At 5’ 10 and 190 pounds you can see people jumping to conclusions about Stedman Bailey. ‘He’s a slot receiver in the NFL’ is something I’m expecting to hear a lot in the run up to the draft or ‘he lacks the ideal size for an outside threat’, the bottom line is – don’t listen to these people.
When watching tape of Bailey, the immediate attribute that jumps out at you is how he always gets open. He doesn’t have the elite speed and agility of his team mate Tavon Austin but his polished route-running means he’s able to get separation with consummate ease. For a college player it’s simply stunning to see the various methods he uses to get open and utterly baffle opposing DBs at times. His ability to alter his speed and throw in the odd shoulder fake means he can tie defenders in knots and his smooth running style often does him a dis-service as it makes him appear slower than he actually is.
The real reason to love Stedman Bailey is his reliability. He possesses the surest pair of hands in the draft and has the rare trait of being able to make difficult catches look easy due to his soft hands and excellent body control. He can make diving catches over the middle, haul in balls whilst heading for the sidelines and is strong enough to secure grabs in traffic or when taking a subsequent hit.
Quite simply, Stedman Bailey should be a 1st round pick this April. His production is outstanding this year with 100+ catches, 1500+ yards and 20+ TDs, it just doesn’t get any better than that. You can see why Geno Smith is such a staunch supporter and willing to go to bat for him over his lowly draft stock amongst some experts.
Bailey most notably proved his worth by turning in an impressive display in the Pinstripe Bowl. Despite his QB struggling to cope with conditions and a rushing attack only managing 3.4 ypc, Bailey was still able to gain 121 yards and 2 TDs, including a long TD where he showcased his big-play ability by breaking a tackle and gliding over the snowy surface for the score and then bettering that effort later by taking a screen-pass for a 59 yard play, 58 of which was after the catch.
Despite jaw-dropping production, tremendous athleticism and polished technique, some teams due to his size will likely shun Bailey. I’m willing to nail my colours to the mast and crown Stedman Bailey this year’s Russell Wilson. No matter where he’s taken the 5’ 10 receiver will prove that size does not matter when you ‘play big’ and possess the required talent. With the emergence of Cordarrelle Patterson and DeAndre Hopkins flying up draft boards, expect Bailey to find a home somewhere in the middle of the 2nd round.