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Juju Smith-Schuster has quickly become everybody’s favorite NFL player and for good reason. He exemplifies a new wave of youth in football, a ring leader for touchdown dances, a hilarious follow on Twitter and YouTube, and just an everyday young kid who loves having fun.

Whether you believed in his talent coming out of USC or not, no one can doubt Juju’s NFL talent and abilities. However, I think the dynasty community is overvaluing Juju as a dynasty asset more so because he is fun to watch and own on your team than for actual fantasy production.

Before you stop reading this article right here, please hear me out on why I believe our beloved Juju is a sell-high in dynasty.

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2017 Season Review

The Good

I think it is only fair to Smith-Schuster to first highlight his successful 2017 rookie campaign before we get into the nitty-gritty. Juju finished the season with 58 receptions on 79 targets for 917 yards and 7 touchdowns, finishing as the WR21 in PPR formats. He is one of only 18 wide receivers since 2000 with over 900 receiving yards in their rookie season. Efficiency-wise, you could not have asked for better numbers with a 73.42% catch percentage and over 15 yards per reception.

On a weekly basis, Juju finished as a top-36 receiver eight times, four of which were top-12 finishes. From Weeks 15-17, when Antonio Brown was sidelined due to injury, Juju caught 21 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns over those three weeks. He was the WR1 overall in fantasy over those three games, scoring more fantasy points than Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, and Jimmy Garoppolo and finishing with three less fantasy points than Melvin Gordon and Kareem Hunt. As the youngest player in the league with a top-24 season under his belt already, no wonder his ADP is already in the third round of dynasty startups.

The Bad

Looking at Juju’s season on the surface might lead you to believe he had a much better year than he actually did. His total numbers were inflated by Weeks 15-17 without Antonio Brown and Smith-Schuster became the WR1 for the Steelers. Those three games accounted for over 36% of his total receptions and yards and nearly 30% of his total touchdowns in 2017. Fantasy-wise, Juju scored nearly 35% of his total fantasy points in those three weeks, which was eight highest among all fantasy players in that stretch. What is even more frightening are Juju’s game splits with and without Antonio Brown, as shown below:

As you can see, Smith-Schuster nearly doubled his production across the board in his three games without Brown. While his 12.55 points per game average with Brown would be good for WR21 in 2017, it would only have been good for WR31 in 2016 and WR29 in 2015. Additionally, his average with Brown drops to just over 10 points per game if you remove his 97-yard touchdown against the Lions. That average is now only good for a WR3 in 2017 and outside the top-40 receivers in 2016 and 2015.

I also mentioned that Juju is one of 18 receivers with over 900 receiving yards in their rookie season. However, he had the worst season statistically of any receiver on that list.

Above are the average numbers for the 17 other rookie receivers over 900 receiving yards compared to Juju’s rookie season. You will notice that he had by far one of the most efficient seasons for a rookie in terms of reception percentage (only Michael Thomas had a higher reception percentage with 76.03%). He was by far the lowest-targeted receiver on the list with the second lowest amount of receptions. Breaking down the 18 receivers even more, here are the eight receivers with less than 1,000 yards receiving:

Take what you want from these names, but I do not see much fantasy firepower outside of Julio Jones and Andre Johnson. Some people still believe in Sammy, but he has yet to finish as a top-19 receiver in a season. Bowe had one WR4 season and another WR16 season after his rookie year, but never finished inside the top-40 after that. DeSean Jackson finished as a WR1 twice after 2008, but never inside the top-10. Mike Williams and Eddie Royal were both one-and-dones.

The closest comparison of rookie seasons for Juju is Julio Jones’ 2011 season behind Roddy White, which has become a favorite comparison for Juju as the Julio to Antonio Brown’s Roddy White. However, the major difference between the two pairs of receivers is the quarterback attached to each. One pair was matched with a 26-year-old, up-and-coming quarterback off his best season yet, the others are tied to an aging 36-year-old veteran who struggles with health at times and has been contemplating retirement for a couple seasons.

 

Future Outlook

First of all, we are playing dynasty, where situations are forever changing for better or worse for all players. An aging quarterback should never be something to scare you off of a receiver entirely. However, I do have my concerns for Juju’s fantasy value post-Big Ben. We can start looking at his value after Big Ben by first looking at Antonio Brown’s production without his star QB. As we all know, Brown is an electric performer when Roethlisberger plays, averaging almost 20 points per game in PPR formats when the two are on the field. However, without Roethlisberger, Brown’s production dips to just over 11 points per game and he has never scored a touchdown from any other quarterback outside of Big Ben (over seven games).

This is very concerning for Smith-Schuster; how can we expect a new quarterback to be able to sustain two fantasy receivers if he can barely support one, especially when he has the best receiver in the NFL. Who knows though, by that time Brown could be on the verge of retirement as well and we have seen what Juju can do as the WR1 in the Steelers offense. Are you willing to wait that long to find out is the question?

To answer that, I now look at what Ben Roethlisberger has been able to do for fantasy receivers since entering the league in 2004. To put it nicely… it’s not good. Roethlisberger absolutely loves his number one receiver, which was a big reason Juju was so productive in his time without Brown. Below are the average numbers for the wide receivers under Roethlisberger based on depth chart (WR1, WR2, etc.).

As you can see, there is a massive drop-off in production from the WR1 to WR2 under Big Ben. Moving into 2018 and beyond, we expect Juju to slide into the WR2 role on the Steelers offense. Based on previous WR2’s under Big Ben, we can only expect him to finish just barely inside the top-40 fantasy receivers, despite seeing more targets than he did in 2017. You might be saying, “well that doesn't seem right, this is the high-powered Steelers offense, how can Juju not even be a WR3?”, but I promise you this is correct.

In fact, Roethlisberger has only supported two top-24 fantasy receivers three times in his career (Brown/Juju 2017, Brown/Wallace 2011, Holmes/Ward 2009). Martavis Bryant finished as the WR39 in 2015 behind Brown. Emmanuel Sanders’ best fantasy season was WR32 in 2013 behind Brown. Antonio Brown finished as the WR24 in 2011 when playing beside Mike Wallace. Even Santonio Holmes’ best fantasy season was WR24 behind Hines Ward in 2007, but he was only targeted 85 times and Ward missed three games that season. Roethlisberger is not known for supporting two top-24 wide receivers, despite Juju finishing as the WR21 in 2017. With a healthy Antonio Brown back in 2018, I expect Juju to finish outside the top-25 in 2018, if not worse.

I should make it known that this was in no way a Juju hate article for fantasy football. I’m a Steelers fan, I love Juju! But the dynasty community has seemed to fall in love with a player who just might have seen his best days, even at such a young age. His current dynasty ADP is 36 overall as the WR20 off the board in startups. I get it, he is young, talented, in a great offense with a future Hall of Fame quarterback off of a historic and electrifying rookie campaign, but there is too much stacked against him. He may never reach WR20 in a season, at least not behind Brown with Ben Roethlisberger behind center, if I was a betting man.

It may be four or five more years before Juju returns his value at his current price. Would it not be better to sell now and then buy in a year or two at depressed value? Using DLF’s trade finder, I found two recent trades that sent Juju and the 1.10 for Alvin Kamara as well as Juju and a 19 2nd for Devonta Freeman. I believe both of these trades are examples of a perfect sell-high on Juju while the price is hot. Dynasty football is game of stocks, selling high and buying low, and I cannot think of many better sell-high candidates than our beloved Juju Smith-Schuster.

 

More 2018 Dynasty League Strategy