For JuJu Smith-Schuster, the 2017 NFL Combine is a chance to prove his worth with plenty of skepticism floating around regarding his draft place.
JuJu Smith-Schuster is the latest in a line of standout junior receivers from USC to declare early for the NFL Draft, but he has some climbing to do to match the high selections of Nelson Agholor, Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
In 39 career starts, Smith-Schuster amassed 3,092 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns, despite playing through injuries like a broken hand in 2015 and back spasms in 2016.
At the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, he’ll attempt to show how that production can translate to the pro level.
Scouting Report and Draft Stock
There’s huge variance as to where mock drafters project Smith-Schuster, everywhere from Day 1 to the middle rounds, but scouts seem to agree on the big pluses and minuses when it comes to the Trojan wide out.
First, he’s a physical specimen.
Rob Rang of CBS Sports called Smith-Schuster’s frame “prototypical” for a split end, praising how “he uses his broad frame to shield defenders from the ball, easily out-muscling corners at this level to win contested passes and shucking would-be tacklers after the catch with a wicked stiff-arm, leg drive and determined running.”
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com noted how the receiver “plays to his size” at 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and also called attention to Smith-Schuster’s penchant for using “a stiff-arm to hurt feelings.”
JuJu Smith-Schuster: Watched 3 games from ’15 & 3 from ’16. Looked lighter, quicker, more refined this past yr, despite better numbers in 15
— Jared Smola (@SmolaDS) February 20, 2017
Re-watching some Juju Smith-Schuster. I think he’s flying a bit under the radar right now. Not Top 20 pick but kid has tools.
— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) February 15, 2017
However, scouts also agree on Smith-Schuster’s greatest weakness — he lacks elite speed.
Zierlein worried about his ability to get separation, “missing the sudden acceleration out of his cuts to generate separation and an easy throwing window.”
Despite that both Rang and Zierlein praised Smith-Schuster’s competitive mentality and willingness to put his body on the line whether as a blocker or going over the middle of the field as a receiver, with above average ball skills to match.
What can he improve at the Combine?
Given the concerns about Smith-Schuster’s speed, scouts will certainly be interested to see what kind of number he can put up in the 40-yard dash.
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In high school, Smith-Schuster’s 40 was timed in the area of 4.60, but he’ll need to shave plenty off that time in Indianapolis.
Marqise Lee logged a 4.52 in 2014. Beating that time would go a long way. A poor time would only add to some of the skepticism around Smith-Schuster’s pro future.
Smith-Schuster could also make waves in other physical testing, which shouldn’t be too much of a problem since he’s been physically ready for the NFL since his freshman season at USC.
The knowledge that he is only 20 years old should make all of his numbers stand out even more.