NFL Draft

2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: USC WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#9 JuJu Smith-Schuster / WR / Southern California: 6’1”, 215lbs

The Good:

– Great Deep threat who can consistently separate from corners on vertical routes
– Tracks the ball well in the air and is reliable on over-the-shoulder catches
– Experienced against press coverage and able to get a clean release
– Makes contested catches on deeper routes
– Good Red Zone Target
– Shows fantastic effort: Works to get open and blocks downfield

The Bad:

– Needs to improve strength: He was sometimes pushed around when blocking and was susceptible to being rerouted by linebackers or corners
– Ran a simple route tree and did not demonstrate anything exceptional in his patterns
– Struggles to break tackles
– Needs to become more deceptive in his route-running: rarely stems his routes on short/mid patterns and does not use convincing head/body fakes

Bio:

– Career Stats: 40 career games, 213 receptions, 3,092 yards (14.5 avg.), 25 TDs
– Combine: 4.54s 40-yard dash, 15 reps on Bench Press, 32.5 inch vertical jump, 10 foot broad jump
– 2016: All-Pac 12 Second Team Offense
– 2015: USC’s Offensive Perimeter Player of the Year Award, First Team All-Pac-12 (AP and Phil Steele), 2015 Second Team All-American (AP, Football Writers, Sporting News, SI.com and Phil Steele)
– He made the 2014 All-Pac-12 Second Team (as an all-purpose/special teams player), as well as Sporting News Freshman All-American first team and CollegeFootballNews.com Freshman All-American honorable mention. He also won USC’s John McKay Award (competitive spirit)

Film Breakdown:

There’s not a ton to say about JuJu Smith-Schuster’s game. He’s a genuine deep threat who can consistently beat press-man coverage; he is a quality red zone target with good jumping ability; and he is a guy who works hard and gives maximum effort on each play. He will need to improve his strength, as well as his overall versatility in order to be a truly dynamic receiver in the NFL; however, he presently has a skillset that will allow him to be a contributer on Sundays.

This first clip against Wisconsin illustrates Smith-Schuster’s ability to get a clean release, separate from man-coverage, and finish plays with spectacular receptions. Specifically, he uses his footwork to get the corner to (slightly) turn his shoulder’s inside and he creates separation by knocking down the defender’s hands at the beginning of the route. Also, notice how Smith-Schuster saves space on the outside, which prevents the defender from recovering and gives his QB a clean area to make the throw:

Next, Smith-Schuster uses a crisp double-move to get open against UCLA. The move itself isn’t anything extraordinary; however, he does a good job of accelerating past the defender and avoiding contact out of his break. Probably the best part of this clip is the way he tracks the ball in the air and how he is aware of the sideline, attributes he repeatedly demonstrated on film:

One of the very first things that I noticed about Smith-Schuster was how he never gave up on a play. Whether it was by running man-coverage corners downfield on run plays, trying his best to block, or working to get open on QB scrambles, he seemed to always give full-effort on every down. For example, in this play against Wisconsin, Smith-Schuster works all the way across the field on a dig route, navigating through multiple passing windows, before his QB rewards him with a reception on the opposite sideline. NFL coaches will certainly appreciate this type of work ethic:

On the negative side, Smith-Schuster could benefit from some extra time in the weight room. Specifically, he was susceptible to being rerouted on crossing routes and sometimes struggled to make contested catches in the short game after being bumped/pushed by aggressive corners. Moreover, although he showed decent technique and effort, he was often an ineffective blocker because he simply lacked the requisite strength to move defenders. This play against Arizona is just one example where Smith-Schuster’s lack of physicality leads to a negative result:

Overall, Smith-Schuster is a solid deep-threat receiver who can contribute to a team that needs help on the outside. He was very reliable on verticals down the sidelines and showed a consistent ability to beat press coverage. Although he could benefit from improving his strength and route-running versatility, he nevertheless has the potential to contribute on an NFL roster because of his knack for hauling in deep passes.

Projection: Early Day 3

Games Watched: at Washington (2016), at Arizona (2016), vs Penn State (2016), vs UCLA (2015), at Cal (2015), vs Wisconsin (2015)

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun Watson Haason Reddick Marshon Lattimore Corey Clement Tim Williams
Jourdan Lewis Takkarist McKinley Brad Kaaya Nathan Peterman O.J. Howard
Charles Harris Alvin Kamara Tyus Bowser David Njoku DeMarcus Walker
Chidobe Awuzie DeShone Kizer Marlon Mack Cameron Sutton Zach Cunningham
Corey Davis Carl Lawson Patrick Mahomes Kareem Hunt Evan Engram
Derek Rivers Ryan Anderson Joshua Dobbs Jordan Leggett Samaje Perine
Corn Elder Bucky Hodges James Conner Cooper Kupp Stanley Williams
Fred Ross Jamaal Williams George Kittle Ejuan Price Chris Wormley
Jeremy McNichols Joe Mathis Derek Barnett Amba Etta-Tawo Gareon Conley
Taco Charlton  Elijah McGuire Ryan Switzer Tanoh Kpassagnon Tre’Davious White
Brian Hill Matthew Dayes Donnel Pumphrey Josh Reynolds Nazair Jones
De’Veon Smith Davis Webb Obi Melifonwu TJ Watt John Ross
Jerod Evans Vince Biegel Josh Carraway Josh Malone Kevin King
Fadol Brown Chris Godwin Nate Gerry Jordan Willis Stacy Coley
Zay Jones Jimmie Gilbert Glen Antoine Tarell Basham Duke Riley
Rayshawn Jenkins Chad Kelly Trey Hendrickson Jeremy Sprinkle Joe Williams
D’Onta Foreman Carlos Watkins Damontae Kaze Wayne Gallman Willie Quinn
Xavier Woods Elijah Hood Malik McDowell Desmond King Solomon Thomas
Cordrea Tankersley Raekwon McMillan Josh Harvey-Clemons Christian McCaffrey Chris Carson
Montravius Adams Aaron Jones Mack Hollins Deatrich Wise Jr Adoree’ Jackson
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