Lost in the wake of West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith's stat rampage during the first month of the 2012 season was the fact that the Mountaineers' receiver corps was playing just as well as its quarterback. By mid-October, Smith had cooled off considerably, and scouting attention shifted to receiver Tavon Austin, a pint-sized playmaker with impressive route-running ability and speed to burn. Austin's mid-November performance against Oklahoma (two TDs and 572 yards of offense--344 of which were on the ground) may have convinced scouts that he was the No. 1 gun in Morgantown this season, but it was dynamo receiver Stedman Bailey who was the real star of the show for West Virginia in 2012.
Bailey's complete skill set and very good speed are what help him stand out in a receiver class dominated by big-bodied playmakers and prototypical slashers. The wide receiver position at the NFL level is one of patience and development, but Bailey is built to contribute and play at a high level right off the bat. He has near-flawless hands, outstanding route-running ability and a knack for making the first defender miss. Few receivers are as efficient as Bailey when it comes to dropping weight and gathering at the top of a route, and his ability to create separation in tight spaces makes him a viable red zone target, as well. He's also plenty nasty as a blocker, and isn't afraid to mix it up with his opponent (check out video of Bailey making Morris Claiborne's life a living a hell during West Virginia's match-up with LSU in 2011).
Where Bailey loses points with scouts is his size (5'11", 195). He's also far from a go-up-and-get-it prospect (though he flashes the ability to win in jump-ball situations). Size doesn't equal physicality in Bailey's book, however, and his game tape reveals a receiver who is very good at fighting off initial jams at the line of scrimmage. It isn't easy to re-route Bailey, and it's even more difficult for defenders to get an initial hand on him. "Slippery" is a term often used to describe Bailey, and it's pretty fitting--dude looks like mercury on tape.
Currently a fringe second/third rounder, Bailey's top-end speed and stylistic similarity to receivers like Greg Jennings should earn him plenty of attention during the pre-draft process. And if the Dolphins bring in Jennings during free agency, they might consider bringing in Bailey as his understudy and eventual heir apparent.