Top Draft Prospect: JuJu Smith-Schuster
The 2017 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching and we are now on our 2nd installment of our Top Prospect series. Last time, we took a look at John Ross III out of Washington. In keeping with the Top Wide Receiver theme, the subject of this analysis will be SoCal’s JuJu Smith-Schuster. As we did last for Ross, we will examine his college career, strengths, and weaknesses without too much speculation on his landing spot.
Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith (not Senior), Patrick Turner, Nelson Agholor, and of course, Mike Williams (not Clemson). That’s a who’s who list JuJu does not want to find himself on. In case you missed the pattern, that is a group of USC Wide Receiver busts.
Just like the late, great Rodney Dangerfield, JuJu Smith-Schuster wasted no time making a splash on campus.
In his freshman season (2014), with future Browns legend Cody Kessler under center, JuJu amassed 54 catches for 724 yards and found the end zone 5 times, good enough for 2nd Team All-Pac-12 honors.
His sophomore year, JuJu, once again with the most recent Savior of Cleveland by his side, shined as he put up a very sexy 89–1454–10 line (1st Team All-Pac-12 / 2nd Team All-American).
JuJu was on his own in 2016 as his wingman was fortunate enough to be drafted by Cleveland. Much like his pal Cody’s brain did last season, Smith-Schuster’s stat line took a hit as he posted 70–914–10 in his third and final campaign.
Injuries have plagued JuJu throughout his playing career, but not 1st Born Son or River of Blood stuff, this plague is more like the lesser known Squirrels in the Attic. While injuries (broken hand in 2015; back injury in 2016) may have limited his performance a bit, JuJu battled through to not miss any time. I see no reason to consider him “injury-prone.”
All-in-all, Schuster-Smith fulfilled expectations when he was recruited as a top-3 WR out of high-school. His success in USC’s pro-style offense should make him a fairly easy player to project, but the same could be said for those other Trojan WRs.
Great Name —
Size and Physicality —
6'1 / 215 lbs with 10.5 inch hands. Physically, JuJu is the same size as Anquan Boldin (Boldin measures in at 6'1 / 220), but it’s his aggressive play which has drawn comparison to Boldin.
While JuJu’s strength is great for tossing pesky cornerbacks, it is also a weapon when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. His big frame and long arms help him create space and win contested receptions.
Ball Skills and Body Control—
You know what they say about men with big hands — they can catch footballs. JuJu is no exception, making catches like this on the regular.
Schuster-Smith doesn’t just rely on being physical to win — he’s smart. He has a habit of coming back to the ball or settling into pockets in the defense — always friends of the QB. JuJu knows how to work the sideline and makes a habit of coming down with good-in-the-NFL catches.
Speed & Acceleration—
It’s a good thing winning contested catches is a strength, because speed and acceleration are not. JuJu is not a threat to beat CBs off the line and, once he gets moving, is not a threat to run past them — his 4.54 40-time is nothing to write home about. The fact that scouts were “pleasantly surprised” he broke 4.6 is very telling.
While JuJu can use his body to shield defenders and create space, he is rarely able to gain any type of separation. While his speed is certainly a factor in this, his less-than-stellar ability to fool CBs through route running plays a role. Throw in the fact that CBs don’t fear his deep ball, and Smith-Schuster is susceptible to having his routes jumped by a capable defender.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is projected as a 2nd round pick in the upcoming draft. Experts typically have him ranked in the 5–10 range among WRs, and we at FFCircus like him on the stronger end of that range. While his speed and lack of acceleration will make it even tougher to get open in the much faster NFL, his size and strength should hold up.
JuJu will be best served as a possession receiver in a west coast offense. His fearless play style will allow him to thrive over the middle and tag on some tough YAC once he has the ball in his hands. His size and strength will serve him well in the endzone and as a reliable option to move the chains.
Check back next week as we dive into a couple of the Top Prospect Running Backs. And of course, our Post Draft Special will be released on Monday following the Draft — we will try and make sense of where these rooks land and if they will be fantasy relevant.
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