Labeled the “most overrated” in college football, former USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is now the Most Valuable Player for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018.
Back in 2016, an anonymous NFL scout called then-USC wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster “the most overrated player in all of college football.”
At the close of 2018, Smith-Schuster was declared the Most Valuable Player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Smith-Schuster earned his 2018 MVP award with the Steelers by leading the AFC with 106 receptions. In his second year in the league, he bested Larry Fitzgeralds mark as the youngest player in NFL history to catch 100 passes in a single season. He also had 1,380 yards and six touchdowns, which is fourth in the NFL this season.
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That’s quite the journey for a player who was doubted so publicly while still in college.
To be fair, the blow back from USC fans back in 2016 was plenty vocal when Smith-Schuster’s credentials were questioned in the first place.
It was Matt Miller of Bleacher Report who reported the assessment of the Trojan wide out in September of that year.
“Expectations were high heading into the 2016 season for JuJu Smith-Schuster and USC, but as USC’s offense has suffered ups-and-downs so has their big-time wide receiver prospect,” Miller said in a short video. “According to one NFL scout I spoke to, ‘Smith is the most overrated player in all of college football.’
“While he has plenty of time to improve his stock, he’s quickly falling out of the top wide receiver conversation for the 2017 NFL Draft.”
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The analysis was the epitome of speaking too early. It was posted on September 12, a week after Smith-Schuster disappointed in a one-catch, nine-yard performance against Alabama. From there, the receiver went on to lead the Trojans with 70 receptions for 914 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. His influence grew as his connection with newly-installed QB Sam Darnold grew.
He did all that despite playing through back spasms and other nagging injuries, capping his season and USC career with seven catches for 133 yards and a touchdown in the Trojans epic Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.
The Steelers picked up Smith-Schuster in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The anonymous scout was right about one thing: He was not in the discussion as the top receiver in the draft. He was taken after Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, Clemson’s Mike Williams, Washington’s John Ross, East Carolina’s Zay Jones and Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel.
Of course, it’s Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh and USC fans who have the last laugh. No receiver in that draft has more than his career 163 receptions, 2,306 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns so far. Though Davis has had a bright start with the Titans, the career receiving totals of Williams, Ross, Jones and Samuel combined only outpace Smith-Schuster’s by nine yards.