The NFL Draft talk continues at Turn On The Jets. Continuing on with the safety prospects, up next is USC’s Dion Bailey. Bailey has garnered a reputation as “always-around-the-ball Bailey” for his college squad. The three year starter has declared for the draft and offers an intriguing skill set.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Dion Bailey
From: Lakewood, CA
Accolades: All-Pac 12 Second Team, All-Pac 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year 2011
Bailey is known for his nose for the ball, tallying 11 career interceptions over a three year career at USC. In those three seasons (two at linebacker and one at safety) he also compiled 222 tackles.
He has completed his degree at USC in policy, planning, and development. He even participated in a trip to Haiti to help build houses in struggling communities.
Bailey is one of the more interesting prospects in the 2014 draft class due to his versatility. The first full tape I ever watched of him was from 2012 against Washington, when he was a starting linebacker for the Trojans.
I became locked into the tape as Bailey was rarely lined up in the same spot for consecutive plays. He moved around from middle linebacker, outside linebacker (both sides), slot corner back (both sides), strong safety and free safety.
Bailey displays impressive man coverage ability for a former strong side linebacker. He seems to put out his best work in the middle of the field and could potentially take on NFL tweener tight ends, much like Antonio Allen did for the Jets this past season.
At times it seemed USC had Bailey sitting in zone coverage or containment too often. He did a lot of nice work in man coverage and even showed press ability in the slot or against tight ends. After he would press, they’d sit him in a zone and it seemed to hinder his playmaking ability slightly.
Against the run he seems to find his way to the ball often and rarely makes a wrong “read” when choosing what route to take. Unlike most players, he has no problem clearing a route to open a path for tacklers behind him.
Bailey suffers from the same problem almost every safety from this class does: inconsistent tackling. Unlike many others, it’s not as common with him. Every now and then he gets caught pulling or yanking at a ball carrier rather than driving through them, but overall it seems like a habit he has a good chance of breaking.
He does not have the sideline to sideline speed in coverage that Clinton-Dix has, but that may develop in time as he shows it against the run. Although both are two totally different prospects at safety, the raw ability is clearly present. At the moment, he seems to have much more success in man coverage and can struggle in zone at times.
He’s a bit on the smaller side for a strong safety prospect and some coaches may have trouble finding a role for him early on. He is well aware of his size and appears less inclined to take on bigger blockers, understandably.
As I previously mentioned, one adjustment he does make for this issue is that he takes out the bigger blockers to clear a path to the ball carrier for his teammates.
Where does he fit with the Jets?:
Although he has not garnered the same amount of attention as some of the top safeties in this draft such as Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Bailey is a match made in heaven for the Jets.
As I previously mentioned, a weakness for Bailey could be a coach struggling to adjust his defense to find a role for Bailey, which is not his fault. Rex Ryan on the other hand operates in the opposite manner, as he adjusts his scheme to fit the players on his roster.
I’m not a fan of prospect to pro comparisons, but Bailey’s game has a lot of Antonio Allen in it. Both former linebackers (Allen played the “spur” position in college), the two are hybrid type athletes. They have the athleticism to run with modern era tight ends, but also the physicality to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
With Bailey it all comes down to understanding what he is. At the moment, he won’t be a center fielding ballhawk, that is not his game. On the other hand if he is sitting there in the 3rd or 4th round, it is hard to argue the selection.
He creates turnovers, has a nose for the ball, and would be the best insurance you can find for Antonio Allen. For whatever reason, Rex Ryan likes to play two strong safeties in his starting defense. This would also give Bailey a better chance for playing time (limited snaps), even as a rookie.
I see Bailey as a very late 3rd round to 5th round type prospect in this draft class. He has a lot going for him, including being a three year starter with a ton of versatility.
His game is very unselfish and he creates turnovers, two vital aspects scouts will fall in love with. He has a lot of work to do in zone coverage, specifically deep zones. The tools to excel in a man scheme are present and should be taken advantage of by his next coaching staff.
In terms of overall safety prospects, I think Bailey is right in the middle of the pack, which is not overwhelming in this class. On the other hand, as a fit with the Jets I think Bailey is in the top three.
We have all seen what Rex Ryan does with versatile, physical defensive backs. If Bailey is drafted by the Jets late on day two or anytime on day three, it would be tough to have an issue with this selection considering what he would bring to the table.