Dynasty Player Profile: JuJu Smith-Schuster (2022 Fantasy Football)
JuJu Smith-Schuster was drafted in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 at age 20.
Despite starting the season buried on the depth chart, the USC product broke out his rookie year, catching 58 passes for 917 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
Expectations were high for Smith-Schuster after his first-year WR22 finish, and he delivered big-time. The Steelers’ inside receiver finished fifth with 1,426 receiving yards and fourth with 166 targets. The year two production awarded Smith-Schuster a WR9 finish, just five spots behind teammate Antonio Brown.
After two stellar seasons entering his 23-year-old season, Smith-Schuster was the no-doubt WR1 in across dynasty formats. And he looked to be on an even higher upward trajectory when the Steelers moved on from Brown – setting the stage for Smith-Schuster to rise to WR1 alpha status.
After all, Smith-Schuster’s 494.6 PPR fantasy points through the first two years of his career ranked seventh all-time behind the elites like Odell Beckham Jr., Randy Moss, A.J. Green, Michael Thomas, Marques Colston, and Jerry Rice.
But alas, dynasty owners are still waiting for that to happen. The 2019 season was an utter wash, with Ben Roethlisberger lost for the season due to injury. Smith-Schuster also got hurt and set career lows across the board as a result.
The 2020 season was Smith-Schuster’s chance for a massive bounce back, but he delivered middling results despite high-end usage. He caught a career-high nine touchdowns and finished 15th in targets, but ended the season as the WR17.
He also was out-produced by two of his less experienced teammates, Diontae Johnson and rookie Chase Claypool. Johnson had more receiving yards and targets, while Claypool was more efficient on a per-target basis.
The 2021 season brought more disappointment for Smith-Schuster managers, as the Steelers wideout returned to a poor Steelers passing offense and battled through injuries that limited him to five games.
It always seemed more probable than not that JuJu Smith-Schuster would find his way to Kansas City through free agency. The Chiefs were interested in him last season, and the landing spot is perfect for reviving Smith-Schuster’s dynasty stock. As previously noted, he’s just one year removed from a WR17 finish in PPR between two injury-plagued seasons.
Still, at just 25 years old, 2022 represents a return-to-form opportunity for Smith-Schuster with Patrick Mahomes as his new quarterback.
He can operate from his natural position in the slot and benefit from playing with an elite quarterback with other solid weapons in the offense. After all, Smith-Schuster was at his best as a Pittsburgh Steeler during his first two seasons, playing opposite Antonio Brown.
General Prediction for 2022 and Rest of Career
2022 represents a critical year for Smith-Schuster as he cannot afford another misstep with the golden opportunity at hand. The Chiefs have the most vacated targets from last season and an entirely revamped group of pass-catchers, including ex-Green Bay Packer Marquez Valdes-Scantling and 2022 second-round pick Skyy Moore.
He only signed a one-year deal, so it’s crucial that he produces, or else we could see his dynasty stock plummet by the next free agency period.
If Smith-Schuster stays healthy, he should be able to post solid fantasy WR2 numbers in this high-powered offense. However, be aware that he has been almost used exclusively from the slot throughout Smith-Schuster’s career and he’s never been “the guy” in an NFL offense.
With five years of NFL experience in the bank, I wouldn’t anticipate Smith-Schuster’s profile as a No. 2 receiver to change for the remainder of his career. That’s not a death sentence for fantasy as we see No. 2 fantasy WRs have productive seasons when attached to high-powered offenses.
That’s the case here with Smith-Schuster in 2022 and would be my expectation for him this upcoming season. But chances are his numbers after this year will be naturally inflated, so he is someone I’d look to cash out on either mid-season or right after the season concludes.
But if I was savvy enough to trade for Smith-Schuster before he landed in Kansas City, I am not moving him unless someone else is willing to overpay with a player that has a fantasy WR1 profile.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – that allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.