The 2013 NFL Draft was one of the most exciting and invigorating drafts in recent Rams’ history. Snead and Co. skyrocketed up the board to take Tavon Austin in the Top 10, the highest “skill position” selection since Sam Bradford in 2010, and the first receiver since Torry Holt in 1999. Finish that off with picking, arguably, the best overall linebacker prospect in the class, and you have one hell of a 1st round. However, by the time the second pick in the 3rd round rolled around, St. Louis’ fans were mixed with emotions. Some were banging the table for Marcus Lattimore, while other were ranted about the Rams’ need for another safety, still recovering from the T.J. McDonald selection earlier in the round. No one would have guess what Jeff Fisher and Les Snead had in mind…
With the 92nd pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, the St. Louis Rams selected Stedman Bailey, the other receiver out of West Virginia University. At first, the pick might have made you scratch your head. But, upon further review…
Even before his “big year” in 2012, Bailey was a dominating receiver for WVU. In 2011, he started all 13 games for the Mountaineers, setting their single-season record for receiving yards and equaling their record touchdown mark. Bailey’s racked up 1,279 yards (ranked 14th in the nation), 12 touchdowns (T-7th), and averaged 17.8 yards per receptions (3rd among receivers with 70+ catches). For his troubles, he earned 2nd-Team All-Big East honors.
Burdened with higher expectation in 2012, Bailey rose to the occasion, blowing up the receiving record books that he had essentially written the year before. He would finish the season with 114 receptions for 1,622 yards (3rd in the nation), with an astounding 25 touchdown catches (1st in the nation by a seven touchdown margin). As a result, Bailey would be a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, the annual honor given to the best receiver in college football, and finish the year as a 2nd-team AP All-American.
So, why was he available at the bottom of the 3rd round?
Jeff Fisher and Les Snead asked the same question, made evident in their press conference following the selection. They mentioned that Bailey had been ranked very high on the draft board, making it nearly impossible to pass on the receiver that far in the draft. However, clearly that was not the case for every team…
Most scouts had little negative to say about Bailey. Naturally, his size was a mark against him, but there are plenty of 5’10 tall, 195 receivers in the league. However, his Combine numbers were equally underwhelming, finished with a sub-10 ft. broad jump, a sub-35 in. vertical, and posting a mediocre number of reps on the bench press. He was also marked with minor “red flags” as a result of an incident involving the stealing of some over-the-counter cold medication, and was tagged with “durability concerns” after playing most of his redshirt junior season with an ankle injury.
However, the positives vastly outweighed the negatives, in most cases. Scouts praised Bailey for his intelligent route-running, exemplary body control and timing, and being a “natural” hands-catcher, as opposed to a “body catcher,” like Cordarrelle Patterson. His high productivity and outstanding YAC numbers point to a player that can make things happen with the ball in his hands. And, while his 40-time won’t blow the doors off the room, he possesses enough quickness off the line and straight-line speed to maintain a step on a corner caught sleeping, or to break away down the sideline after shedding an arm tackle or two.
Bailey, immediately after being selected, was compared to players like Reggie Wayne by draft analysts, which would be outstanding if it came to fruition. In a similarly mindblowing comparison, NFL.com likened the St. Louis draftee to Greg Jennings. However, other scouts have given Bailey some more realistic comparisons:
Ike Hilliard Bailey has a similar style of play to the former Giant and Buccaneer. Hilliard (5-11, 210) is slightly bigger and was a first-rounder; Bailey is very unlikely to go that high, but he could turn into a solid pro like him. Hilliard, like Bailey, was massively productive. Hilliard wasn’t a size or speed mismatch in the NFL, but he was a solid pro because he had good hands, quickness, route-running and was intelligent. Bailey could follow that path. -Walter Football
Aside from the Golden Tate comparison, if Stedman Bailey can mimic the careers of any of these aforementioned players, he will be the steal of the entire 2013 NFL Draft.
Even without a solid grasp on the Rams’ receiver depth chart, the WVU star will undoubtedly see his fair share of snap in the offense. In the worst case scenario, Bailey will likely get 10-15 offensive snaps per game, mainly as a rotational player or merely as a body in a five-receiver set. However, in a best case scenario, potentially beating out Brian Quick for a starting role on the outside, Bailey could see nearly 50 offensive snaps per game, similar to Brandon Gibson’s average in 2012. Manning the No. 2 spot, paired with Chris Givens, would like place him next to either Tavon Austin or Jared Cook lined up in the slot; both of those player would make Bailey’s job significantly more easy on the outside. More snaps on the field and playing next to “mismatch” players could be the perfect formula for Bailey to step into the league as a rookie and pick up where he left off at West Virginia.