The Philadelphia Eagles signed undrafted rookie free agent defensive end JaQuan Bailey following the 2021 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about him, I reached out to SB Nation’s Iowa State blog: Wide Right & Natty Lite. Cyclones writer Levi Stevenson was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you recap his college career?
Simply put, JaQuan Bailey left Iowa State has the school’s all-time leading sack artist. He started ten games his freshman season, then, aside from his true senior season which ended after a few games with an ankle injury, never missed another game or start in his career. Early in his career, he was essentially a pass rushing mercenary who specialized in simply getting to the quarterback while he worked to improve his discipline in the running game. By the end of his Iowa State career, JaQuan was every bit as capable as an edge run defender as he was a pass rusher.
2) What are his strengths?
JaQuan’s strengths lie in his skill. He’s got just about every pass rush move in the book at this disposal and has used them to great effect through his playing career. As mentioned before, he’s also a reliable run defender that’s become very adept at maintaining run fits and eating up blocks at the line of scrimmage.
3) What are his weaknesses?
His main weakness is that he really isn’t an exceptional athlete. I certainly would not describe him as “unathletic” or even a below average athlete, but his measurables and just don’t really jump off the page at you.
4) Are you surprised he went undrafted?
I thought JaQuan had a chance to sneak in the later rounds based on his production, but I can’t say I’m surprised he went undrafted. As mentioned before, JaQuan is very average athletically, and the NFL likes to draft guys with unexplored or unrealized potential, which typically comes from underutilized athleticism. It’s possible that many NFL teams view him as a largely finished product that is currently playing at his maximum potential. That’s not a knock on JaQuan, because he was an outstanding college player and certainly has the potential to grow and evolve, but the NFL evaluates players differently.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
That’s an interesting question. Given the financial commitment the Eagles made to him as an undrafted free agent, it stands to reason that they think he can compete for a roster spot, especially on a team that needs a lot of help along the defensive line. JaQuan is certainly skilled enough to make an impact and make the 53-man roster, but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s able to have success against NFL players that are quite a bit more athletic than the people he played against in college.
However, even if he doesn’t cut it as an edge rusher, I don’t think that has to be the end of the road for JaQuan Bailey. In college, he mostly played in the 260-270 lb range, but his frame looks plenty capable of adding on productive weight, which could allow him to move inside to a tackle position. I really think adding weight and moving inside could even be a better move for JaQuan long term. In Iowa State’s 3-3-5 scheme, the defensive end’s run gap responsibilities look a lot like a tackle’s would in a four-down front, so it actually may be a fairly smooth transition for him should he decide to make that move.
6) Anything to know about him off the field?
Like most everybody in Matt Campbell’s program, JaQuan is an excellent locker room presence. He’s got an infectious personality and sense of humor and really developed into an excellent teammate and leader during his time at Iowa State. His personality and leadership will be a big selling point along with his on-field performance for making the roster.
BLG’s take: Bailey won’t have an easy time making the roster with Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Tarron Jackson presumably ahead of him at his position. Not to mention potential pass-rushing linebackers such as Joe Ostman, Genard Avery, and Patrick Johnson. But Bailey might be able to do enough to convince the Eagles to keep him around on the practice squad. There could be an opportunity for him in the future with Barnett, Sweat, and Kerrigan all only under contract for 2021.