As you all know, the Dolphins have a huge need at WR this offseason. If the season started today, the Dolphins starting WRs would be Davone Bess and Marlon Moore. This is simply unacceptable. While Bess does have value as a slot receiver and Moore as a special teams ace, neither of them should be starting the game on the outside on offense. The Phins need to grab a game-changing WR, whether it is through FA or the draft. Brian Hartline will most likely be back, and has great value as a reliable number 2 WR. However, the Dolphins offense needs a top WR that defenses have to game plan around. They will most likely grab either Mike Wallace or Greg Jennings in the offseasons, and with the Wallace rumors surfacing in the season of smokescreens, I have a feeling it will be the $5M cheaper Jennings. If the Dolphins grab Jennings, they have a do-it-all possession WR in Hartline, and injury-prone formerly elite WR in Greg Jennings and a solid slot WR in Davone Bess. Jennings has struggled to stay healthy recently, and one injury to him puts the Fins right where they were last year. Because of this, I think the Dolphins should invest a 2nd rd pick on a speedy, dynamic WR from West Virginia. No, not Tavon Austin, I think Stedman Bailey should be the Dolphins pick in round 2.
Scouting reports all rave about Bailey's ability, and after watching some film on him here, I agree with most of them. A few things stuck out to me about Bailey. First of all, his hands are excellent. GM Jeff Ireland has said being able to catch the ball is one of the main qualities he looks for from a WR, and Bailey has some of the best hands I have seen among this year's draft prospects. He seems to pluck the ball out of the air, very rarely using his body to catch the ball. Great hands are very important for a west coast style WR, and Bailey has them.
Another quality of Bailey's that stuck out was his excellent route running. He can run the complete route tree, from a go route to the most complex inside route, to perfection. While he was used mainly in go routes at WVU, he also ran some shorter routes, and was routinely able to get open. He has great quickness and can turn quickly without losing much speed, which is ideal for the Dolphins' horizontal passing game. In addition, he has great body control, which can make up for his mediocre leaping ability. He has great balance after catching the ball, rarely falling down after the catch like many of the Dolphins' WRs do. At 195 lbs, He is very solidly built for his height, and it shows on tape. He is tough to bring down, breaks tackles often, and is hard to jam on the line. All of this together gives him another one of his assets, his YAC ability. He can turn a 5 yard pass into a 20 yard gain at the blink of an eye. This is something the Dolphins' offense tremendously lacked.
Of course, Bailey's biggest value at West Virginia was his ability to run the go route. While speedy teammate Tavon Austin may take all the headlines, Bailey can burn defenses in his own right. While this is yet to be confirmed at the NFL combine, most reports indicate he runs somewhere in the low-mid 4.40s. If he has a good 40-time, his stock should shoot up. On tape, he definitely has the speed to get behind a defense, often beating some of the best and fastest CBs in the college ranks. His speed will certainly be an asset for the Dolphins, a team said to have run a "red zone offense" due to the fact that they had no one who could consistently get open deep. Bailey's speed should be a refreshing addition, and his presence alone should be able to open things up underneath for Bess.
Bailey does, however, have some weaknesses. The biggest knock is on him is his height. At a shade above 5'10", Bailey does not have ideal height for the position, but his other abilities should more than make up for it. He has the capability to line up on the outside and can go 1 on 1 against a CB, as well as lining up in the slot and making tough catches there.
The NFL WR I see him being most similar to is one that may be coming here, Greg Jennings. Like Jennings, Bailey does not have elite height (5'10, 5'11), but makes up for it with is YAC ability, speed (both are in the 4.40s, Bailey may be a bit faster), route running, hands and body control. I think playing as the 4th WR for this year will be good for him this year, and then next year, with Davone Bess leaving via free agency, I can see him, Jennings and Hartline battling for the top 3 WR spots. All in all, I see bailey as a great WR with sky-high upside that could turn out to be the steal of this year's draft in the 2nd round.