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The Forgotten Stud: Stedman Bailey

Bailey

No one can predict the future (except for Miss Cleo), but there is information available that may aid us in getting close.  As fantasy footballers, we are always looking for an edge, which is likely why you’re reading this article now.  We’re always looking for the next big time player who can be a vital addition to our rosters.  Everyone wants to hit the lottery like the owners of Josh Gordon did in 2013 and though a situation like that is rare, there are gold mines throughout National Football League rosters just waiting to be discovered.  Perhaps, one of those gold mines is Rams wide receiver Stedman Bailey.

Up to this point, Bailey’s press coverage has been overshadowed by his West Virginia teammate, Tavon Austin, who was also drafted by the Rams in 2013.  While most people deemed Austin the undersized darling of the draft, many recognized Bailey has some genuine skills of his own.  Standing at 5’10”, 193 lbs, Bailey’s size doesn’t jump off the page as the elite prototype, but he more than makes up for his modest frame with crisp route running, a strong presence getting off the ball and very soft hands.  In fact, the main criticism of him coming into the NFL Draft was his size.  Much like Julian Edelman, Bailey uses technique and body control to gain the advantage when on the field.  He has tremendous hands, excellent ball skills and a knack for finding gaps in coverage.  His mental game is stellar and when given the chance, he has shown flashes of what is to come.

The overwhelming question in St. Louis is with all of those young wideouts on the roster, can Bailey really rise to the top of the depth chart?  I believe he can, and will, this year.  Austin Pettis and Brian Quick are the “big guys” on the outside of the numbers, but they aren’t scaring anyone, and realistically, their jobs may be in jeopardy, depending on what St. Louis does in the draft.  Chris Givens is the wild card, as he is also young (24 years old), slightly bigger than Bailey and was receiving consistent targets before Sam Bradford went down with a torn ACL.  Givens and Bailey will have quite the camp battle this year as they play a similar role in the offense, but chances are they will split time early on in the season – then it’s up to Bailey to capitalize on his opportunities.  Obviously, Tavon Austin will still be heavily involved in the game plan if Brian Schoettenheimer ever figures out how to utilize his skillset, and Jared Cook’s relevance could also alter the offensive snaps Bailey gets.  The silver lining to Bailey’s debut season was he never played wide receiver in a game in which Sam Bradford started.

The return of Sam Bradford helps Bailey’s chances at succeeding.  The Rams weren’t the same team with Kellen Clemens under center, as they averaged 37 passing attempts per game with Bradford at quarterback, and 26 pass attempts per game with Clemens.  While there are several variables that could factor into why the Rams reduced their pass attempts, a drop off of that nature seems to be directly correlated to their comfort level in Clemens’ abilities.  It definitely seems the Rams opened up the offense with Bradford at quarterback and there is little reason that wouldn’t be the case again in 2014.  Naturally, that bodes well for the wide receivers in St. Louis.

Still, Stedman Bailey’s rookie season did little more than whet the appetite, there are comparable indicators that project his stock to rise quickly.  When Bailey’s size, age and 2013 statistical averages are weighed against other wide receivers over the past 13 years, it puts some perspective on the potential of his career arc.

Baileychart

When comparing wide receiver statistics this detailed, it is important to take the quarterback situation into account.  For instance, Stedman Bailey had Kellen Clemens throwing him the ball, whereas Reggie Wayne had Peyton Manning.  No offense to Kellen Clemens, but he is no Peyton Manning.  Two players who are intriguing and could possibly correspond to Bailey are Lavelle Hawkins and Damian Williams.  Hawkins and Williams were both drafted and played for Jeff Fisher when he was the coach of the Tennessee Titans.  Both of them were the WR3/4 on the Titans which is where Bailey ended up on the Rams depth chart in 2013.  Hawkins is nearly identical in size to Bailey, but isn’t nearly as polished as a route runner.  Bailey is a better football player overall and this is probably the last time Lavelle Hawkins and Stedman Bailey will ever be compared in their careers.  Damian Williams, on the other hand, is a good route runner and is slightly bigger (6’1, 199 lbs) than Bailey.  Williams has good ball skills, but unlike Bailey, he is weak at the line of scrimmage and can be easily overpowered by strong defenders.

