USC's JuJu Smith-Schuster forgoing senior year to enter 2017 NFL Draft
The big, physical wideout has a game similar to Brandon Marshall
NFL teams in search of a big, physical wide receiver received terrific news Saturday night with Southern Cal junior JuJu Smith-Schuster announcing via his Twitter account that he was forgoing his senior season to enter the 2017 draft.
The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Smith-Schuster caught a career-high 10 touchdowns this season as the featured target for flashy redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Darnold , including seven grabs for a season-high 133 yards and the 25th touchdown of his illustrious career in a thrilling 52-49 victory over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Smith-Schuster is currently fourth on NFLDraftScout.com's board among wide receivers, behind Clemson Tigers 's Mike Williams , Western Michigan Broncos 's Corey Davis and Washington Huskies 's John Ross , and the 29th overall prospect.
It was clear from the beginning that even among the great pass-catchers to play at Southern Cal, Smith-Schuster was cut from a different cloth.
The five-star recruit signed with the Trojans already sporting an NFL-ready frame at a rock-solid 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and wasted no time in announcing his presence, hauling in four passes for 123 yards against Fresno State in his debut at the college level -- the most yardage gained by any true freshman receiver in his first game in Southern California Trojans 's storied history.
Despite breaking his right hand against California midway through the 2015 season, Smith-Schuster hauled in 89 passes for 1,454 yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him consensus First Team Pac-12 accolades from conference coaches and media alike. Smith-Schuster missed no playing time due to the injury (or the subsequent surgery), catching eight passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against Arizona just five days after having a plate and eight screws inserted into his hand.
The toughness and resiliency that he showed in fighting through the injury as a redshirt sophomore (as well as in battling through various injuries in 2016) is why Smith-Schuster projects as a potential first-round pick in the 2017 draft. What he may lack in elite downfield speed, Smith-Schuster makes up for with his size, aggression and clutch play on money downs.
Smith-Schuster compares favorably to another big receiver, New York Jets star Brandon Marshall . Though two inches shorter than the 6-4, 220-pound Marshall, Smith-Schuster offers a similar blend of physicality, reliable hands and competitiveness on the outside.
Teams picking in the mid-to-late portion of the first round that could use a physical tone-setter at split end like Smith-Schuster include the Detroit Lions , New York Giants and Kansas City Chiefs . Even the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots , clubs with obvious difference-makers at pass-catcher like Dez Bryant and Rob Gronkowski , could see Smith-Schuster as an ideal complementary threat.
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