Dion Bailey: A Closer Look at the USC Safety
By: Justin Partlow
Dion Bailey was seen as a possible NFL LB, but after a move to Safety the past year he’s now seen as a legitimate top 3 round prospect. What makes Bailey special is his ability to play with those traditional LB instincts, but also play in space and coverage like a safety. Bailey has his warts and will need seasoning, but if developed properly a team could have a very good SS on their hands for an extended period of time. Below I’ll take a look at what Bailey does well and what he needs to improve on while he’s a member of the NFL.
When watching Bailey it’s pretty easy to tell he’s still playing with the natural LB instincts that he has, but that will need to change soon when he reaches the NFL. Right now Bailey relies on his hands too much and plays too aggressive which leads to some overpursuit of plays and with his hands it will lead to penalties for pass interference or illegal contact. Bailey does a good job though of using his feet to his advantage. He does a good job of flipping his hips well and is able to mirror both slot receivers as well as TE prospects. This will make Bailey an even more valuable commodity due to his ability to cover multiple positions, which will allow for defensive coordinators to become more creative with him. Bailey needs to improve on his hands and natural technique and move away from the LB mentality, but with only playing one year at S it was expected that he would struggle with the transition. Instead what was seen on film was someone who has struggled at times, but shown the ability to be a starting caliber SS.
This is easily what Bailey does best on film and again as previously mentioned it goes back to his natural LB roots that he has. Bailey does a good job of taking on blocks and attempting to disengage from them in attempts to make the play in the running game. What is noticeable on film though is that Bailey does struggle to disengage and tries to use his speed in order to get around guys. This is easy to get by with in college as he’s a physical imposing player compared to others, but in the pros with players just as fast and strong as he is, he’ll struggle at times. The other thing about Bailey I like is how instinctual he plays on film. You never really see Bailey play in run defense with much hesitation. He does a very good job of seeing the play before it happens and filling the hole immediately or as I mentioned above engage the blocker to make the play. This will be clutch for Bailey if he’s moving into the SS role that I think he should be playing in when he reaches the NFL.
While not as well defined as his ability to play run defense, Bailey shows both some highlights and lowlights in regards to his pass defense. I like how Bailey understands zone concepts and is able to read his zone responsibilities and be able to play pass coverage accordingly. I also like how Bailey when in man coverage is able to get his hands on the defender and play with a bit of a mean streak in press coverage. Bailey though needs to improve on his overall natural ability to play coverage. A lot of times on film when you looked at it, USC would place another secondary member behind him and attempt to play bracket coverage. It always seemed that way whenever Bailey was put into man coverage. This shows a bit of a lack of trust still with someone learning the position. Bailey will need to improve his man coverage in order to allow teams to be forced to have to always bracket coverage.
Dion Bailey is someone who has a high-upside as a player, but also poses a risk because of his “Green” ability at the S position. With his natural ability to combine his LB instincts and transition them to S, Bailey will become a hot commodity if he can continue to improve on his ability that he’s shown in just this past year at USC. Look for Bailey to come off the board somewhere in the late 2nd round to mid 3rd round range and provide to be a very good value pick if he continues the improvement he showed all year.