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Ranking the Roster: No. 81 – WR Bailey Gaither

Speedy receiver Bailey Gaither overcame a torn Achilles to get his shot with the Green Bay Packers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of the start of training camp on July 27. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.

No. 81: WR Bailey Gaither (6-0, 188; 24; rookie; San Jose State)

During the second quarter of a game against Hawaii on Sept. 29, 2018, Gaither hopped into the end zone with a 55-yard touchdown. Paired with a 79-yard touchdown in the opener, it was Gaither’s second long touchdown in less than three-and-a-half games.

What should have been the highest of highs instead was the lowest of lows. He suffered a torn Achilles on that play. What looked like a breakout junior season that could have propelled a path to the NFL was over.

“I knew something had happened,” he told The San Jose State Spear. “I was a few yards from the end zone and I couldn’t run on my left foot, so I just decided to hop in the end zone. I knew if that was my last play, I would score at least.”

Achilles injuries can ruin athletic careers. Instead, Gaither was back on the field for the 2019 opener. Given a medical redshirt, he caught 52 passes for 812 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games 2019. He set a school record with a touchdown catch in six consecutive games. A highlight was an 80-yard touchdown in the fifth game of the season.

“It just felt so good,” Gaither told the school Web site. “It felt so good, like, this is where I'm supposed to be.”

A full year beyond the injury, he added 41 receptions for 725 yards and four touchdowns in seven games during the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season. He had at least 94 receiving yards in five of seven games and averaged 16.5 yards per catch.

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“Coming back from an Achilles injury, there’s no guarantees,” Gaither told The San Luis Obispo Tribune. “I remember everybody was telling me that you’re never going to be the same again. And I could have taken that and just folded. But I took that and I felt like I had a lot to prove. I got over trying to prove it to everybody else. I’m just trying to prove it to myself now.”

Gaither wasn’t drafted – no San Jose State receiver has been drafted since James Jones by the Packers in the third round in 2007 – but was given a $7,000 signing bonus by the Packers. He will get a shot at a position group with a lot of long-term uncertainty. He ran a 4.48 in the 40 at pro day – fast but nothing really out of the ordinary for the NFL. However, he is football-fast. His most noteworthy play was getting behind Kevin King for a deep touchdown during the second week of OTAs.

“Bailey’s done some really cool things,” coach Matt LaFleur said after that June 2 practice. “You can kind of see it slowing down just a little bit for him. Obviously, he made a really nice play on a deep post route that Blake threw a great ball. Bailey, he can run, so he was able to track it down and really made a nice play on that ball.”

Ranking the Packers Series

Nos. 82-84: WRs Begelton, Blair, Thompkins

Nos. 85-88: LBs Wilborn, Harris; OL Johnson, Capra

No. 89: G Jon Dietzen

No. 90: K JJ Molson