The New England Patriots, who are in the middle of their 2019 organized team activities, currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s draft picks:
Name: Jake Bailey
Position: Punter/Kickoff specialist
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #60)
Size: 6’2, 200 lbs.
2018 review: Entering his fourth year at Stanford, Jake Bailey served not just as punter but also kickoff specialist; he showed why and produced the finest season of his collegiate career. Overall, he punted the football 68 times in 2018 for a gross average of 44.1 yards per kick — a number that would have ranked 27th in the NFL last season. His net average of 40.0 yards per kick, on the other hand, would have made Bailey 16th best in the pros.
Bailey was also able to produce solid fair catch numbers, as 32.4% of his punts were not returned. Furthermore, he regularly pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line: he did so on 35.3% of his attempts. But while Bailey’s leg strength was on display in all 13 of his games last year and he also produced a career-high 66-yard punt, his ball placement was a bit inconsistent as a total of 14.7% of his punts ended in touchbacks.
The senior punter also performed generally well in his other role: he kicked off 72 times during the 2018 season, with 60 of the kicks resulting in touchbacks. When the ball was returned, the Cardinal’s opponents gained an average of 33.2 yards — which is probably more reflective of the team’s kick coverage, however, than Bailey’s performance as the man sending the football down the field. His only blemish might be that two kicks went out of bounds.
Overall, however, he had a solid final year at Stanford — one during which he also performed as a holder on field goal and extra point attempts. Bailey was perfect, as his team’s lone miss in either category on a combined 49 attempts was not the result of an error of his.
2019 preview: New England traded up in the fifth round of this year’s draft to select Bailey 163rd overall. Despite the team moving up the board to get him, however, the rookie is no lock to make its 53-man roster this year: he needs to beat out recently re-signed Ryan Allen, who has held the Patriots’ punter role since 2013. In order to do that, Bailey will have to not only show off his strong leg and versatility but also become a consistent performer.
During the lone organized team activity practice open to the media, this has been a problem for the Stanford product. While he worked on both kickoffs and punts and demonstrated tremendous hang-time and a strong leg, his inconsistency was on display as well. If Bailey can work on it and show that his ball placement can rival Allen’s, however, it would not be a surprise to see the rookie beat out the veteran.
What also speaks for the youngster is his contract status: while Allen plays on a one-year deal that hits New England’s books with $1.5 million this season and includes little guaranteed money, Bailey is under the Patriots’ control for the next four seasons and will ‘only’ cost the club $2.8 million — over the entire four-year span. This in combination with his upside and versatility makes Bailey an intriguing option, and a serious challenger for Allen’s role on the team.