Stedman Bailey has seen a lot of action this year, but it hasn’t been at the position he thought it would be at after being selected in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
The St. Louis Rams have used Bailey on kick returns, kickoff coverage and punt coverage all season long. He has been great on punt coverage, using his speed and hands to get past blockers on the outside. For a wide receiver that was so productive in college, he hasn’t had many chances at receiver for the Rams after being blocked by a plethora of others. Bailey earned his first catch in Week 9 and fought for extra yards after the catch.
Head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer have taken notice of the young Bailey’s growth on the practice field. Fisher said that Bailey will get more chances this week against the Indianapolis Colts because he has earned it at practice. Schottenheimer agreed with Fisher in the fact that the young receiver has taken strides, but that he hasn’t jumped over anyone on the depth chart.
Bailey was much less sought after than former college teammate Tavon Austin. Austin has failed to produce the big plays that were expected of him and has dropped the most passes of any Rams receiver this season. It seems like Austin’s playing time is starting to shrink and Bailey will be getting more opportunities in return.
If you look at how productive Bailey was in college, you have to wonder how he dropped to the third round. He is a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 to be the deep threat he was in college, but he has length and a natural ability to go up and get the ball at the point of attack.
In particular, a look at his final collegiate season stats are eye-opening. Bailey recorded 114 receptions and 1,622 yards receiving while living under Austin’s spotlight. Of those 114 catches, 25 of them went for touchdowns. It’s hard to believe that someone with 25 touchdowns can go under the radar, but many teams passed on Bailey because of his size and 4.52-second 40-yard dash.
Kellen Clemens may be the happiest person besides Bailey on the Rams. Both have been used on the offensive scout team for most of the year, so Clemens has the most experience throwing to Bailey and not the other receivers on the Rams. That may not seem like a big deal to most people, but that time spent together leads to chemistry and trust between players.
If Bailey does get on the field more, you can expect him to see passes his way as long as Clemens is running the offense. He is in a good place to take a step forward in his career and to earn faith from the coaching staff for the rest of the season and next year. The ball is in his court now, and he has a chance to control his future by making plays for the offense and special teams.