It’s hard to be mad about anything that happened in JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rookie season. The almost immediate impact. The high level of production. And unless you’re yelling at kids to get off your lawn, the celebrations, the laid-back attitude was refreshing to see too.
If you’re Pittsburgh, or at least, if you’re managing the Steelers cap (looking at you, Omar Khan), what you like above all that is that it was done for cheap. The benefits of a rookie contract in this new CBA. And the numbers bear that out. Over at Football Perspective, they broke down the value of all the receivers in the league last year, balancing their production with amount of money made. Smith-Schuster came in as as the 7th best value, earning a score of 1.68.
For comparison, at the top was the New Orleans Saints wideout Michael Thomas, who scored a 2.58. He was one of only three players to score above two, which is to say JuJu’s mark should be considered impressive. Thomas, like Smith-Schuster, is playing on his rookie contract.
As a rookie, the Steelers second round pick caught 58 passes for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns, one of the most impressive rookie seasons in the history of the franchise. All for a guy who didn’t get the nod immediately and battled through training camp injuries that would’ve doomed other players.
If you’re wondering, Antonio Brown ranked as the 36th out of 89 receivers, partly due to his contract, partly due to the fact he missed two games, which I believe still hurt him in the site’s findings. Still, of the 14 receivers making more than $10 million per season, he was the only one to score positively, more proof of how ridiculous a player he is. Martavis Bryant came in at a respectable 26th place.
By far, the worst value of anyone in the league was Tavon Austin and his insane $15 million cap charge. He scored a -3.99. Dez Bryant and ex-Steeler Markus Wheaton finished second and third worst, the latter catching only three passes in 2017. Austin was nearly released and ultimately took a paycut while the Bears quickly dumped Wheaton, who is still a free agent.
With a year under his belt at a position that’s normally tough to adjust too, Smith-Schuster should provide Pittsburgh even more value in 2018.