Rewind 12 months and Juju Smith-Schuster was a dynasty stud -one of the most desirable assets going. As a 22-year-old receiver coming off a WR8 overall finish, the sky was the limit on his potential. Equally, the cost to acquire him was sky high! Now he is one of the most contentious players to value in leagues. Some people still have him as a top 10 asset whilst others wouldn’t have him in their top 50.
So far this offseason I have taken part in 4 startup drafts (all 12 team Super flex) and he has been drafted at 2.11 WR6, 3.05 WR5, 3.10 WR10 and 4.08 WR16. It’s worth pointing out that on 3 of those 4 occasions I was the team to draft him.
So what can we expect from Juju? Is this the last opportunity to buy him before a career of WR1 finishes and fantasy championships. Or was he a 1 season wonder who is going to disappear and never recoup his value?
Juju Dynasty Stud: Early Years
Coming out of USC Juju posted a fantastic player profile with a 94th breakout age of 18.8 years. The also had 82nd percentile target share of 29.1%, and day 2 draft capital.
He also landed in a fantastic situation with immediate opportunity. A future hall of fame QB and arguably the best receiver in the league playing opposite him drawing coverage.
Juju performed above expectations in 2017 finishing as the WR23 in his rookie season (WR18 in points per game). He then backed this up with an incredible 2018 season finishing as the WR8. However, he also posted some incredible efficiency numbers. including #1 in yards after catch, and #23 in yards per pass route. All of this in his age 22 season puts him in some fairly illustrious company for producing this well at this age.
Juju Dynasty Stud: Last Season’s Struggle
As much as Juju performed in his first two seasons, 2019 was one to forget. Big Ben going down with an elbow injury during the week two loss to the Seahawks and being replaced by Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges certainly didn’t help.
He finished as the WR64 or WR60 in Points per game. You can blame some of this on the abhorrent QB play he had. But Juju also did not perform putting up only one weekly WR1 finish and two WR2 finishes.
He struggled to be the #1 option in the offense, with Antonio Brown being shipped to Oakland. That meant that Juju faced the oppositions best cornerback. That included the likes of Stephon Gilmore, Marlon Humphrey (twice), Casey Hayward, and Jalen Ramsey.
Juju Dynasty Stud: Outlook
Perhaps the biggest concern for Juju’s long term dynasty value comes from the reports out of Pittsburgh about his longevity on the Steelers roster.
The athletics Ed Bouchette wrote. “They might try to sign him to a new contract, but based on last season, what he thinks he’s worth and what they want to pay him may be far apart. My prediction is he will enter the final season of his contract this year and become a free agent in 2021 as others at that position before him did, such as Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders.”
If Juju were to hit the open market it’s difficult to predict his landing spot. Meaning it might not be any positive change in target share and quality of QB play. Or even worse, whether he could end up toiling away in a horrific situation.
For me the potential upside is just too great to not take the risk. Elite performance at a young age is one of the best indicators of success in the NFL and Juju did that and more. He battled injuries and poor QB play through a 2019 to forget but he didn’t become a poor player overnight. I still believe he will be the target leader in a much improved Steelers offence and this window of uncertainty represents the very last buy window before he is a top 5 option at the position and his price is too rich!
Juju Dynasty Stud: Trade Value
The DLF trade finder has his current price as two 2021 1sts (in a 12 team SF league) and I would be very comfortable paying that for him, although I’m not convinced that you’d need to pay that much to acquire him. My favourite move this offseason is to pivot from a slightly aging stud like DeAndre Hopkins to Juju plus an additional asset.
Image Credit: Charles LeClaire – USA TODAY