fbpx
Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

FSM Presents: Zo Huddle – The West Coast Sleepers Come Draft Day – Bailey Gaither

Franchise Sports Media

 

The Zo Huddle loves two seasons: Football season and draft season. With the 2021 NFL Draft over a month away, the Zo Huddle will unveil the top sleeper prospects out west in his eyes…

 

And I’m going to head to my home region of the 805 for my next NFL sleeper out of Paso Robles.

This San Jose State Spartans wide receiver help resuscitate two programs that had down years: His high school Paso Robles, which ended a long CIF section title dry spell during his final football season there, then his collegiate home this past season by winning their first outright conference title since 1990.

The Zo Huddle will send this message: Do not sleep on this Central Coast baller…as you could be looking at the next Scotty Miller or Julian Edelman.

Here is my next West Coast sleeper in the 2021 NFL Draft:

 

BAILEY GAITHER

 

Hometown: Paso Robles (Calif.)

High School: Paso Robles High

Star ranking: Three-star by 247Sports

Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 182-pounds

No. of seasons playing collegiately: Six

Personal accolades: All-Mountain West Conference selection in final two seasons at San Jose State including earning First-Team honors for 2020 performance, posted eight career 100-yard games, accumulated 2,227 career receiving yards at SJSU (placing him fourth on the school’s all-time list), his 18 career receiving touchdowns tied him for second all-time for the Spartans.

 

Before he was a Spartan…

 

Paso Robles Bearcats football nearly went 15 seasons without winning a CIF Southern Section title. But that changed when the then 6-foot-1, 170-pound Gaither was a senior.

On a rain-soaked Dec. 2014 evening at Flamson Middle School’s football field (where the Bearcats play their home games) and with a future New York Giants cornerback named Darnay Holmes on the opposite side, Gaither and the Bearcats ended their title drought with a 13-10 win over Newbury Park. The win additionally put the Bearcats in the CIF state football playoffs for the first time in school history.

Gaither went on to post 73 catches, 1,480 yards and 20 TD’s in his last year as a Bearcat – leading to a bevy of offseason recognition from The San Luis Obispo Tribune Player of the Year and the league Most Valuable Player honor in the Pac-5. He was the deep threat on a loaded Bearcats team that featured a future third-round draft pick named Josh Oliver (Jacksonville Jaguars) and starred alongside Christian Erickson (Sacramento State) and Jonathan Baldwin (Northern Arizona), giving PRHS four NCAA Division-I prospects – considered a program first in the recruiting rankings era.

Oh, Gaither held just five reported offers…with SJSU and Wyoming representing his only FBS opportunities.

 

FIELD WORK

 

Route geometry: Gaither was SJSU’s primary option in the deep ball – so some of his best work was done through deep slants, fly/go, and corner routes. However, the Spartans trusted Gaither to run comeback, curl routes or handle swing passes…to take advantage of his speed and the cushion he created between him and the nearest CB. The opening play of the Nevada game of 2020 shines a light on Gaither’s downfield threat capability. Same with this deep TD he scored against New Mexico.

 

Releases versus cornerbacks: Gaither had strong foot speed and improved his plant-and-go throughout his time in the Silicon Valley. As mentioned above, SJSU became convinced to throw the ball to Gaither on the shorter comeback and curl routes. Gaither still had a near three-yard cushion between himself and the CB after the catch before trekking up field.

Tracking the football: Gaither showed that he is not one to always wait for the football to come to him. He developed a knack for coming back to the football then gassing secondaries. Against New Mexico, Gaither re-routed himself to haul in the football at his own 36…while four Lobos defensive backs were angled in pursuit of Gaither along the 40 after the catch. However, none of the Lobo DB’s lay a single finger on him, as Gaither takes advantage of the poor angle pursuit and gains 69 yards to set the Spartans up inside the red zone.

 

 

Run after catch ability: This is where Gaither is most dangerous. If there is too much green in front of him, count on the yardage to rack up. Along with the reel of his 69-yard catch against the Lobos, this screen pass against UNLV is another prime example of his RAC prowess. Gaither takes the short swing, only has one blocking option in front of him, but his speed does the rest on the 41-yard TD.

 

 

 

Working against press coverage: Gaither had so-so results against CB’s who jammed him at the line. Some corners managed to attack underneath his left arm to drive him out of his route. But on this play that begins at SJSU’s own 12 against Boise State’s Markel Reed in the Mountain West Conference title game, Reed begins by pressing him at the line of scrimmage, bumped him one more time at the 20, but Gaither still wins the battle by gaining a yard separation on Reed – catching the ball at the 36 before being tussled down near midfield.

 

After contact ability: Gaither had his trouble breaking out of grips from defenders, even if it was a solo defender. His biggest plays were made when he had space and not after breaking a tackle. He looked too reliant on his speed for most of his career.

Blocking ability: There Is not much film of Gaither being utilized as an extra blocker. The Spartans were mostly a pass-heavy team. One exception was the Hawaii game of 2020 when SJSU wore down the Rainbow Warriors through the ground game. And when Gaither does attempt to block, he’s not one to blast people to the ground, a la Hines Ward. He relies more on getting in front of a guy and keeping him occupied.

Performances against bowl teams/NFL prospects: Despite getting smacked in Salt Lake City 54-16 to Utah in 2017, Gaither had his best statistical night that season against the Utes: Eight catches, 125 yards and a 47-yard touchdown against a future Indianapolis Colt named Julian Blackmon (34 second mark of this film). One year later, he beat highly-touted Oregon CB Thomas Graham on a 52-yard strike while one-on-one with the projected second-round talent for the ’21 Draft (32 second mark of this video). Gaither ended that day with six catches for 90 yards as the Ducks held off the Spartans 35-22.

