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2018 ADP Throwdown - JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Allen Robinson

Fantasy football draft season is upon us and RotoBaller is here to help! In this series, two RotoBaller experts will discuss the merits of two players with similar value and average draft position (ADP). Remember that situations will change for all players over the course of the summer and it may impact where they are selected in drafts.

This article comes from staff writers Dominick Petrillo and Leonard Francis II, who compare two wide receivers in PPR formats with ADPs that fall around the end of the fourth round.

Dominick argues in favor of the rookie phenom and social media star from a year ago, Pittsburgh Steelers WR Juju Smith-Schuster while Leonard advocates for new Chicago Bears WR1 Allen Robinson as the better choice. Who will come out on top?

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Opening Statements: Who Do You Draft?

JuJu Smith- Schuster is a high-ceiling option – Dominick Petrillo

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rookie campaign started off a bit slow but really picked up steam after his breakout game against the Lions in Detroit. With Antonio Brown in the mix with the Steelers, he will feel no pressure to try to be the number one receiver and with other weapons, like Le’Veon Bell and Ben Roethlisberger, he has a complete team around him to learn from. Let’s just hope he learns from them on the field more so than off the field. Please.

With 58 receptions for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, Smith-Schuster finished with one more reception and 128 more yards than Alshon Jeffrey did as the number one receiver on the Eagles. Those seven touchdowns were only two less than Jeffrey, meaning as a rookie second receiver on the Steelers, he finished .3 points behind Alshon Jeffrey in PPR leagues in only 14 games. With the addition of James Washington - the Biletnikoff award winner as college football’s best receiver - as a deep threat, Smith-Schuster should again be able to have a good season in 2018 with defenses unable to focus on him alone. As the seventh pick in the fourth round of fantasy drafts, he would make an outstanding second receiver, as he is in line for 75 receptions and over 1,000 yards this coming season with a reinvigorated Roethlisberger behind center and Brown still on the other side of the field drawing double coverages away from him. If you are a person who goes running back heavy early in drafts, he would even make a steady WR1, allowing for you to go high upside later in drafts with players such as D.J. Moore or Allen Hurns.

Allen Robinson is the real target hog – Leonard Francis II

Allen Robinson offers upside which Smith-Schuster simply can’t match. For starters, since Le’Veon Bell entered the league in 2013, 50% of Ben Roethlisberger’s completions have landed in the hands of either Antonio Brown or Le’Veon Bell. Brown has averaged 172 targets over that stretch, 79 for Bell, for a total of 251 targets. Roethlisberger has averaged 464 pass attempts per season over his career so we’re looking at 54% of them between those two gentlemen. True, Martavis Bryant now dons the Raiders’ silver and black – freeing up some opportunities – but Pittsburgh drafted James Washington, and they still have Jesse James (63 targets in 2017) and Vance McDonald (24) on the roster; we’re now above 70% of Roethlisberger’s targets accounted for, and that’s excluding Washington. Simply put, envisioning JSS seeing much more than the 79 targets he saw a season ago (barring an injury) is about as difficult as picturing President Trump kneeling on the sidelines, arms interlocked with Colin Kaepernick, during the National Anthem.

Meanwhile, Josh Bellamy, Tanner Gentry, and Kevin White are the only remaining Bears receivers from Mitch Trubisky’s rookie campaign. Bellamy has a whopping total of 62 receptions over his four years in Chicago, Gentry brought in as many balls during his rookie season as he had games started – 3, and while I love the idea of Kevin White (and hope he balls out this season), he’s endured about as many injuries over his two years in Chicago as he has games started – 5. As far as Trubisky is concerned, he’s dealing with a brand-new set of toys, and considering Robinson is the only option who’s produced at the NFL level, you have to figure he’ll be Trubisky’s first read until he gives him a reason not to be (hopefully that reason doesn’t come after just four snaps, 72 seconds, and one reception… For 17 yards).

