Name: JuJu Smith-Schuster
Position fit: Outside WR
Stats to know: Averaged 3.40 yards per route run in 2015, sixth-best among receivers with at least 100 targets.
What he does best:
- Strong, physical receiver who likes to use his size to his advantage.
- Better than expected in open field, great vision for finding open space and good feel for the location of closest defender.
- Very hard to bring down at times, smaller defenders bounce off him and he keeps his legs moving, fights for extra yards.
- Catches with his hands, and those hands are very strong. Can caught ball fully extended and hold on even after instantaneous hit.
- Can make some ridiculous-looking catches.
- Ability to beat press coverage off the line with multiple moves, using both hands and quickness.
- Able to read ball in the air well and adjust his route as he needs to. Has shown the ability to go up and get 50/50 jump balls, though it’s inconsistent.
- Separates well on curls/comebacks.
- Good feel for getting open against zone coverage.
- Doesn’t have top-end speed. Almost never separates completely against corners because of this.
- Loses at the catch point too often. Sprinkles in spectacular catches, but would not consider “contested catches” to be a strength.
- While his hands are strong, has had some concentration drops at times. Dropped 15 passes on 228 catchable target the last three years.
- Almost needs underthrown deep balls that he can high-point. Doesn’t do well trying to catch ball on the run, over-the-shoulder.
- Can get bodied more than he should, has let smaller defenders throw him off his route and push him around.
- Doesn’t have the sharpest cuts on certain breaking routes (thought markedly improved in 2016 from 2015).
Player comparison: Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers
Garcon has carved out a niche for himself as a No. 2 receiver, and that appears to be Smith-Schuster’s role at the next level. He’s talented, but his game leaves you wanting more, whether it be separating more consistently or making more downfield catches against tight coverage. Smith-Schuster has good feel after the catch and he can get open against zone coverage, making him a good fit as a No. 2 option.
Bottom line: Smith-Schuster is a solid outside receiver with the potential to contribute right out of the gate in the NFL. Concerns about the drop in production from 2015 to 2016 are mostly overblown (new quarterback, fewer targets) as he didn’t look any worse on tape and actually showed slight improvement in route running from year-to-year. He still needs to be more consistent at the catch point, and can’t let smaller defenders throw him off his route. His lack of separation ability may present a problem against stronger, faster NFL players. But If he can be more efficient with his cuts and routes to make up for that, he could develop into a solid outside receiver.