Name: Juju Smith-Schuster
Position: Wide Receiver
Pro Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
College Team: USC Trojans
Draft Status: Round Two, Pick No. 62 overall
- Height: 6’1’’
- Weight: 215 Pounds
- Hands: 10.5”
- Arm Length: 32.875’’
- Bench Press (225 LBS): 15 Reps
- 40-Yard-Dash: 4.54 seconds
- Vertical Jump: 32.5”
- Broad Jump: 120”
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- Collegiate production: He was productive from day one at USC, finishing behind only future-first-rounder Nelson Agholor in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in 2014. As a true sophomore in 2015, Smith-Schuster dominated the Trojans’ passing game, accounting for 39 percent of the team’s receiving yards. He gained more than 1,000 yards more than the next most productive receiver. He still led the team his junior season, but he failed to top 1,000 yards and produced only 25 percent of the Trojans’ receiving yards.
- Reliability: He thrived with Cody Kessler and Sam Darnold because he worked well within the system and demonstrated reliable hands. He may not be a creator, but he can make an already-good offense even better.
- Athleticism: He has below-average timed speed and measured explosion among receivers. He won’t be a deep threat, and he hasn’t demonstrated that he can consistently win contested catches.
- Downfield separation: I’m no tape grinder, so I’ll defer to Matt Harmon here. Harmon noted that Smith-Schuster struggled to gain separation in almost every area of the field. The lone bright spot was Smith-Schuster’s work on intermediate routes.
Smith-Schuster has a clear path to the third receiver role for a high-flying pass offense. Since 2014, the Steelers have averaged 308 passing yards and 1.95 passing touchdowns per game when Ben Roethlisberger plays.
Antonio Brown is virtually guaranteed ten or more targets per game, Martavis Bryant should capture another eight targets and plenty of air yards, and Le’Veon Bell should garner six or seven targets. But that leaves another 11-13 targets per game, and Smith-Schuster is best positioned to take the bulk of the leftovers. If either of Brown or Bryant misses time, the leftovers will be plentiful.
Aside from the top guys, Smith-Schuster’s main competition comes from Sammie Coates, Eli Rogers and Jesse James.
Coates is Smith-Schuster’s antithesis. He’s an athletic marvel who can get deep but struggles with ball tracking and catching. He’s more of a Bryant understudy than a threat to Smith-Schuster.
Rogers, a second-year undrafted wide receiver, is a classic slot receiver: small, slow, and agile. The Steelers would no doubt prefer Smith-Schuster’s physical presence in the middle of the field, but Rogers was competent there in 2016.
James, a third-year tight end, failed to fill the hole left when Heath Miller retired. But James is still only 23, and he would cap Smith-Schuster’s role if he earns significant opportunity.
Low-end bye-week option. Very few teams produce three fantasy-relevant receivers, and the Steelers don’t look like an exception. Smith-Schuster can’t compete with Brown’s production or Bryant’s athleticism, so he’ll be scrapping for tertiary targets unless one of those guys misses time. Still, he should be worth eight or ten points per game in PPR leagues, so he’ll be in some lineups on thin bye weeks.
Smith-Schuster would be a strong fantasy producer as the second option behind Brown in a Roethlisberger-led offense. Unfortunately, Roethlisberger’s long-term expectations are murky at best. The Steelers must find a worthy successor for Smith-Schuster to have much value in the next three years.
Rookie Draft Advice
In June drafts, Smith-Schuster is part of the giant tier that ranges from the end of the first round to the middle-late part of the second round. He’s a fine investment at that price. If Brown or Bryant misses time, you can likely turn a quick profit by trading Smith-Schuster during the season. And if they don’t, dynasty owners won’t penalize him much for failing to produce in a crowded offense. The only thing that could really torpedo his trade price would be retirement talk from Roethlisberger.
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