NFL: Was Stedman Bailey the steal of the 2013 NFL Draft?

Mike Ehrmann

Taken in the third round by the St. Louis Rams - and "under-shadowed" by his smaller former WVU teammate Tavon Austin - Bailey was passed over by 31 NFL teams. Did the Rams pull off another draft day coup that's flying below the media's radar?

Stedman Bailey is getting some notice from a few in media now. NFL.com has a few analysts talking about him, and Mike Mayock compares the WVU star wide receiver to Green Bay/Minnesota's Greg Jennings. As Austin, DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson, Justin Hunter, Robert Woods, Aaron Dobson, Terrance Williams, Keenan Allen, Marquise Goodwin, and Markus Wheaton came off the draft board, Bailey was sitting there at the #92 pick for the St. Louis Rams as the 11th wide receiver taken in the draft.

The 2012 second team All-American had the stats to turn heads. Bailey's 113 catches, 1,627 yards and 25 TDs last year were remarkable, but his size turned off NFL scouts. Which is odd since Tavon Austin is two inches shorter than Bailey's 5'10". In 2006, another "short" receiver was taken, only he went in the second round. His name is Greg Jennings, and he went on to prove solid route running and glue like hands means more than a few inches in height. Here's a NFL Combine comparison of Bailey and Jennings:

Combine Stedman Bailey Greg Jennings
Rd picked 2013 - 3rd - #92 2006 - 2nd - #52
HT 5'10" 5'11"
WT 193 197
40 Yrd dash 4.52 4.42 sec
Vert. Jump 34.5 36.5
Broad Jump 117 117
3 Cone 6.81 6.69
20 Yrd Shuttle 4.09 4.18

There's something about Bailey I really like, but I can't really put it into words. I've watched footage of both Bailey and Austin. The symbiotic relationship of these two receivers when they're on the field is remarkable. There's little doubt Bailey benefited by having Austin on the field. But I think NFL teams discounted how much Bailey meant to Austin's production. The impression was given of Bailey being the straight man to Austin as the headliner. An argument can be made for "system success" for both of these players too, and it's probably why Austin's flashy running style turned more heads than Bailey almost workman-like performance.

But that feeling I have keeps coming back to me when I watch video of these two receivers. It's like I missed something - a great something - in Bailey, that'll translate well into the NFL. In 2006, Greg Jennings' rookie year saw him start along side Donald Driver. The rookie had 45 receptions, 632 receiving yards and 3 TDs to Driver's 92 - 1,295 - 8. The Rams don't have a Donald Driver on their roster, or at least not statistically.

Maybe it's the feeling Bailey represents the key to unlocking where the Rams' offense may be headed? I've mentioned before I think the Rams are going "small" at wide receiver for a reason. The trend in the NFC West to draft huge defensive backs is in its hay day, yet the only team in 2012 to confound these secondary giants was the Rams with Danny Amendola and Chris Givens - neither being taller than 6 feet. Are Rams fans about to see a lighting fast receiver corp buzzing underneath safety coverage to suck in the secondary, then suddenly flash out deep with a variety of weapons? If so, Bailey could be in the most amazing position to succeed. I think his routes will be in the "tweener" zone -15 to 20 yards - and Bradford eats up this zone when he has the time to throw.

Is it just me, or is Stedman Bailey about to be "the guy" who'll shift fan opinions of a woeful Rams receiving corp, to one that controls the field and wins games in 2013?

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