It's been fun to watch this West Virginia offense all season long. Geno Smith has been flat out dominant this season as more and more fans and evaluators realize that he's one of, if not thee, top quarterback prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft. And his Heisman vote-garnering teammate Tavon Austin has developed into a polarizing yet exciting prospect as people evaluate the Mountaineers.
But lost in the shuffle, unfortunately and a little unfairly, in the media has been fellow receiver Stedman Bailey, who, according to Mike Casazza, will be declaring for the draft. And he's a legitimate Top 50 prospect in his own right that fans and evaluators should begin to catch-up on.
While Bailey may not have gotten the equal media attention that Smith and Austin received, he's certainly earned high marks and high grades by evaluators. A more NFL ready, developed, and polished receiver prospect than Tavon Austin, he's likely one of the premier speed #2 receivers in this draft, and will be a prospect who can provide an instant playmaker who can play the slot or outside at the NFL level.
And interestingly enough, he's already gotten "attention" and a draft grade from someone close to him: his quarterback. Here's what his quarterback Geno Smith had to say about Bailey as a receiver prospect (all via twitter) on December 11th:
"To say SB3 is a third round pic is absurd, the guy dominated every corner he lined up against...Once again politics playing a bigger role than production, which in fact robs the guy from well deserved accolades and discredits hard work."
While he went on to make a comment about major media and analyst types that we won't get into, he made his point about Bailey's contribution and his future NFL ceiling. And we here at Optimum Scouting agree.
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So what is Bailey's scouting report, at least as of now? Here's what Alex Brown of Optimum Scouting, our lead Big 12/SEC scout who has evaluated a majority of West Virginia's games this year, had to say:
"All season long, Stedman Bailey displayed consistently strong, physical hands at the point of the catch, winning short, intermediate and deep, regardless of how many defenders were nearby. Is a very precise and calculated route runner that possesses the fluid hips to get in and out of breaks with ease. On deep post routes and vertical-9 patterns, Bailey was tremendous in attack the cornerback’s technique, winning the positioning battle by stacking over the top of the cornerback and maintaining leverage through the catch point by keeping the corner on his back hip. His speed, surprising physicality and suddenness in and out of breaks, make for a dynamic outside receiver at the NFL level.
Dominating Texas cornerback Carrington Byndum in West Virginia’s matchup with the Texas Longhorns, Bailey consistently won off the line with his release, sharp route breaks, and firm hands at the catch point. Bailey put on a slant route clinic, by sticking the corner on his back hip off the line and snatching 4 slants for 3 redzone touchdowns. Following the game, I wrote that, “should he declare, Bailey may end up being drafted in the top two rounds.” A first round selection isn’t entirely out of the question for Bailey, should he test well at the combine. Measuring at or just above 5’10, Bailey’s height should not be held against him, as he still wins at the catch point with strength and physicality."
Alex and myself are certainly on the same page as Geno Smith: Stedman Bailey is worth more than a 3rd round pick. He has #2 receiver type talent, big play ability, and is further along in his development than many spread, quicker receivers that declare.
Many have jumped on the "Geno Smith" bandwagon this season. And Heisman voters and fans alike grew to enjoy watching Tavon Austin play. But it's time for Stedman Bailey to get his much deserved hype.