WR JuJu Smith-Schuster | Pittsburgh Steelers | 2nd Year
2017 Stats: 58 rec., 917 yards, 7 TD
It was a tale of two halves for JuJu Smith-Schuster during his rookie season. Over his first seven games, he had 17 receptions (on 26 targets) for 231 yards and three touchdowns. That translates to 2.4 catches, 3.7 targets and 33 yards per game. Then over his final seven games, from Week 8 on, he had 41 catches (on 53 targets) for 686 yards-or 5.9 catches, 7.6 targets and 98 yards per game.
Over the final three games of the season, which Antonio Brown missed all or most of as he dealt with a calf issue, Smith-Schuster had 21 receptions (23 targets) for 332 yards and two touchdowns. When Martavis Bryant was suspended for Week 8 against the Detroit Lions, Smith-Schuster had seven receptions for 193 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. Bryant was traded to the Oakland Raiders this offseason, and he’s taking his 84 targets from last year (third on the team) with him.
A knee issue limited Smith-Schuster to individual drills during minicamp, which opened the door for James Washington to get work with the first-team offense. But the rookie out of Oklahoma State is not a serious threat to Smith-Schuster’s place as Pittsburgh’s No. 2 wide receiver, and he’s expected to be fine for the start of training camp.
Smith-Schuster is a virtual lock to top 100 targets this year, which is an important benchmark. With a h/t to Dave Richard of CBS Sports.com, 92.5 percent of the top-24 fantasy wide receivers over the last five seasons had at least 100 targets. Widen that out to 120, and 73.3 percent of the top-24 fantasy wide receivers had at least that many targets. My projection has Smith-Schuster on the higher end of that 100-120 scale.
Smith-Schuster is smack-dab in WR2 territory, and mock drafts (12-team) are reflecting that regardless of scoring format (WR17, pick 4.07-standard and WR18, pick 4.06-PPR; Fantasy Football Calculator). There’s some touchdown dependency ingrained based on last year and being the third wheel in the Steelers’ passing game, but his overall skill set makes a bump in production all but certain and brings double-digit touchdowns into the realm of possibility.