2021 NFL Draft Profile: San Jose State WR Bailey Gaither
Can the San Jose State Spartans wide receiver break the mold and make an impact in the NFL?
Will he be overlooked or seen as a steal?
When you needed a big pass play in the Mountain West over the last few years, you were hard pressed to find someone more capable of delivering than San Jose State wide receiver Bailey Gaither.
After leading the conference in yards per catch last fall, Gaither decided to call it a career with the blue and yellow and take aim at the professional ranks. The big question: Does he bring enough to convince an NFL team to give him a shot?
Pro Day Numbers 🔢
— San José State Football 🏆 (@SanJoseStateFB) March 18, 2021
Though Gaither doesn’t possess top-end speed, the film suggests that his game speed and physical knowledge can help take the top off of opposing defenses, a sentiment that he acknowledged in a recent interview with Damond Talbot of NFL Draft Diamonds. Among Mountain West pass catchers with at least 100 career receptions, Gaither ranks seventh in conference history by averaging 16.5 yards per catch.
Furthermore, Lorenzo Reyna of Franchise Sports Media noted that Gaither is especially dangerous in space thanks to above-average footwork. The ability to turn routine plays into big ones (and some tough ones, too, for good measure) can’t be overlooked.
One thing that may work against Gaither in the eyes of evaluators is actually two things which are inevitably tied together. First, though he remained healthy over the past two seasons, Gaither did miss most of the 2018 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. Between that and a redshirt taken all the way back in 2015, he ended up spending six seasons in San Jose and comes into the 2021 draft class as one of its oldest prospects. NFL teams may decide that there isn’t much room left for growth past a modest physical profile — he measured at just 6 feet and 188 pounds despite the mid-4.4 40 time — and look elsewhere for pass catchers with flashier tools.
Another potential hindrance is overall strength, which seems more likely to come into play at the pro level than in the Mountain West. At San Jose State’s pro day, he managed just nine reps on the bench press, which seems to dovetail with Reyna’s assessment that Gaither was only “so-so” against press coverage and, though a yards-after-catch beast, had some trouble breaking tackles once defenders got hold of him.
At first glance, it seems a little unusual that Gaither’s teammate Tre Walker has had a bit more helium throughout the pre-draft process, especially since Gaither finished 2020 as San Jose State’s leader in receptions and yards. Though Gaither may have had a better overall pro day, as well, he’s also much more likely to be a “what you see is what you get” role player if he makes an NFL roster.
That probably limits his upside, so while there’s a possibility that someone takes a seventh-round flyer to see what he can do, the most likely scenario is that Bailey Gaither is picked up as an undrafted free agent.