Last week, the Jets confirmed that they had signed Washington State wide receiver Gabe Marks to an undrafted free agent contract after the 2017 NFL Draft.
Marks is 5'11" and 189 pounds and is currently in 9th place among the NCAA's all-time reception leaders. He's a two-time all-Pac 12 conference first team selection and caught a career high 104 passes in 2015.
Marks ended up at Washington State after Oregon had offered him a scholarship but wanted him to play cornerback. He made an instant impact with the Cougars, catching 49 passes as a true freshman and then another 74, for 807 yards and seven touchdowns, in his sophomore year in 2013.
However, he was arrested for assault in a bar fight during that offseason, then dealt with a concussion and a staph infection, all of which ultimately led to him taking 2014 off.
He returned with a vengeance in 2015, though, catching 104 passes for 1,192 yards and 15 touchdowns. By contrast, his 2016 was a disappointment as his production slipped, although he still had 13 touchdowns on 89 catches.
Marks isn't particularly big and, as you can see, posted disappointing athletic numbers at the combine. He's actually only three pounds heavier than Brisly Estime, although he's a couple of inches taller.
Marks primarily played outside in Washington State's spread offense, but was very effective whenever they targeted him from the slot.
He didn't line up on the line of scrimmage very often and was put in motion from time to time.
Marks is more of a possession receiver who has averaged 11 yards per catch over the course of his college career and 10 in his senior year.
He has had some success on downfield passes, although it doesn't seem like many of these were long bombs over the top where he got behind the defense. Here is a tough downfield throw where he did well to hang on despite getting sandwiched by two defenders:
He had more success in 2015 on downfield passes, catching more than twice as many on the same number of attempts.
Marks has demonstrated extremely reliable hands in his time with the Cougars. He demonstrates a particular ability to catch the ball cleanly even in a contested situation. Here's a tough one in double coverage:
He has a good knack for being able to make sideline catches, although he will need to adjust to the fact that you have to get two feet inbounds at the NFL level. This one would count in either league though:
Drops are not a major issue for Marks, especially considering how often he is targeted. Here was a particularly bad one, though:
What's notable about that play was that the slot receiver may have run the wrong route and distracted Marks from making the catch. It's noteworthy that both announcers expressed supreme surprise at how uncharacteristic it was for him to have dropped that.
His NFL.com scouting report says he has "unusual" ball security issues after the catch, but he didn't fumble in 2016 after having done so twice in the previous season. One of those was returned for a score, but it came on a play where his ankle got badly twisted.
Marks does a good job of getting separation, which stands to reason given his excellent production. He's particularly good at getting free on comebacker or out-breaking routes:
Marks also produces well on slant patterns and dump-offs to the flat. However, his best route might be the fade route. Mark's twitter handle is "throw it up to 9" and that was a staple red zone play for Luke Falk and the Cougars offense. He executes at the top of the route to get the defender to backpedal and locates the ball quickly and goes up to get it:
Here he does the same thing on a deeper throw. Again, Falk's job is made easy as he can just throw it to the back shoulder and Marks will go up over the defender and bring it down:
Yards after the catch
Marks doesn't generate elite numbers after the catch, but has some good open field acceleration and a nose for the goal line.
Here he shows that he can break a tackle and avoid tacklers in the open field:
Marks hasn't made a lot of contributions as a blocker over the course of his collegiate career, but he'll carry out an assignment on the outside when required to do so.
Here's a rare highlight as he seals his man to the inside and blocks him to the ground:
While Marks isn't an especially imposing figure, he's not afraid to go over the middle and, as already noted, does a good job on contested catches.
Press coverage can give him a problem, as he can allow himself to be bumped off his routes at times.
One interesting battle from 2016 pitted him against Ahkello Witherspoon, an athletic and long-armed cornerback that was drafted by the 49ers in the third round. Witherspoon broke up three passes and Marks ended up with just 33 yards on 11 targets when the two were matched up. That highlighted the fact that perhaps Marks was being outphysicalled at the point of the catch. However, that dropped pass from above was also after he had burned Witherspoon deep, so it wasn't like he couldn't get any separation.
Marks has some limited experience as a return man, with 106 yards on 11 punt returns with a longest return of 30 yards. However, he looked shaky in this role at the East West Shrine Game. He recovered an onside kick in one game.
Marks seems to have a knack for getting open and finding gaps in the defense when a play is extended. I didn't really see him blow any assignments, although there were a few plays where he wasn't on the same page as the quarterback, usually because the cornerback his disrupted his route and he didn't have a quick enough counter to that.
While Marks is a few years removed from his legal issues and has matured into a highly productive player since that time, concerns about his attitude may have contributed to his going undrafted.
Marks is quite an outspoken character, which can be entertaining, but teams may have doubts about his maturity. Reports suggest he was complaining about having to undergo measurements at the combine despite already having done them at the senior bowl, which bothered some teams.
It also seems he doesn't respond well to criticism, as he spent a lot of time with the media making excuses for some of the negative scouting comments doing the rounds. In many cases, he had a point, but the way he went about it was obviously not what teams wanted to see.
Given his size and skill-set, Marks would probably fit best in a slot role at the NFL level. He could also be a potential red zone specialist, given his ability to go up and get it against man coverage.
Marks has had some injuries in college, but didn't miss much game time because of them. Last year, he injured his leg a couple of weeks before the season began but still played in the opener. In 2015, he suffered a bad ankle injury in the final regular season game, but the extended lay-off until the bowl game meant that he was able to recover by then.
He did, of course, miss the entire 2014 season, although that was only partly due to injuries.
Marks was an outstanding player over the course of his college career, so it was surprising to see that he wasn't expected to be drafted. While he's not a player with great measurables or intangibles, he has some good technical abilities and you can't ignore his collegiate production.
Marks' character concerns may be overblown because he seems more misunderstood than anything else and if he's playing with a chip on his shoulder, that's not necessarily a bad thing. If that's the main reason he went undrafted, then the Jets might become the beneficiaries.
However, Marks is going to have to navigate a crowded receiver group if he's able to make enough of an impression to stick around, but with a few of the guys ahead of him dealing with issues with injuries and off-field issues, there should be opportunities to at least get some reps and show what he can do.
UP NEXT: We'll take a look at Portland State cornerback Xavier Coleman.