And for his career against perennial MWC powerhouses Boise State and San Diego State, Gaither combined for 13 catches, 208 yards (16-yard average), and one TD in two games versus the Broncos while snatching seven catches for 95 yards (13.5-yard average per catch) and two TD’s against the Aztecs. On his recent performance against the Aztecs, Gaither had a quiet night with three catches for 20 yards. But, SJSU still found a way to get him into the end zone by using this motion play:

Closest comparison – Scotty Miller, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Yes, I see a lot of Miller in Gaither. From the personal journey of being under-recruited by FBS teams, to playing at a Group of 5 school all the way to the on-field dynamics. Plus, Miller gave the Super Bowl champs an additional deep element. Gaither was similar at SJSU.

From the WR perspective of Elon Paige: “It’s crazy. Scotty Miller is who he reminds me of – even when he (Bailey) was back in high school. That is exactly who he is: Has pure speed, can catch, and he’s not just a fast guy, though. He’s got hands. He is that dude, who, if you need a play, you go to him. If it’s a third-down conversion you need, you’re probably going to go to him. The dude is a threat and I saw it before when he played against Clovis High back in 2014.

“San Jose State is a great school. I’m not trying to down them or nothing, but to me Bailey should’ve been Pac-12 because of the way he played. The dude was special. I don’t know if it was his size or whatever it was. But the kid can play some ball. The biggest thing for him is his ability to get open. Separation is one thing but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be able to read the field. For him to put together the speed with the field awareness, his IQ in reading those zones to get into space, it all makes him more dangerous. He gets the ball in those pockets and then gets that YAC (yards after catch).

“You have a lot of teams that need that ‘Z’ guy right now (that slot). I can think of the Texans, the Bengals, the Jets even the Patriots. They can use a guy who can get downfield and has serious speed. You have a couple of teams that can definitely use a guy like him.”

 

Current Draft projection: Fourth to seventh round

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: SJSU Athletics

Zo’s most potential suitors: New England, New York Giants, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Detroit, New Orleans, Kansas City, San Francisco

Patriots: Yes, the Pats need to figure out who will be the franchise QB in 2021 A.B (After Brady). But the wide receiver production dropped badly with no one catching 60 passes. Edelman is also coming off a disappointing 2020 and will be 35. The new QB still needs weapons upgrades. Gaither could be the heir apparent to Edelman…and maybe become the next legendary slot WR at a place that had Wes Welker, Danny Amendola, and Edelman.

Giants: There’s chatter of Golden Tate reuniting with his old Seattle Seahawks teammates. Whether if he stays or goes, the G-Men still need to surround Daniel Jones with targets, especially downfield. I won’t be shocked if the Giants draft multiple WR’s.

Ravens: B-More seems high on Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. But he has been hot and cold so far and Lamar Jackson needs help on Hail Mary’s or from guys who can run the curl/comeback routes. Plus, Dez Bryant may walk via free agency. Aerial production needs to improve for Baltimore to topple the Chiefs and Bills for AFC supremacy. Gaither could add additional blazing speed next to Brown.

 

Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: SJSU Athletics

Jaguars: Maybe a possible Paso Robles High reunion with Oliver? The tight end is aiming to come back from a broken foot. The Jags do have a WR building block in 6-foot-1, 227-pound Laviska Shenault – who not only led the team in catches with 58 but forced 22 missed tackles in the open field, the most by a rookie according to PFF. Urban Meyer is not shy about adding speed from his years of coaching at Utah, Florida, and Ohio State and Gaither could be a nice addition to this offense as a late rounder.

Detroit: New QB Jared Goff needs weapons, period. He also needs his Cooper Kupp-type in the Motor City. Gaither, I believe, can be that guy.

New Orleans: Let’s see…Alvin Kamara was overly used as a wide receiver. Michael Thomas will look to get healthy again. Emmanuel Sanders is going to be 34 and heading to free agency. The Saints need a speedy, underneath target to take pressure off Thomas and potentially limit Kamara’s aerial touches. Gaither could create space for the Saints wideouts.

Kansas City: Another speed option at Arrowhead? How unfair! But consider this: Sammy Watkins, Bryon Pringle, and Demarcus Robinson are all entering the free-agent market as unrestricted free agents. All three were bottled to one catch each for a combined 27 yards against the Buccaneers on Feb. 7. And Watkins is due to make $9 million in 2021. If all three leave, a Gaither and Tyreek Hill pairing could give defenses migraines.

San Francisco: Can the 49ers possibly keep Gaither in the Bay? The passing game production dropped this past season. San Francisco also clearly missed that inside slot element that Emmanuel Sanders gave them during the NFC title run of 2019. Gaither could re-provide that slot element, plus add a third speed wheel with Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel.

Overall: I believe Gaither has done enough to cement his case as a bona fide sleeper for this class. His stats may not have been considered astronomical and he never led the nation in any significant category in his six-year Spartans career, but if you can score two TD’s on high-profile Pac-12 DB’s then give Boise State hell two straight years, then you are a legit sleeper prospect in my eyes. Memo to NFL teams in need of a slot WR: DRAFT HIM.

 

Next time: The Zo Huddle remains in the Silicon Valley to break down Tre Walker of San Jose State.

 

Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle         Zo Huddle        

Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: @LJ_Reyna

 

Join The Franchise on Social Media

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

YouTube

 

Privacy Preference Center

%d bloggers like this: