a 35-inch vertical jump, tying for 15th best, and his 10 foot 3 inch broad jump tied him for 13th at that event. North then completed the 3-cone drill in 6.9 seconds, giving him the 10th best time among WR’s. Finally, his 20-yard shuttle time was his highest ranking performance of the day, finishing it tied for fourth after clocking in at 4.13 seconds.
The measurables are there. So why is the high school class of 2013’s 16th ranked WR and 133rd overall recruit not being talked about in the same breath as Laquon Treadwell, Corey Coleman, and Josh Doctson?
Marquez started off his college career with a promising freshman campaign, recording a team high 496 yards on 38 receptions. He was the Vols top receiving target but found the end zone just once. Of course Tennessee as a whole only had 12 passing TD’s for the entire year. North was working mostly on raw talent. He could get on the field and find the ball. Through the first six games, North averaged 3 catches for 29.9 yards per game. In the course of his last five games, he averaged 4 catches for of 63.4 yards. During that last stretch, North faced South Carolina, Alabama, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. Three of those defenses ended the season ranked in the top 25 nationally.
As the year went on, North got better. He learned how to use his body and be a legit threat. That’s exactly what you want to see out of young players, especially one of such size and physique, that could be a real game-changer for a team that needs some more excitement in its offense.
In 2014, Marquez looked like he was starting to live up to his lofty high school ranking during the first part of the season. He was starting to find the end zone more catching 32 balls for 320 yards and 4 touch downs before tearing his labrum and missing the remainder of the year.
A back injury suffered against Florida in the fourth game of 2015 resulted in a lost season for North. An additional knee injury ravaged his ability to work into the offense, and he wound up with just 6 catches for 58 yards in his final year as a Vol.
Timing & Luck
For the little bit of time North was on the field at Neylan Stadium, he suffered from inadequate QB play. Marquez didn’t have the fortune of attending Tennessee during the General’s reign. Peyton Manning was a thing of the past when North got to Knoxville. He didn’t even have Tee Martin under center. For North’s tenure his QB’s were Justin Worley, Nathan Peterman, and Joshua Dobbs. Who, you might ask. Worley’s season totals were 1,579 passing yards, 12 TDs, 8 INTs, 62.3% completion percentage. He was most notably sacked 29 times. Nathan Peterman saw some limited action, but at the end of the 2014 season he transferred to Pitt. Then there’s Joshua Dobbs who managed just a 59.6% completion percentage in 2015 and was himself sacked 21 times.
North was highly recruited out of high school by head coach Derek Dooley, who was replaced upon his arrival in 2013. After Marquez’s inability to stay healthy hampered his growth and consistency under new coach Butch Jones, he was buried on the depth chart in favor the new regime’s recruits.
Marquez North entered the Tennessee football program at an inopportune time and a series of unfortunate events kept him from fulfilling his potential. He’s still young, at only 20 years old and his Combine numbers prove that the talent is there. We saw flashes of what North could be, but with such a small collegiate sample size, and questions about his durability there is some uncertainty as to whether he can consistently play as good as he looks. It’s no sure thing but North could be that gem that every Dynasty owner is tirelessly searching for in the 2016 draft.