Given the way that the offseason has evolved in the AFC North, with the Pittsburgh Steelers removing Antonio Brown on the roster, thus shifting JuJu Smith-Schuster into the top receiver role, and the Cleveland Browns acquiring Odell Beckham, Jr. from the New York Giants, it’s understandable that a lot of the focus is being paid on Smith-Schuster and Beckham.
That was the subject of conversation on the GMFB show a couple of mornings ago, with Nate Burleson and Pete Schrager debating on which of them would have a better season in 2019, Smith-Schuster playing with Ben Roethlisberger, and Beckham now moving to second-year Baker Mayfield. Both of them ultimately agreed that Smith-Schuster would put up better statistics.
— NFL (@NFL) April 5, 2019
“If you’re looking pure numbers, JuJu will have more numbers, because he’s a true number one”, in that offense, as the Browns also have Jarvis Landry, he said. “He’s a true number one, and Big Ben—you heard him on the radio last year talking about ‘I wish I would have thrown it to JuJu four times’—obviously he’s partial to throwing the rock to JuJu”.
“Baker Mayfield will spread that rock around” in contrast, he added. “As we saw with Big Ben and Antonio Brown over the course of their relationship, when Big Ben focuses on feeding one guy the ball, that one dude is gonna get the rock. I think Baker Mayfield is gonna have a little more discernment, and there’s gonna be balance on that offense”.
Last season, 122 of Mayfield’s 493 pass attempts went to Landry, or a little under 25 percent. Roethlisberger targeted both Smith-Schuster and Brown almost equally, a bit over 24 percent of the time, 163 and 165 targets, respectively, of a whopping 680.
“I think JuJu Smith-Schuster’s awesome. I think JuJu Smith-Schuster could be one of the best in the league this year”, Schrager said, “and I would say to your point with the discernment and the fact that they don’t share the ball—what if Antonio Brown wasn’t on the field last year? Does JuJu break every record of the season? Is he the leading receiver of the league?”.
“Ben obviously trusts him. And I think JuJu going into year three—he had better statistical numbers than Odell Beckham had the last two years”, he added. “Yeah, Odell was hurt. Yeah, there were some things with Odell. I think JuJu’s just scratching the surface, and one of the reasons they were okay with trading Antonio Brown is because of how good that dude is. I think JuJu takes a huge leap this year, I think Ben is gonna play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder, and I think those two guys are gonna have a monster season, a better one than Baker and Odell do”.
What do you think? Will Smith-Schuster put up better numbers as the number one receiver, without Brown, than Beckham moving into a new offense? Let’s assume both of them are fully healthy.