It’s that time of year where we’ve hit the NFL combine, followed by pro days. The thing I love about this time of year, is the way “experts” bury players under the label “limited upside”, while at the same time uplifting players who fit that perfect height/weight/speed ratio that makes them better NFL prospects. It is a pet peeve of mine, and it happens year after year. The Jets have done this is recent years, with guys like Vernon Gholston and more recently with Stephen Hill. Don’t get me wrong, as I’m in no way lumping Hill who I like with Vernon Gholston who I don’t think even liked football. I don’t care how many times I have to keep beating you guys over the head with it, I’m going to go ahead and say it again. The Jets don’t need to draft players like the outside linebackers from GA or Oregon in the 1st round. The game plan should be to trade back and pick up an extra pick or two and still get starting caliber players. The player I’m getting at is Stedman Bailey of West Virginia.
This year a couple of supremely talented guys are going to get passed up in the first and second round, that will be to the Jets benefit. The best wide receiver overall for what the Jets want to do in my opinion is Stedman Bailey. There are bigger guys, there are faster guys, there are receivers with that coveted height/weight/speed attribute. But if you are looking for an all around best combination of footwork, creating space, beating a jam, plucking a ball out of the air with his hands, over the shoulder catching, great hand-eye coordination receiver, the guy you want is Stedman Bailey of West Virginia.
CBSSports currently has him rated 14th, WalterFootball has him rated 9th, FFToolbox has him rated 9th, KFFL has him rated 14th in the draft! I can go on and on to Mel Kiper and others, but the point is no website is big on this guy, and I will tell you right now they are all wrong. This receiver is like Steve Smith or Santonio Holmes without the attitude. He is currently being forgotten because of 3 things: He is 5’10 and 195 lbs and not a super-sized WR. Second, he played with another WV star wide receiver Tavon Austin who got all the glory, as well as the best QB in college football Geno Smith. Third and final reason, he played in a system that made it easy for receivers and QB’s to put up big time stats.
That being said, I’ll bring you direct to the tale of the tape so you can see for yourself why the Jets would be smart to invest in this guy, even over players like Cordarelle Patterson, Deandre Hopkins, or Robert Woods. This is a highlight video, so it is a bit biased and not regular game broken down footage, but if you watch it, you can see his overall improvement from season to season. You can see his improvement in technique both in setting up defensive backs to get open, and also to create separation prior to his catches. Also, watch his footwork, and body control, and ability to create yards after the catch. Without further ado:
Dec 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers wide receiver Stedman Bailey (3) runs with the ball while avoiding the tackle attempt of Syracuse Orange safety Jeremi Wilkes (28) during the third quarter at the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
The Jets are currently in a peculiar position. If they re-sign Braylon Edwards, and return a healthy Santonio Holmes, I would say they have a pretty good receiving corps. If you take into account Edwards, Holmes, Hill, and Kerley, I think the Jets are pretty set to go. Assuming they carry 5 receivers, and possibly 6 if they pass a lot, that leaves a 5th and maybe 6th receiver spot for fringe players/special teamers like Jordan White, Royce Pollard, etc.
However, if the Jets do not retain Braylon Edwards, it creates the same receiving pool as last season, where they were terribly lacking following Holmes’ Lisfranc injury. If they do not bring back Braylon, or if the team is looking to part ways with the expensive Holmes following this season, I think it would be very much in the Jets interests to draft a player flying lower on the radar to the taller and faster wide receivers that get draft annually based on anticipated returns rather than polished pro games.
Right now, I can tell you without a doubt if you removed height, or speed from the equation, Stedman Bailey has been the most consistent college football receiver the past 2 years. He has 3 years of starting experience, and he can come in and play and PRODUCE immediately. If the Jets play a wide open type of offense like a team like Green Bay who often utilize Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver, Randall Cobb, and even Jordy Nelson, you would be looking at having at least 4 and possibly 5 play making receivers on the team.
In case you were wondering you can find Bailey’s stats Here
He has put up monster numbers for years, and been a severely underrated and under appreciated college athlete. I expect this trend to continue where he is rated as high as the 9th best wide receiver and as low as the 20th best. I’m not a mathematician, but I would assume that would put him around the 3rd-4th round. In my estimation he should be the 1st receiver off the board, based on what he can do for a team immediately, and that is very under appreciated in the NFL these days. The Jets would be wise to invest a 3rd round pick in this wide receiver if he is still available.