A common, and valid, comparison to Stedman Bailey’s size and athleticism is veteran receiver Greg Jennings.  That is an accurate observation and could very well be appropriate.  Now, Jennings played with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever take a field, but the way he moves in a game parallels Bailey’s style.  At the combine, Jennings posted a better 40 yard dash (4.42 to Bailey’s 4.52), and his vertical jump was a full inch higher than Bailey’s, but sometimes too much emphasis can be put into those numbers.  Kendall Wright is a great example of how combine numbers don’t necessarily reflect the impact a player can have on a football game.

Time will be the true tell-tale on Stedman Bailey, but he stands a good chance to succeed in the National Football League.  The question mark at the quarterback position in St. Louis could be answered if Bradford can stay healthy, assuming he is the day one starter.  Ideally, the game plan reverts back to what it was early on the 2013 season for the Rams.  Sam Bradford was a lot better in the first six weeks of last year than people give him credit for.  Still, the wins didn’t stack up in St. Louis’ favor, but they seemed to be on the right track.  Unlike the first quarter of 2013, Zac Stacy is now a presence to be reckoned with and should help keep defenses from focusing on attacking Bradford. Offensive Coordinator Brian Schoettenheimer doesn’t necessarily have the most creative playbook, to put it nicely, but he has the ability to get his wide receivers in positions to succeed — specifically, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.  If the Rams take a wide receiver in the first round of the 2014 draft, it would be more than likely to replace Austin Pettis or Brian Quick, not to create more of a log jam between Givens, Bailey and Austin.  Opportunity will knock on Stedman Bailey’s door this year, hopefully he answers.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. BigB

    March 8, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Great piece! I’ve been high on Bailey since the draft, and thought he landed in a pretty good spot in StL. While I think his usage could increase, I think we’ve seen what Tavon’s role is going to be. I’ve never been very high on Givens, so while he probably doesn’t end up more than a WR2 at best for fantasy I could absolutely see Bailey getting the WR1 or co-WR1 role in that offense this year or next.

    • Ty Miller

      March 8, 2014 at 9:12 am

      Thank you! I agree that Bailey has what it takes to be the top wide out in St. Louis, hopefully he gets the chance to prove it!

      Ty

      • Slick

        March 8, 2014 at 12:18 pm

        great article Ty. I was also high on Stedman (I see the nickname Studman in his future) and your insight only added to my interest. The cool thing is I think he is one of the few who will truly fly under the radar until season starts due to offensive (pun intended) mess in STL. I was wondering if you could share more info/detail about targets/splits for when 1st part of 2013 when bradford was healthy? Another words, did they run alot of 3 wide sets, and who were the 3 wides? (givens, pettis, tavon )? versus when bailey played down the stretch? just trying to figure out depth chart/opportunity heading into training camp…

        I quickly checked ourlads and they have givens and pettis in 2 wide, with cook at TE, and quick and tavon has backups, with stedman 3rd string.

  2. Paul

    March 8, 2014 at 7:53 pm

    Bailey is still a guy you can get for damn near free. Drafted him last year when I could. I just hope he gets the opportunity. If we use last season as a gauge, it looks like he will get a lot of PT early.

    Nice article. Like the comps!

  3. Ben

    March 8, 2014 at 10:46 pm

    Nice work TY. Keep the good work coming.

  4. Gus Bazan

    March 9, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    ok great timing! i own kendall hunter and riley cooper ve been offered on two separate trades by different owners, steven ridley for cooper and stedman bailey for kendall hunter. thinking hard on accepting both thoughts?

    • Ty Miller

      March 9, 2014 at 8:57 pm

      Gus,

      I like Cooper over Ridley and Bailey over Hunter.

      Thanks for reading!

      Ty

  5. i want to jump higher

    March 13, 2014 at 2:03 am

    Yes! Finally someone writes about how to increase vertical jump.

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