When people see the scarlet and gold helmet on a wide receiver, I am positive a lot of them will cringe at the idea of another USC wideout coming into the NFL. After all, USC receivers are a bunch of unmitigated failures. For examples, take guys like Robert Woods who led his team in receiving this year or Marqise Lee who put up 850 yards with one of the worst quarterbacks in the league throwing him the ball. Oh, wait, that does not fit the narrative.
Of course there are guys like Dwayne Jarrett, Mike Williams and Nelson Agholor to scare people away from Trojan wideouts, but that hesitance ignores two logical things.
One, it ignores that Agholor's future was likely derailed by snowballing confidence and Mike Williams would have had a fine career if not for some off field issues. Second, USC is one of the premier programs in the country and naturally they will produce boatloads of NFL prospects. Penalizing JuJu Smith-Schuster for Nelson Agholor would be like penalizing Ezekiel Elliott for Beanie Wells, Jameis Winston for EJ Manuel and Christian Ponder, Reuben Foster for Rolando McClain, Derek Carr for David Carr.... The list goes on and on for these ridiculous correlations based on a players' helmet.
Just. Scout. The Player.
Now, onto the important stuff.
That's JuJu Smith-Schuster, Iverson stepping over your bad narratives.
JuJu Smith was a making plays as soon as he showed up at USC, which is pretty impressive given that he played most of his freshman season at 17 years old. The first game of JuJu Smith's USC career came two months before his 18th birthday and he posted over 120 yards on only four catches. Not bad! That is something that is especially interesting about Smith is how young of a prospect he is. He will not be 21 until three quarters of the way through his rookie year. This type of youth suggests there is a lot of physical room for Smith to improve, which is pretty great considering how good of a player he is right now.
What stands out about Smith immediately is his build. At 6-2, 225 pounds, Smith-Schuster looks more like a big running back than a wide receiver. He has a thick, muscular build with long arms and big hands. He is an impressive specimen and his build would suggest he is a tough, physical player.
Well that assumption would be correct. Here is Smith bench pressing a (very good) cornerback at the line and then dragging him a few yards after the catch. Smith is an incredibly strong player and trying to press him or generally play physical football with him will usually result in a win for him.
As some will remember, I actually criticized Mike Williams for playing this way. The difference between Smith and Williams in this regard is that Williams' entire game is based on him being bigger and stronger than his opponent. Smith has the ability to play this tough brand of football, but he is also a very polished, cerebral player.
This is an excellent release from Smith-Schuster. He is able to get the cornerback to hesitate and then he immediately wins outside leverage and makes a catch down the field despite a safety bearing down on him. This is what I love so much about Smith is how cerebral and polished he is for such a young player.
Smith has tremendous footwork but also notice the subtle head fake that gets the cornerback to try to defend and outbreaking route before Smith cuts in to get open.
Here is another play where he identifies the weak spots in the coverage and gets inside leverage to get open. Another incredibly intelligent play. A lot of receivers, especially at the college level, are not asked to read coverages, but Smith does a great job of identifying the positioning of the defense and attacking soft spots in the coverage.
Also big for Schuster, and Eagles fans will love this, is that he is fearless catching passes in traffic and has a propensity for making spectacular catches.
I am sure Smith fearlessly diving into traffic to make a catch will assuage a lot of Eagles fans fears.
So Smith-Schuster is dependable and physical, but that is rarely enough for a first round caliber wide receiver, but what if I told you he was very good after the catch.
Smith has very quick feet, good burst and is a strong runner with great vision, making him a threat to create yards after the catch on any play.
There is a lot to love about JuJu Smith-Schuster is a dependable, polished receiver with great physicality and an ability to pick up tough yardage with the ball in his hands.
Where you get into a bit of trouble with Smith-Schuster is that he is not the burner that a lot people, specifically Eagles fans, would want.
Now, there is an argument to be made that Smith-Schuster actually won on this route and a better thrown pass would at the least be a big gain. However, Schuster tends not to create a ton of separation vertically against cushions and will force lower percentage throws.
Once again, Smith-Schuster gets adequate separation on this in route and it is arguable that a better pass would make his lack of speed here a non-issue, but it is still worth noting for him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is a lot like Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State. Blackmon was a big bodied, physical player who was a good route runner, with great hands, ball skills and an ability to create offense after the catch, but he was not necessarily a consistent downfield threat.
I think Smith-Schuster is a very good NFL prospect. He might not be the exact type of receiver people love to gawk over, but his physicality, his polish and ability to pick up yardage with the ball in his hands make him a potential number one receiver. The other thing to consider is that he is not done physically growing at his age. He still has two or three years to add speed to his game, something that is very encouraging.
For the Eagles, while he may not immediately provide a vertical threat, he would be a very good addition to the short and intermediate passing game. His dependability and YAC would add a refreshing dynamic to the offense. In general, I think he is among the best receivers in this class. While I like a guy like Corey Davis a lot more, I think Smith's talent and upside warrant a first round selection and I would not be surprised if he was one of the more immediately productive rookies next year.