Someone has to replace Antonio Brown in Pittsburgh, right? The obvious choice is JuJu Smith-Schuster, the third-year wideout out of Southern Cal who’s accumulated 169 receptions for 2,343 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Paced out to nine years (the length of Brown’s career with the Steelers), Smith-Schuster would end up gaining over 10,500 yards and 63 scores. While not quite the 11,000-plus and 74 touchdowns of Brown’s, that’s a pretty close replacement.
This bodes well for the 6-foot-1, 216-pounder in fantasy football this fall. As Ben Roethlisberger’s main target, he could even start outpacing his former counterpart on the outside.
This makes Smith-Schuster a highly-sought after option on your fantasy draft boards. Let’s take a look at his value and what the football world has to say about him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Fantasy Outlook
The Athletic notes that Roethlisberger likes to lock in on his No. 1 receiver. By virtue of a sheer volume increase in targets and receptions, Smith-Schuster should post prolific numbers in both PPR and non-PPR leagues.
Brown was targeted 168 times and caught 104 passes, 15 of which went for touchdowns…
CBS Sports is very blunt about their projections, placing him in the very first round.
Smith-Schuster should approach 180 targets with Antonio Brown no longer in the picture and could very well be the most productive receiver in the NFL. There will likely be a drop in efficiency without Brown drawing coverage, but you won’t notice it in Fantasy.
He generated double-digit outings in eight of 16 games last season, including a 24-point outburst against the Broncos and a 25-point explosion against the Raiders. One thing that’s holding him back slightly is a lack of touchdowns, but CBS Sports continues to say that with the extra targets from Roethlisberger that this shouldn’t be an issue.
With Antonio Brown gone there’s a path to 190 targets for Smith-Schuster, who has averaged 9.6 yards per target in his first two years. Think that falls to 8.5 without Brown? That’s still a leap in yardage from last year. And there’s little doubt the touchdowns are coming up. He scored seven times on 79 targets as a rookie. Matching Brown’s total (15) from last year is well within the range of possible outcomes.
Lastly, FanDuel argues that while Smith-Schuster is probably going to be a more expensive option in fantasy this season, he should still be the No. 1 receiver taken…even over Brown.
On the negative side, CBS Sports points out that Roethlisberger is due for a backslide. This negative development for the signal-caller could effect Smith-Schuster’s efficiency.
Before Brown boomed in the Steel City, Roethlisberger had one year with over 26 touchdowns and one with over 4,000 yards – and that was when he had guys like Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes! When Roethlisberger walks on the field in 2019, he won’t have Brown (or Le’Veon Bell), but he’ll still have JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner and a number of quality role players (Vance McDonald, Donte Moncrief) and even a breakout candidate (James Washington). Still, replacing a receiver who was responsible for a minimum of 25 percent of Roethlisberger’s yards and 31 percent of his passing touchdowns every year since 2014 is impossible.
Overall, JJSS a safe choice as a first or second-rounder, particularly in PPR leagues where he catches will exponentially increase his overall point production.