Scouting Profile: Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster
JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
Weight: 215 lbs.
Arms: 32 7/8”
Hands: 10 1/2”
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds
Something you should never expect to say when watching an NFL prospect’s college tape, is that it was frustrating, especially when it’s a player with the skill-set of Smith-Schuster. He’s a natural talent without a doubt, but he makes so many mental errors and doesn’t seem have the approach needed to survive at the NFL level. Before completely writing him off, you must know that he’s just 20 years old and won’t turn 21 until the end of November.
He’s one of the few players that I went back into 2015 tape in order to see growth and I’m glad I did, because he grew a lot in the one year. His sophomore season in 2015 was filled with laziness, as you could tell whether or not a run play was called with the way he stood at the line of scrimmage. Once the ball was snapped, he would just hop towards his blocking assignment, often missing him. In his 2016 tape, he was a much better blocker, though not great.
So why was he so frustrating to watch? Why not just move on to the next guy, right? Because he is extremely talented and has the skills to be a playmaker in the NFL. His route running needs some refining, as he seems to “round” out his routes, rather than “cut” on them. This should come as an easy fix, because he doesn’t have particularly long strides. But there are some things that you just can’t teach, like how to read a defense and where to sit down in your route, and Smith-Schuster has it. He also has the ability to track the deep ball, knowing when to stop in his route, without giving up the ball’s location to the defensive back.
He often has a defender very close in his vicinity due to his lack of cuts in his routes, but when the ball comes, he shows promise. He can thank his 10 1/2 inch hands for that, as they were the second largest set of hands for a wide receiver measured at the NFL Combine. With the ball in his hands, he’ll make you earn it, as he is not an easy tackle. This is good for his ability to play out of the slot, which he did with USC, though he’s primarily a perimeter wide receiver.
When you draft a wide receiver in the first few rounds, you almost expect them to have that “alpha dog” attitude, and Smith-Schuster doesn’t disappoint. There were a few times where you could see him visually upset with the sideline, as well as a few times he received penalties for getting tangled with a defensive back. Having competitiveness is one thing, but showing your frustration on the field is something that needs to be fixed immediately.
Potential landing spot
I’d love to see Smith-Schuster wind up with a coach who is young (to relate), but strict at the same time in order to mold him into what could be a difference maker in the NFL. Because of that, the 49ers seem like the perfect fit for him. Kyle Shanahan is in place for a long time and that’ll offer some consistency to Smith-Schuster, which is likely what is needed in order for him to progress.
This is going to come off as odd considering how frustrating he was, but he reminds me of Odell Beckham Jr. in a lot of ways. Coming out of college, Beckham was said to lack elite top-end speed and that his routes could use some polishing. Both of them were extremely young coming out of college and have some growing up to do. They wear their emotions on their sleeves, but you’ll accept that if they destroy the competition. Smith-Schuster has the talent, but we’ve seen talent go to waste in this league before. If a team wants a high-upside prospect, he’s it.
To read up on some of the other high-profile NFL Draft prospects, check out the links below: