The 2017 NFL Draft will be held on April 27 through April 29 in Philadelphia, PA and one of the most talented players in this year’s draft is USC Trojans WR Juju Smith-Schuster. After a fantastic collegiate career with USC Trojans football, JuJu Smith-Schuster is one of the more exciting prospects headed to the NFL this year. Excitement and hype however do not necessarily correlate to being selected early. Therefore in this article we are going to look at the nuts and bolts of who Juju Smith-Schuster compares to in the NFL, a quick scouting report and break down where he could fit into the league.
Quick Scouting report:
Smith recorded 3,092 yards off of 213 receptions with 25 touchdowns. At 6’2” and 220 pounds, he is what NFL teams and general mangers look for in a psychical, big, X outside receiver. He is great at playing the ball in the air and has 4.52 40 yard dash speed.
Who does Juju Smith-Schuster compare to in the NFL?
Juju Smith-Schuster has excellent size and impressive physicality as a wide receiver. A similar big, physical, WR in the NFL is the ageless Anquan Boldin. Both are physical receivers that can win 50/50 jump balls while at the same time using their physicality to set the edge on the outside to help the rushing attack. Boldin, much like Juju, possesses superb route running abilities.
Why does route running matter that much? . . .
If an X receiver can run multiple routes, as opposed to just verticals and post routes, it not only opens up the playbook but also allows the receiver to be moved around the formation. From the slot to the other side of the field to bunch formations. Smith can do this just like Boldin and have a great career. In other words a receiver like Juju is valuable in multiple offensive situations making him more attractive to teams in the Draft.
In real terms what does this mean for his draft stock? . . .
Certainly it should increase it. If an NFL team needs a wide receiver that they can line up anywhere, move around, and give their quarterback more options on offense which is what many if not most teams want in a WR then a guy who is just really fast is not going to be sought after by that team because he will limited to passing situations where speed is the the most import. For example speed is not nearly as useful when the team is deep in the red zone as compared to a big physical wide receiver that can run a tight route and use his physicality to catch passes in traffic.
Where He Lands And Who Needs Him:
There are always teams in the market for a great receiver, but there are particular teams that badly need Smith’s talents. The New York Jets have an aging Brandon Marshall with Eric Decker coming off injury and Devin Smith not developing as a young star, they need a boost at the spot.
The Cincinnati Bengals offense was dismal, particularly in the red zone, when Tyler Eifert was out. NFL rosters are capped and much smaller than a college roster which means losing even just one player can create a depth problem. Most football coaches will also tell you that if you get into the red zone and don’t get touchdowns you will struggle to win games.
The Buffalo Bills have very little outside of an injury prone Sammy Watkins. The Detroit Lions could use another receiving option and Smith matched with Mavin Jones and Eric Ebron would be a great match with Matthew Stafford at the helm.
Best fit for Juju?
While the above teams would all be good landing spots for Juju Smith-Schuster there are two fantastic landing spots in particular for the USC WR.
First: The Baltimore Ravens. Steve Smith Sr. has retired and Smith could be the second or third man behind Breshad Perriman and Kamar Aiken. Not only will he not be pressured to do too much too early. The Ravens backbone is also traditionally with the defense and running game, which would give Smith time to develop into a pro receiver.
Second: The Tennessee Titans would be the other great landing spot for Smith. A great running game with a solid quarterback and a need at the wide receiver position. Now that Andre Johnson has retired and the Titans top WR Rishard Matthews is not exactly overwhelming anyone statistically has left a need at the position.
The Titans were a 9-7 team in 2016 on the precipice of the NFL playoffs. Running back DeMarco Murray has the rushing attack firing on all cylinders and middle of the pack defense in terms of average points allowed per game. The team also has a young and talented QB in Marcus Mariota they are still trying to develop and adding an outstanding receiving threat could be just what Mariota and the Titans need to take it to the next level.
One important thing to keep in mind:
As the 2017 NFL Draft approaches so many things can change. The NFL combine is still about a week away so Juju’s performance in the drills, and all of the teams he meets with may change how teams feel about him. Also teams priorities shift the more they scout players both in the draft and already on their team as well as the addition of new coaches on the staff.
Trades and other transactions can have an impact too. Plus there is always a wildcard or two that you simply cannot predict. Also the deliberate leaking of inaccurate information ahead of the Draft in the form of “anonymous sources” also throws predictions off kilter.
In other words, as you binge on the near endless supply of mock drafts and other scouting information between now and April 27 keep in mind that what seems like a brilliant and highly accurate analysis in February may end up looking ridiculous by April.
One thing is certainly clear, Juju Smith-Schuster will get his shot in the NFL, and he will likely impress once he gets there.