clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Which Rams draft ‘bust’ was robbed of a fair opportunity in the NFL?

Could Tavon Austin have been a superstar with Sean McVay as the head coach?

Seattle Seahawks v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Current Seattle Seahawks quarterback and former West Virginia star Geno Smith gave a special shoutout on Twitter this weekend to a player who once had a promising career start with the St. Louis Rams. As teammates at West Virginia in the early 2010s, Smith, Stedman Bailey, and Tavon Austin made absolute magic happen.

In 2011, Smith threw for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns as Bailey had 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns, plus 101 catches for 1,186 yards for Austin.

Then in 2012, Smith threw 42 touchdowns and Austin caught 114 passes for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns. But those latter two numbers pale in comparison to Bailey’s 2012 season, as he caught 114 passes too, but with 1,622 yards and 25 touchdowns. When a fan tweeted that Smith should have been a Heisman finalist that year, the quarterback shot back that the person who was actually robbed of recognition was Bailey.

“Stedman was ROBBED of the Biletnikoff (sic) that year,” tweeted Smith. “That was the real crime.”

Smith added that if Bailey were still in the NFL today, he’d be “balling no doubt”.

Stedman Bailey could hardly be described as a bust because the Rams drafted him in the third round, 92nd overall, and that’s too low to be described as a bust—plus there were dramatically extenuating circumstances around his departure from the league. But given the promise he showed early in his career, catching 30 passes for 435 yards in 2014, perhaps Smith is right that we didn’t see the best that Bailey had to offer.

Bailey was suspended for six games in 2014. While serving another suspension in 2015, Bailey was shot multiple times while sitting in his car, but survived. Several years later, he told Bleacher Report that he had “a divine purpose” after surviving two gunshots to the head.

“I’m ready to show the world,” he says, “that I can’t be stopped.”

The volume of his voice rises above the electric guitar on the speaker system.

“You’ve seen dudes come back from ACLs, Achilles, broken bones,” Bailey says. “I want to be the one to show people that no matter what you go through, you don’t have to let other people define who you are as a person, what you can do as a person—and I can show the world anything is possible.

Bailey never had his NFL comeback moment, but he did emerge from the other side of a potentially tragic moment and we’ll never know how his NFL career could have gone if not for 2015.

Tavon Austin was also selected by the Rams in the same draft, but 84 spots earlier than Bailey, which means that he could be described as a bust.

Some fans will point to the fact that Austin had some good moments with St. Louis and that he even earned a contract extension when the team moved to L.A.. Austin’s career-high for total yards came in 2015, when he had 473 receiving and 434 rushing for a total of 907 with nine touchdowns. But Austin also fumbled 22 times in five seasons, despite a somewhat limited number of relative touches.

Austin is not technically retired yet and he spent some time last year on the Buffalo Bills practice squad.

My question to you today: Which Rams draft pick that could be considered a “bust” maybe didn’t get his fair shot to prove himself with St. Louis or Los Angeles?

The Rams had a disheartening string of first round picks in the aughts who didn’t live up to their promise as draftees: Jimmy Kennedy, Tye Hill, Jason Smith stand out among the lot. Then in 2010, the team picked Sam Bradford first overall and though there have been many worse first overall QBs, did he get his fair opportunity to prove himself in the league? Can he be blamed for the injuries?

The team finally found a quality pick with Robert Quinn in 2011, then a very solid player with Brockers in 2012, before selecting Austin and Alec Ogletree in the first round in 2013. Aaron Donald followed Greg Robinson in the 2014 first round, and then Todd Gurley and Jared Goff are the Rams’ most recent first round picks.

When I say, “Rams ‘bust’ who didn’t get a fair shot in the NFL?”—who is the first name that comes to mind?