When it comes to offenses like West Virginia, Oklahoma, or Oregon, a lot of emphasis is placed on the offensive system and its role on how a player fared during their college career. Dana Holgorsen’s system has been incredibly productive wherever he has been, but they make the plays. This has not been an overly scrutinized area for West Virginia’s talents, but it will probably come up at some point in the draft process. In the case of Mountaineer receiver Stedman Bailey, he has put up gaudy numbers to the tune of 113 receptions for 1,627 yards and an absurd 25 touchdowns, but he did so while demonstrating a skill set that is not limited to college. The focus on Bailey will be his fit within team’s offensive schemes and if his size or lack thereof presents a problem for them. In terms of his ability to run routes, catch the ball, and his physical make up, Stedman Bailey could go as high as the end of the first round to the top of the third round due to his fit with teams. If the Patriots were to grab him at the end of the first or he landed with the Chiefs in the third or somewhere in between, it would not be a surprise. Bailey is a good receiver, but some teams do put a bigger emphasis on measurable than others and that could hurt Bailey in spite of his ability as a receiver.
Stedman Bailey measured in at the combine at 5’10” 193lbs. He is never going to be a tall guy, but he bridges the gap somewhat with long arms, is well built with tremendous feet and great body control. If he can get to 200lbs without impacting his agility and body control which should not be an issue, it is probably about where he will cap out, so his physical potential might be somewhat limited, but given his style of play and how he functions, he does not need much physical development to be effective at the next level.
Technically, Bailey is an effective route runner who has a great sense on how to get open. His feet are great and he has impressive leg strength and body control to get in and out of his breaks easily, able to create separation against everyone he was put up against. Bailey knows how to run routes and set up routes. He does a good job of using his body, as slight as it is, to box opponents out to make plays whether down the field, near the sideline, or on a comeback route in the middle of the field. Yes, there is an element to Holgerson’s system that set Bailey up for success, but Bailey has the skills to get open and succeed in the NFL regardless. Bailey’s stance and release could be a little cleaner, but even then his footwork stands out. If he lined up a little lower to the ground, he could fire out quickly and have a chance to beat his offensive linemen off the ball. Bailey excels with sideline routes, underneath routes, and then uses those to set up the deep ball. In this instance, Bailey’s size can work to his advantage as he has snuck behind the defenses a few times for some wide open plays. Bailey has great vision and tracks the ball really well even on plays where the ball seems to travel directly over his head, the most difficult for a receiver to bring down; Bailey has made those plays look easy at times.
Bailey’s hands are good and consistent. He does a great job of maximizing his size and arm length to have a wide catch radius and he is able to keep defenders from poking the ball away well. For the most part, he catches the ball cleanly, but occasionally he will double catch the ball. Bailey is a reliable target and has functioned like a tight end in terms of being his quarterback’s best friend in addition to his ability to make plays. If he can continue strengthening his hands, he will only get better at snatching the ball out of the air but he does a fantastic job for the most part and his quarterback’s willingness to find him as well as his numbers show it.
Bailey is a threat after the catch with his size and quickness, he is able to fit through seams in the defense and he has a tendency to glide through the field with a knack for getting to the sticks. Whether on screens, quick outs, or slants and posts, Bailey makes a great transition from pass catcher to ball carrier and has the quickness and awareness to react quickly after catching the ball to avoid getting drilled. Bailey is quicker than he is fast, but he is by no means slow and can break big plays, but his quickness on the field is impressive and he is not afraid to go anywhere on the field giving him that sense of unpredictability that makes him a pain to track down and tackle without being reckless and losing yards. Using a combination of jump cuts, slashing type cuts and take advantage of his center of gravity makes him like a scat back in the open field.
Bailey’s best fit is anywhere that has the sense to use him and use him as soon as they pick him. Most likely in a horizontal offense, but New England would be a tremendous fit; anyone who will use him. Whether it is in the slot or on the outside as a #2 at least initially, he is ready to go. He can still improve but he is mostly what he is going to be physically. He can work underneath routes, fit holes in the zone, work the sideline and catch balls over his head.
Stedman Bailey’s game is very similar to for Texas Tech Red Raider and longtime New England Patriot Wes Welker. Not only is Bailey an undersized, agile receiver who gets open at will, he is that super reliable player that gets open and will catch the ball when his team needs a play. Like Welker, he can line up inside or outside and be effective and both are guys who can pile up numbers in the box score.
Stedman Bailey is a great receiver in a running back’s body, but his talent is still a dangerous weapon with the right team. There are teams who will rank him lower due to his size, but the teams who see Bailey for what he is instead of relying on a height-weight-speed chart will see a role for him on their team and as someone who can be a big time contributor for their team immediately. As a result, if he does slip a little bit, a team could find themselves with a tremendous value who produce more earlier than receivers picked by other teams that go ahead of him. As a result, pinning down where Bailey will go in the draft is difficult and a team could fall in love with him at the end of the first round or he could slide to the top of the third round.
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