It only took three seasons, but Stedman Bailey will leave WVU as one of its best after his announcement that he will declare for the 2013 NFL Draft after the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Bailey came to Morgantown in 2009 with classmate Geno Smith. While Smith’s eligibilty will end after the Bowl game, Bailey could play another season after he redshirted in 2009. Bailey is on pace to graduate next spring and had a recent addition to his family. He and long-time friend Geno Smith will begin the next phase of their lives at the same time.
“I support him, and he’ll be a great pro,” Mountaineer head coach Dana Holgorsen said of Bailey. “If you put two good years together as a receiver and you’re an underclassman, then you have a chance to do some good things at the next level and that’s what they look for. He’ll be treated as a senior going forward to the bowl game and will play his last game as a Mountaineer up in New York.
“I think it is time for him to go,” Holgorsen continued. “He has a child now. I think the biggest thing is that he has had two tremendous years in a row. Geno is leaving, and his relationship with him probably has something to do with it. We talked about it. I didn’t discourage it. It was on his mind and he wanted to do it, so I don’t think it would be fair for me to try and talk him out of it. If the situation was different and Geno would have redshirted his first year, maybe they would come back for their senior year.”
While Smith will be a very hot topic of conversation leading up to the Draft – he could be the #1 overall pick – Bailey will also garner much pre-Draft attention.
So far this season, Bailey leads the FBS in touchdown receptions with 23 (7 more than the closest competitor), 106 catches and 1,501 yards. Before this season, the Mountaineer career record for touchdown catches was 23. Bailey soared past that number and now has 39 in his career. He could break the NCAA record for TD catches in a season if he catches four against Syracuse.
Both ESPN.com and CBSSports.com rank Bailey as the 14th best receiver in the upcoming Draft. That projects out to a third or fourth-round selection. We have seen him mentioned as high as the second round.
Bailey is a polished receiver possessing great hand-eye coordination and body control. These features allow him to track the deep ball very well. Former Mountaineer RB, Jason Colson, pointed out to me that Bailey might be the best receiver he’s ever seen at WVU in breaking tackles and picking up yards after the catch. He has a running back build, giving him the power and build to separate himself after contact in a way similar to Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. He is also a great route-runner.
YahooSports has an in-depth scouting report on Bailey you can read here.
When the Draft process gets underway, every part of Bailey’s game will be picked apart. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on how Bailey, Smith, Tavon Austin and others look heading up to next April’s NFL Draft.