Marks, a fourth-year junior, has 57 receptions through seven games, putting him on pace for 98 regular season grabs. Combined with Marks’ 123 catches his first two seasons at WSU, that projects out to 221 grabs headed into his senior campaign.
Spruce (256 career receptions) is on pace to finish his college career with 282 catches. Add it up and if the pace holds, Marks would need 62 receptions next season to become the most prolific conference grabmaster of all time since the Pacific Coast Conference was founded 100 years ago.
For likely one more week until Spruce tops him, ASU’s Derek Hagan holds the Pac-12 mark with 258 receptions (2002-05). The national leader is East Carolina’s Justin Hardy (387, 2011-14). Marks, with 180 career receptions headed into Stanford, figures to break the all-time WSU record in the coming weeks (Michael Bumpus, 195).
But when it comes to Marks, will he be around to chase history?
There has been increasing cyberspace chatter and speculation in the media that Marks, after a redshirt year in 2013-14, could look to turn pro after this season. So what are his NFL prospects should he come out early? We asked NFL Draft guru Rob Rang.
“He’s definitely a draftable player, I don’t know that he is a first three rounds kind of a guy,” said Rang. “…But given the fact he missed last year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marks decided to come out early.”
Marks plays outside receiver at WSU but Rang sees him as “probably a slot receiver” at the pro level. There are pros and cons to coming out early but for Marks and other early entrants, there’s this: the missing of key senior collegiate postseason games.
“Vince Mayle was physically impressive at the Senior Bowl last year in weigh-ins, and then he impressed by running the pro style routes in Mobile – I think that helped his draft stock,” said Rang. “Because most all-star games are not open to underclassmen unless they’ve graduated, Gabe Marks or any underclassmen would be passing on that opportunity, and that can be important (especially) with it looking like another strong receiver class this draft.”
Marks doesn’t appear to have an elite 40 time compared with some of the other wideouts expected to go in next year’s draft. But he is quick.
“The 40-yard dash time is going to be important,” said Rang of Marks’ NFL stock. “And the wide receivers coming from spread offenses, teams are going to be concerned about them… they’re going to have to do a lot more blocking (and run) several more pro-style routes.
“But when you’re looking at a slot receiver just as important to the 40 are the 3-cone, the short shuttle, which test quickness. And I think with Gabe Marks, the tape shows that Gabe Marks is very quick, does have body control, does have soft hands.”
A final year at Washington State as a fifth-year senior would afford Marks, listed as 6-0, 190-pounds on the official roster, the opportunity to further develop physically, to put more muscle on without sacrificing quickness.
But injuries are also of course unpredictable, and can jump up and bite anytime, anywhere. Rang says a player with durability questions coming back for a senior season, who then gets injured during that senior campaign, can negatively impact the player’s stock.
That said, more “good weight” over the course of a football player’s college career more often than not translates to extra protection against injuries.
Marks will of course make his own decision on whether to turn pro early. If he determines his NFL prospects are enhanced by staying for a senior year, it will be a year spent in the national spotlight. There will be countdowns associated with every reception, as he travels what looks to be a likely path to the all-time No. 1 receptions leader in Pac-12 history.
That kind of constant press and attention often, through various machinations, leads to boosting a player’s draft stock, too.