USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has the potential to be a No. 1 target, but which team would be his best landing spot in the 2017 NFL Draft?
Not too long ago, USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster was widely believed to be a first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Then people began to point out his flaws, mainly his lack of speed as well as some concern over injury issues. From there he began to see his name slip further and further down various draft board projections.
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Despite the recent trend away from first round status, Smith-Schuster is still a talented prospect. He has excellent size for his positions (6-2, 220 pounds) and knows how to use his body to make catches while keeping defenders away. He has also shown a willingness to block and isn’t afraid of contact at all, which is probably due to him originally playing safety before making the transition to offense.
The most appealing thing overall about Smith-Schuster has to be his age. He brought in 213 receptions for 3,092 yards and 25 touchdowns in three seasons for the Trojans and is still just 20-years old. He won’t turn 21 until late in November, which means the arrow is still pointing for the young man who has a lot of room for growth.
So which team will decide that the negative talk s just a bunch of words? Here are the five best landing spots for Juju Smith-Schuster in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Nov 6, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General view of a NFL football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as Los Angeles Rams quarterback Case Keenum (17) throws a pass under pressure from Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) with the Olympic torch as a backdrop. The Panthers defeated the Rams 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
5. Los Angeles Rams
How nice would it be for Juju Smith-Schuster to stay right where he is, in beautiful Southern California. Not only the same city though, but actually the same stadium as the Los Angeles Rams are using the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum—where Smith-Schuster’s Trojans currently play—for the next two seasons.
It wouldn’t just be a good fit because he played in the same building, but also because he plays a position of gigantic need for the hapless Rams. The receiver position is a well known need for them, and in fact he was recently mocked to the Rams by our very own Cody Williams. He believes that Smith-Schuster would be a welcome addition to the Rams —a team starved for a reliable big-bodied wideout:
Whereas other prospects such as Corey Davis or even Mike Williams to a much lesser degree have a combination of size and speed, that’s not the case with Smith-Schuster. However, the Rams are a team that already have a speed threat in their receiver corps—and one they’ve already paid handsomely—in Tavon Austin. Thus, adding a complementary piece and a big-bodied target like Smith-Schuster to the mix could be a huge help to Goff and the offense as a whole.
With Los Angeles losing their number one pick in the 2017 NFL Draft in their trade last year to get quarterback Jared Goff, they won’t be on the board until round two without a trade. If they are able to get Smith-Schuster—whether in Round 2, or even 3 as mocked in Williams’ article—they would have to be happy about getting someone who was preciously thought of as a first-rounder.
Nov 20, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) passes the ball in the first quarter the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
4. Tennessee Titans
The Tennessee Titans are a team on the rise. They went 9-7 in 2016 and missed the playoffs only due to a tie breaker. They have a talented defense, an insane running game featuring DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry at running back, and the second overall pick in 2015, Marcus Mariota, at quarterback. What they don’t have is much talent at the wide receiver position.
2016 rookie Tajae Sharpe was a bright spot for them last season as the fifth-round pick brought in 41 receptions for 522 yards and two touchdowns. They also had good production from Rishard Matthews, the free agent signing from Miami who had 945 yards and nine scores off of 65 receptions. Both played great, but they don’t command the respect of defenses like a number one wide out normally does.
They had hoped in 2015 they found that guy with second round pick Dorial Green-Beckham. He was a talented player in college, but character concerns allowed him to slip out of the first round. He lasted just one year in Tennessee before they shipped him off to Philadelphia for a backup offensive lineman. Now maybe they can try once again to get the possession receiver that can help open up their offense.
Adding the young Smith-Schuster to the Titans team just gives Mariota one more dangerous option. He could be huge for them on crucial third-down plays while providing some toughness to the receiving corps. He also would be a dangerous option in the red zone.
Jan 2, 2017; Pasadena, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (9) makes a catch for a touchdown against Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Christian Campbell (1) during the third quarter of the 2017 Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
3. Philadelphia Eagles
The team the Tennessee Titans traded 2015 second-round pick Dorial Green-Beckham is also still looking for a receiver. Neither team got much out of him, but at least it didn’t cost Philly much at all to try him out. What did cost them a lot was Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews and USC receiver Nelson Agholor.
