This senior wide receiver from the University of Southern California is one of the more complete receivers in this year’s draft. He finished his career with 213 receptions for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns. In 2016, his 919 receiving yards on 428 passing snaps breaks down to about 2.15 yards per route run (Pro Football Focus-PFF). He has always been a very reliable target, and in 2016 he only dropped four catchable passes out of 74.
He possesses average size for a wide receiver, standing 6’1″ and weighing 215 pounds, but displays enough speed (4.54 forty yard dash) to be solid at the next level. Here are some of his strengths and weaknesses:
He is a captain, a leader, and one of the most competitive players in this entire draft. He is not afraid of contact. In fact, he relishes it.
He is an effective and willing blocker. He displays the ability to block in the box or in the screen game.
— NFL Draft GIFs (@NFLDraftGIFs) February 19, 2017
His competitiveness and physicality are through the roof.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Scouting Report
— 2017 NFL Draft (@DraftRT) September 10, 2016
He possesses the size and play strength to separate at the top of routes against man coverage.
Here, he is matched up against CB Sydney Jones, one of the most physically gifted corners in this draft. Smith-Schuster separates and finds the secondary window for his QB.
Hand usage: very good at utilizing his hands to separate.
A hand swat early in the route and a subtle push off at the end (watch it in slow motion by clicking -).
Continuously fights to find an edge.
Able to find zone windows.
Very QB friendly target — always works back to the ball, and able to uncover or find small windows for his QB late in reads.
Look at how he recognizes that his QB goes into scramble mode. He slides just to the left of the defender to give the QB a throwing lane.
Wasted footwork — tends to waste precious time and footwork during his release. He has a tendency to take a step backward with his lead foot. (Click – to watch in slow motion)
Hands — he does not appear to be a ‘hands catcher’. He often appeared to ‘fight’ the ball. He only dropped five passes all of last season, but showed a tendency to let the ball get to his body.
He lacks the top-flight speed to separate — does not have the straight line speed that receivers often rely on to gain the upper hand down the field.
Contested catches — he didn’t display the same competitive drive during 50/50 or contested balls. In 2016, Smith-Schuster had 22 contested passes thrown his way, of which he was able to bring in just four.
Potential Bills Fit:
I think Smith-Schuster is the exact kind of receiver that is needed in the Bills’ offense to complement Sammy Watkins. He is certainly a physical wide receiver, and he uses that physicality in both the run and pass game. He displays the desire to punish defenders in the run game and uses his type A personality to win in the short to intermediate area. Smith-Schuster is smart enough to win by diagnosing coverages and sitting in windows, but he can also use his strength and hands to separate versus man. That kind of balance is a good set of traits to have in a number two receiver.
He possesses average speed, so he will not run by defenders often on Sundays, especially if the corner plays off coverage. He also displays average explosiveness and route running skills, so it would be hard to count on him to win by those means. His inability to bring in 50/50 balls was kind of surprising, given the fact that he is as competitive as they come. Overall, I do believe that he can be a starting #2 WR in the NFL. I think he would be a solid role player who can work through traffic with his play strength on crossing routes, as well as find passing windows for Tyrod Taylor in Rick Dennison’s naked bootleg system.
Overall Grade 81.667-2nd round
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