Yes, the Bears attempted the fewest passes in the league a season ago - Kendall Wright saw the highest target share, 19% (91 targets) – but it’s all but a foregone conclusion that the Matt Nagy-led Bears offense will look nothing like the “offense” Chicagoans suffered through while John Fox was at the helm. Add Chicago’s off-season acquisitions to the equation, and a more pass-heavy approach definitely seems to be a priority. That in mind, let’s take the league average from 2017, 547 passing attempts, and apply that to Trubisky. Let’s then take that 20% target share Wright had a season ago (which is a low-ball figure) and apply it to Robinson. That gives us 109 targets, nearly 1.5 times that in which Smith-Schuster is likely to see (barring an injury). Oh, and at least you don’t have to worry about A-Rob being distracted by the theft of his bicycle.

Rebuttals: Why Take One Over the Other?

Steelers receivers > Bears receivers every time - Dominick Petrillo

Yes, Allen Robinson should be the number one receiver in Chicago for a head coach in Matt Nagy who, unlike John Fox, knows how to run an offense. But, there are still many concerns with Robinson. First and foremost, the ACL injury he suffered on the fourth play of the year last season. Is he entirely healthy? If he is, he could be a great pick up for the Bears in free agency. We have to think he is healthy as they signed him while letting Cameron Meredith walk to New Orleans after suffering the same type of injury in the preseason last season. The Bears should have a better passing game with the likes of Robinson and new tight end Trey Burton in the fold, and their running game behind a stellar offensive line should also be good with the duo of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen providing the committee behind Mitch Trubisky. But therein lies the key - Mitch Trubisky.

After taking over for Mike Glennon, Trubisky underwhelmed for the rest of the season. This could mean the bears were too high on Trubisky after only one year as a starter in college. This could also mean John Fox is just this bad at coaching only allowing him to pass the ball on average 27 times per game. On the other hand, he only threw for seven touchdowns and also threw seven interceptions, so maybe John Fox knew more than we thought. But, I doubt it. With all the questions surrounding Allen Robinson, and the Bears second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky, the safer play is JuJu smith-Schuster who has known commodities surrounding him on offense. The likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown will make it impossible for defenses to account for him in the loaded offense allowing him to have a season which could match and outperform the season Allen Robinson will put up in Chicago.

JuJu is actually the safer play but not the better one - Leonard Francis

There’s a very good chance that JuJu Smith-Schuster finishes the 2018 season with better numbers than Robinson. I mean Smith-Schuster has a potential first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback tossing him the rock; while Robinson has an unproven Trubisky. JSS will also benefit from lining up alongside arguably the greatest receiver of this era, Antonio Brown. He commands double teams, at a minimum. There’s also Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, and you have to stack the box to stop him, right?! So, some quick math tells us that there just aren’t enough defenders to cover Smith-Schuster and he’ll just freely roam about the pasture bringing in passes ad nauseam.

Not only is JSS likely to draw less attention than Robinson, frankly, he was more productive in his rookie season than Robinson has ever been. Sure, A-Rob put up 1,400 yards and 14 TDs in 2015 - en route to a Pro Bowl appearance - it also took 151 targets for him to catch 80. In fact, 93 receivers have caught at least 100 passes between Robinson’s rookie year (2014) and last season; Robinson’s 52.6% catch rate ranks 87th (7th lowest) while Smith-Schuster caught 73.4% of the passes thrown his way a season ago. At the end of the day, though, catches are catches and yards are yards. While that last sentence holds true, Robinson has averaged just 7.4 yards per target over his four-year career. If we take away the 2017 season which was quicker than a sneeze, and his rookie campaign, because, well, I’m feeling generous, his career average is still a lowly 7.6. That’s a full four yards fewer per target than the 11.6 JSS put up... as a rookie! Make the most of your opportunities, and you don’t need as many as someone who’s known to squander theirs. JuJu Smith-Schuster is clearly the safer play. It is worth noting, however, that JuJu is one of just eight receivers since 1992 (with at least 50 receptions) to average more than 11.5 yards per target over the course of a season – a repeat isn’t likely.


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