Matthews was a second-round selection of the Eagles in 2014 and has turned into a solid receiver, but he isn’t spectacular. He has never topped the 1,000-yard mark and in 2016 he had his lowest touchdown total of his career with just three. While Matthews is still a valuable player he isn’t a number one wideout—which is why they took Agholor out of USC in the first round of the 2015 draft.
Agholor on the other hand has been an absolute bust. After a quiet rookie year, he improved some statistically in 2016. The second-year receiver had 36 receptions for 365 yards and just two touchdowns. He was widely discussed though as he dropped several passes, and had a knack for doing so on critical passing plays. At one point he became a healthy scratch due to his inability to help the team on offense.
Juju Smith-Schuster may be from the same university as Agholor, but with his strong hands and willingness to go over the middle, he won’t be a drop-prone bust like Agholor. Like the Rams and Titans, the quarterback for Philly—Carson Wentz—could take a huge step forward with the selection a big target like Smith-Schuster in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Dec 18, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) and wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
2. New England Patriots
Fans of the New England Patriots are adamant that this team does not need to spend any draft resources on wide receivers. They have Danny Amendola, their very rare high-priced free agent. The problem with him, though, is that he is nearly an identical player to Julian Edelman, their top wideout. Both are undersized receivers that excel in the short passing game. Amendola is a good player, but may be a cap casualty unless he takes a significant cut.
There’s also Chris Hogan, a deep threat who remains wildly inconsistent. In addition to these guys there’s 2016 fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell. He was a decent find in the mid rounds and was incredibly productive in their Super Bowl win against the Atlanta Falcons. What all these guys have in common though is that none can win with their size.
As great as the Pats comeback was, it almost didn’t happen. Atlanta had moved into field goal range on an insane catch by wide receiver Julio Jones. He was covered all night but his quarterback trusted him on multiple occasions to win the jump balls. Which he did repeatedly. Of course, Atlanta then wet themselves after Jones’ big catch and the rest is history, but imagine how good New England could be if quarterback Tom Brady had one receiver that he could trust like that.
Of course, Smith-Schuster is not Julio Jones. He never will be. However, on a team like New England he would give Brady an amazing weapon, one he desperately deserves to have in the final years of his career. After all Brady has given to the team, they should give him one last run with a big bodied wideout? Yes—yes, they should.
Jan 15, 2017; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett celebrates a touchdown with running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional playoff game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
1. Dallas Cowboys
The best landing spot for Juju Smith-Schuster could very well be the Dallas Cowboys. This is a team that excels on offense and has a young quarterback who is already really good—not looking for a receiver to help him become a viable player. There’s also an opening or two in the receiver corps in Dallas.
Currently they’re set at the No. 1 spot with Dez Bryant, but his fellow starter, Terrance Williams, is ready for free agency. Also available to test the open market is Brice Butler. While Williams may command big dollars elsewhere, Butler may come back. He isn’t exactly reliable, however, so Dallas may look to the draft to find some help and Smith-Schuster could be right up their alley.
Dallas needs pass rush help more than anything else, and that’s where they should go in round one. In round two, Smith-Schuster would make a ton of sense as well. He would bring similar size to the team that Williams had, and could be a Day 1 starter opposite Dez. He would take attention away from Bryant as well as slot expert Cole Beasley. Smith-Schuster could also step in as a No. 1 target if needed. As talented as Bryant is, he has missed several games in the past few seasons due to injury. In his absence, Williams never really stepped up but maybe Smith-Schuster could.
The best thing for the 20-yea- old rookie in going to Dallas would be that he is a willing run blocker and they are a run first team. With running back Ezekiel Elliot leading the NFL in rushing in 2016 there’s no reason to think that would change. Smith-Schuster would be a huge help to them in that department without having much pressure on him to be the focal point like he would in oher teams. He would be a huge help in giving Rookie of the Year quarterback Dak Prescott one more weapon at his disposal as he and the Boys’ attempt to take that next step.