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2017 NFL Draft Prospect: Juju Smith Schuster

Since is freshman season, Juju Smith-Schuster has been considered one of the top players in this class. While he had a bit of a down season this year, he was still the leading receiver for a top ten USC team. He’ll have an opportunity to face off against a Penn State team that boasts a strong defense led by a talented secondary with NFL caliber players. With a strong performance in this game, Smith-Schuster can make a statement to NFL teams that he truly is one of the best receivers in this class.

Production at a Young Age

One of the reason that Smith-Schuster has been considered one of the top players in his class for so long is because of how young he is. According to Dynasty League Football’s Devy Age Tables, he’s the youngest draft eligible player at just 20.1 years old. This means that he played most of his freshman season at just 17 years old. Here’s the list of players who have entered the NFL at 20.5 years old or less, and also were selected within the first two rounds:

  • Josh Gordon
  • Mike Williams (USC)
  • Brandin Cooks
  • Kenny Britt
  • Sidney Rice
  • Dwayne Jarrett
  • Allen Robinson
  • Mike Evans
  • Donte Moncrief
  • Randall Cobb
  • Amari Cooper
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Laquon Treadwell

With the exception of Treadwell, Jarrett, and Williams, all of these players have had great success in the NFL. However, every player on this list besides Gordon and Moncrief had a final season market of yards better than Schuster. Here’s how he fared:

YearMS YdsMS TDDRYPR
2016.25.32.2912.4
2015.39.33.3616.3
2014.19.13.1613.4

His sophomore year was outstanding considering his age, but his other two seasons weren’t spectacular.

Athleticism

Coming out of high school, Smith-Schuster was listed as an Athlete and not a wide receiver. However, he’s far from an elite athlete:

  • 4.71 forty yard dash
  • 4.27 20 yard short shuttle
  • 32.7 inch vertical jump
  • 94.35 SPARQ Score

Clearly, these numbers don’t help him in any way. His Height Adjusted Speed Score of 90 would place him in the 30th percentile of wide receivers, his short shuttle in the 37th percentile, and his vertical jump in the 17th percentile. For a player who has prototypical size at 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds, he lacks the requisite athleticism to be an elite receiver at the next level. Another player with the same combination of hype, youth, production, size, and athleticism (or lack thereof) is Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell. Here’s how the two compare:

NameAgeMS YdsMS TDDRHeight (Inches)WeightForty20 Yard Short ShuttleVertical
Juju Smith-Schuster20.1.25.32.29742204.714.2732.7
Laquon Treadwell20.5.27.31.29742214.634.2933.5

The two are nearly identical prospects. This doesn’t bode well for Smith-Schuster, as Treadwell has barely been able to get on the field for a Vikings team that can use some help in the passing game. Hopefully he’s improved on his numbers from high school, but even with great improvement his numbers would only be average.

Overall

Right now, it’s not clear if Juju will declare or not. He’s mentioned coming back if star corner Adoree’ Jackson returns, in hopes of leading the Trojans to a national championship. I think he should return to school, and with a big season next year his outlook as a prospect would be much brighter than it is right now. Currently, I don’t think the hype is warranted. He’s a below average athlete with average production, yet he’s getting first round hype in both rookie drafts and the reality one. I wouldn’t take him before the third round in the NFL draft, and that would cause his value to significantly drop in rookie drafts.

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