JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Fantasy Football outlook for the 2022 NFL season
The Kansas City Chiefs have had a turbulent offseason. One of the positions where they have had the most amount of change has been wide receiver, where star wide receiver Tyreek Hill was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Brought in to replace him was former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster.
After an incredibly productive first two seasons, Smith-Schuster has been wildly inconsistent over the past three seasons of his career. He has struggled with the increase in attention that has come with being a number one option, and missed most of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury. Even when Smith-Schuster played last season, he struggled greatly.
But now Smith-Schuster he hopped on with the Chiefs, and appears intent on proving that he can be a number one option in a solid offense. He will have an opportunity to become the top dog in Kansas City’s wide receiver room, and catching passes from Patrick Mahomes should help Smith-Schuster greatly. Let’s look at Smith–Schuster’s outlook for the 2022 fantasy football season and see what some reasonable expectations are for him.
JuJu Smith-Schuster made a name for himself as a solid secondary option alongside Antonio Brown when he was getting started with the Steelers. But once Brown left, Smith-Schuster struggled. There were other targets in Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool who popped up alongside Smith-Schuster to help him out, but he never fully recovered after Brown left.
Smith-Schuster re-signed with the Steelers during the 2021 NFL offseason on a cheap one-year deal, and seemed set for success alongside Johnson and Claypool. Instead, he finished the season with just 15 catches for 129 yards in five games. It was a very disappointing end to Smith-Schuster’s tenure with Pittsburgh given how promising of a start it got off to.
But now Smith-Schuster will get a fresh start with the Chiefs, and from a fantasy perspective, it should bode well for his chances to reestablish himself as a top tier wide receiver. There are a couple of reasons why Smith-Schuster could be an underrated candidate for a serious bounce back campaign in 2022.
Let’s start with an upgrade in his quarterback. JuJu Smith-Schuster was catching passes from an aging Ben Roethlisberger over the past few seasons, and that probably limited his output. Roethlisberger’s struggles became more apparant last season, but Smith-Schuster was barely on the field. Going from Roethlisberger to Mahomes, who is probably the best quarterback in the league right now, is a huge upgrade for Smith-Schuster.
Smith-Schuster is also probably going to be the top wide receiver Mahomes has at his disposal this season. With Hill gone, Travis Kelce is going to be Mahomes’ most trusted target at tight end. But after that, it’s probably Smith-Schuster. Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are sitting behind Smith-Schuster on the depth chart, but he has the ability to offer a lot more than either of them can.
We have seen Smith-Schuster produce earlier in his career, which makes it reasonable to believe that he could see much greater success now that he’s in Kansas City with Mahomes and company. Smith-Schuster has reliable hands and can get open at all three levels of the field. There’s enough playmaking talent on the Chiefs roster to allow Smith-Schuster to go against single coverage on most plays, and he’s proven he can beat single coverage throughout his career.
Of course, adapting to a new offense is easier said than done, and there’s a chance that Hardman and Kelce could leave Smith-Schuster in the dust if he gets off to a slow start. Smith-Schuster should reasonably be able to start the season as the team’s top wide receiver option, but that doesn’t mean that he’s going to automatically keep that role throughout the entire season.
Smith-Schuster is a bit of a risky pick given how bad he was in 2021, but he should profile as a top 30 wide receiver if he can stay on the field and develop chemistry with Mahomes. Smith-Schuster has produced at a high WR2/low WR1 level before, but counting on him to immediately replicate that success with the Chiefs is wishful thinking.
Smith-Schuster has a lot of upside with the Chiefs heading into the 2022 season, but heading into drafts, it would be wise to not get too eager and draft him too early. Smith-Schuster could reasonably be a WR2 at some point this season, but he’s probably safer as a FLEX option when drafts roll around. Rounds 7-9 are going to be the sweet spot for JuJu Smith-Schuster, and if he falls, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a flier on him in the event he breaks out playing alongside Mahomes.