The 2017 NFL Draft is being regarded as a deep draft class at plenty of positions, and wide receiver is one of them. Many argue that you can find a solid player, whether it be a Day 1 starter or a future dependable guy, across the draft. The group is headlined by a big three: college superstar Mike Williams, do-it-all Corey Davis, and speedster John Ross III. There are plenty of other names to be included, while there are others who are rarely mentioned. Count JuJu Smith-Schuster as a member of those forgotten ones.
After three strong seasons playing with average quarterbacks in Cody Kessler, Max Browne, and Sam Darnold, it is time for Smith-Schuster to move on to the NFL. His three seasons (40 games total) included a career statline of 213 catches, 3,092 yards (14.5 yards/reception), and 25 touchdowns. That’s 70 more catches than Odell Beckham Jr., 613 more yards than Allen Robinson, and 7 more touchdowns than Michael Thomas. All of these players played three seasons in college with similar quarterback talent, and all of them have become #1 receivers on their teams. Here’s how Smith-Schuster stacks up against his competition in combine numbers.
While this doesn’t mean everything, and many systems can be designed around certain players, it is impressive that Smith-Schuster had a better college career than most of these players, even though at times he had lesser talent around him. The knocks for Smith-Schuster, according to CBS, is that he cannot separate from cornerbacks well, and will need to work on refinement of his routes. This is one of the most common weaknesses in the game of many receivers coming from the college game to the NFL. It is very likely that this issue is fixed. His physical ability shows, especially when it comes to contested catches and having to block in the run game. He ran faster than everyone on this last except for Beckham, Jr., who is two inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. All signs point to him being a good NFL receiver, and reaching that level quickly with the right quarterback and offense with him.
In a league that is increasingly looking to pass the ball upwards of 35 times a game, strong receivers are necessary up and down the depth chart, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, listed as the 9th best receiver in this draft class, deserves a much higher spot than he is being given. Virtually every facet of his game is refined, and he will be able to compete early on in his NFL career for starting snaps. He will likely end up being drafted in a similar position as Allen Robinson was, and have a similar career trajectory where he will be a top receiver for his team soon after he starts. After the “Big Three” of this year’s receivers, Smith-Schuster should be right behind them, and deserves to be a top-50 pick when the draft rolls around.