In March, JuJu Smith-Schuster signed a one-year $10.75 million contract with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs. Taking part in with Patrick Mahomes, that is his prove-it-or-lose- season. There are not any extra excuses if JuJu doesn’t play as much as No. 1 receiver requirements when the perfect younger quarterback of this technology is throwing him spirals.
JuJu has blown up the league earlier than, but when he squinted too arduous within the broad receiver’s room on the man who wore No. 12, he might need seen the Ghost of Christmas Future staring again. It’s been 9 years since Josh Gordon burst into the NFL consciousness with a 1,400-yard, nine-touchdown season in 2013. As a result of a collection of suspensions as a consequence of repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse insurance policies, Gordon hasn’t eclipsed 1,000 yards since then. Earlier this week, Gordon was launched. JuJu isn’t susceptible to falling off the NFL radar like Gordon. He’s 5 years youthful, stayed clear off the sector, and by some means nonetheless holds the NFL document for the youngest participant to achieve 2,500 profession receiving yards. Nevertheless, his incapability to copy 2018 is an analogous supply of frustration.
One thing related occurred with JuJu at USC. His sophomore breakout JuJu reeled in 89 catches, greater than twice as a lot as USC’s No. 2 cross catcher and 1,454 yards, 1,000 extra yards than second-leading receiver Adoree’ Jackson. His output diminished throughout his junior 12 months because the Trojans seemed to diversify their offense and issues about JuJu’s top-end velocity led to him plummeting into the top of the second spherical the place he was scooped up by Pittsburgh.
Their pedigrees couldn’t be extra completely different, but there’s a litany of parallels between Gordon and JuJu. Gordon’s 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns is the idiot’s gold normal of one-year marvel campaigns — particularly for broad receivers. Taken within the 2011 Supplemental Draft after catching solely 43 passes for 721 yards in his school profession, Gordon skilled modest success as a rookie, however no person noticed his 2013 explosion coming. A league-leading 1,646 yards and 9 touchdowns in 14 video games lit the NFL on hearth. However like a meteor getting into the ambiance, Gordon burned out upon entry.
Whether or not it’s a results of accidents, suspensions, or simply defenses catching up, NFL historical past is affected by “now you see ‘em, now you don’t” skills who tantalized after which sank again into obscurity.
Peyton Hillis’ 1,200-yard season in 2010 made him one of the most unlikely Madden cover athletes ever. Ickey Woods’ 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl XXIII berth, and Larry Brown’s Super Bowl MVP to cap off the 1995 season are some of the most notable flash-in-the-pan runs to the Big Game in league history.
JuJu had a passing moment of greatness in 2018. That year, his teammate Antonio Brown was the cover athlete on Madden and then reached 10,000 yards in fewer games as a receiver besides Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones. However, JuJu’s emergence was the highlight of that campaign.
JuJu’s second season witnessed him emerging from the shadow of Brown as he hauled in 111 catches for 1,426 yards. The Steelers were so confident in JuJu, that Brown sent a top-three receiver in the NFL walking. However, JuJu has faltered with the weight of the top pick on his shoulders.
Three seasons later, JuJu is known more for his TikToks than his pass-catching prowess. In his first full season as the go-to receiver, JuJu recorded a career-low 552 yards while playing through a toe injury and sprained MCL. Pittsburgh chalked up his disappointing performance to JuJu’s injury-riddled season and the fact that he was catching passes from career backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. JuJu spent much of his last two seasons in Pittsburgh watching Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool eat his targets. The skinny on JuJu is that he maxed out as a No. 2 receiver alongside an all-time great, but once coverages and top cornerbacks fixated on him, he lacked the technique or physical attributes to thrive.
There are some differences that should give JuJu believers hope. In 2022, JuJu has an opportunity to return to glory as Mahomes’ top target. Replacing Tyreek Hill will be an insanely difficult task. It will take a composite of Skyy Moore, Marquez-Valdes Scantling, and Mecole Hardman to equal Tyreek Hill. Hardman has blazing speed, but his route running technique leaves much to be desired. Valdes-Scantling has always been a bundle of potential without the breakout year to show for it.
If there’s anyone who can put a defibrillator to JuJu’s career the same way Tyreek Hill is attempting to awaken Tua’s, it’s Patrick Mahomes. JuJu’s in a better place now. But he’ll have to prove to stay there past this season.