At the end of the season, the Jets signed several players to futures contracts for the 2021 season. We’ve been taking an in-depth look at the strengths and weaknesses for each of them over the past few weeks, continuing today with wide receiver Manasseh Bailey.
The 23-year old is listed at 6’1” and 195 pounds and was undrafted out of Morgan State in 2020. He has never played in the NFL before in regular season or preseason action, but spent time with the Eagles and Chargers last season.
Bailey was mostly a basketball player until his sophomore year of high school, but then started playing football. He was recruited to Morgan State as a linebacker.
In his first year at Morgan State, Bailey registered five tackles and also cameo’d on offense, catching two passes for 48 yards.
During his sophomore year, that move became permanent and he started all 11 games, registering 37 catches for 610 yards and six touchdowns.
In 2018, his production dipped slightly, as he was held to 24 catches, 425 yards and four scores. However, he exploded for 996 yards and 10 touchdowns on 54 catches in his senior year, earning all-MEAC third team honors.
Bailey took part in the Tropicana Bowl after the 2019 season but wasn’t invited to the scouting combine and didn’t get selected in the draft. However, he was signed as an undrafted free agent and attended training camp with the Eagles.
After failing to make their team or practice squad, Bailey spent time on the Chargers’ practice squad later in the season, then signed a futures deal with the Jets after the end of the season.
Let’s move onto some more in-depth analysis of what Bailey brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Although Bailey is listed at 6’1” he actually measured in at just 5’11” at his pro day. He also has relatively short arms and small hands. He’s a very good athlete, who has clocked a sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash and plays fast on the field.
As noted, Bailey was a linebacker when he first arrived at Morgan State. Since moving to wide receiver, he’s shown an ability to contribute both on the outside and from the slot.
He did carry the ball from time to time on end around plays and although officially he only gained 11 yards on seven carries, he had one run for a 17-yard gain and another 25-yard play that was called back for a holding penalty.
Bailey is an obvious big play threat, as evidenced by the fact that he averaged over 18 yards per catch in his senior year at Morgan State. He also showcased this against NFL talent when he scored a 99-yard touchdown at Eagles camp.
He had six games with at least one 30 yard play in 2019 and even had generated plays of 90, 64 and 57 yards in 2018 when his production was down. He clearly has the speed to get behind the defense for long plays.
Bailey does a particularly good job of tracking and locating the ball on long throws and has shown he can adjust when the ball is off target or underthrown.
Bailey has pretty reliable hands with an ability to catch the ball in traffic and outside his frame, although he is guilty of drops at times.
On his highlight reel, he has a number of spectacular catches, diving for low balls, going up over defenders or keeping his feet inbounds at the sideline. He also made a one-hand catch on a short pass and made this ridiculous showboating grab.
Bailey’s speed has been his main asset at lower levels, as he’s able to have success on hitch routes due to defenders backing off because of his deep threat abilities. He’s also effective on crossers and breaks down really well when defenders are playing off.
Although these are where he is most effective and he’ll need to hone his route running skills to face NFL-level talent, he has shown an ability to run a full route tree and can change direction sharply to get separation.
Yards after the catch
Bailey is effective with the ball in his hands, to the point where Morgan State would often just dump it off to him and rely on him to break a defender’s tackle to pick up the first down yardage.
In the open field, he shows good elusiveness, creativity and a nose for the first down marker.
With 20 touchdown catches in three seasons, Bailey has shown an ability to score points, although many of those were on longer plays.
He shows some good red zone abilities on this play as he’s able to reach back for a back shoulder throw despite tight coverage from the defender.
Bailey’s coach at Morgan State described him as someone who will “block his butt off” and you can see evidence of this effort on film as he’ll battle for leverage even when nowhere near the ball and hustle to get into position to block down on a linebacker. He also blocks to the whistle.
However, there are also some times where he needs to work on refining his technique, like on this screen pass.
Bailey seems to be pretty strong at the catchpoint despite not having much of a size advantage. Based on his film, he is constantly more balanced than the defender and able to make a play on the ball on contested catches, although part of this is that he locates the ball early.
He gives a good effort when blocking and when fighting for yardage after the catch, also bringing some of this physicality to special teams.
Bailey has contributed in various ways on special teams while at Morgan State, highlighted by his two blocked punts in 2019. These led to a safety and a touchdown.
He’s also had some experience as a kick returner, although he hasn’t fared too well in that role, averaging less than 14 yards per return. In limited action fielding punts, he had a 16-yard return in 2017.
He’s also been employed as a blocker on kick return units and in kick coverage, with some reps as a gunner and nine special teams tackles in his last three seasons.
Bailey shows good ability to find open areas in zone coverage, as he displays on this third down conversion.
His instincts as an open field runner are also pretty good, both in terms of following his blocks and finding open lanes and also in terms of his awareness of where the first down marker is, although this surprisingly didn’t translate to much in the way of kick return success.
Bailey worked hard to learn a new position and is considered a team player, who was a good leader in his senior year.
As you can tell from the earlier headstand catch, he obviously has a lot of confidence to the point of arguably being somewhat cocky.
Bailey doesn’t seem to have been affected by any serious injury issues over the course of his career so far.
As noted, Bailey has played both outside and inside and has experience of running a full route tree, but will obviously need to adjust to playing at a higher level, although he did enjoy some success against FBS and high level FCS opposition.
His experience on special teams should also come in handy because contributions in that area will improve his roster chances.
Bailey has a good all-round skill-set, albeit without one particular area where he excels. This provides him with a good foundation as he makes the jump to the NFL level.
Although he didn’t get a chance to play in his rookie season and will obviously be a long-shot to make the Jets’ roster, training camp and preseason will provide him with a valuable opportunity to show what he can do.