We continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Once all of the “official visits” leak we’ll add prospects that are possibilities in the later rounds.
Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)
#9 - JuJu Smith-Schuster- Wide Receiver - USC - 6-1, 215
Games Watched: Washington, Arizona, Penn St.
Pros: Extremely strong, physical receiver with excellent jump-ball ability and large, strong hands (10.5 inches). Impressive body control, concentration, and physicality at the catch point, has natural ability to high-point the ball in contested situations. Trusted target over the middle on third down, able to secure catches in traffic and not afraid of taking a hit in order to make the play. Does a nice job of staying alive and working to find open spaces once the play starts to break down, good instincts to find open spots in zone coverage. Uses his size/frame to box out smaller DB’s. Long arms (nearly 33 inches) and natural “hands catcher”, plucking the ball away from his body. Ran a variety of routes in a pro-style offense, including flys, posts, outs, in-breaking routes, shallow crosses, and comebacks. Uses his physicality/size to get free releases off jams at the line. Willing, competitive blocker who uses his frame well, although he needs refinement on how to position himself between defenders and the ball-carrier.
Cons: Average speed and explosiveness, doesn’t pull away and gain ideal separation, most of his catches come in contested jump ball type of situations or when finding open spots over the middle. Not elusive with the ball in his hands, doesn’t give you much after the catch aside from being a “bull in a China shop” and attempting to bowl over DB’s. Overall he’s a decent route runner although he could be crisper in and out of his breaks. Saw too many drops on quick-hitting passes over the middle, but his hands generally looked reliable so the drops may have just been an inevitability due to how often he was targeted in that area of the field.
Conclusion: Generally speaking I’d say Smith-Schuster looks like a poor man’s Dez Bryant, and I think overall he’s a late 2nd/early 3rd-round type of prospect. However, taking the Cowboys’ needs into consideration and the talent that is expected to be available at those positions at the end of the 2nd, I would probably hold off on him until the 3rd. He looks like an excellent number 2, possession type of WR who can carve out space over the middle, win on jump balls and keep the chains moving but his lack of speed/explosiveness is a cause for concern, especially when you consider that one of the primary complaints of the Cowboys passing game in recent years has been that there is a lack of explosiveness and speed. Long story short, his strengths are redundant with what is already on the roster in many ways.
With all that said, Dez is 29, and he will be 31 going on 32 when his current contract is up following the 2019-20 season. Perhaps the front office has an eye on the future and are looking to have a potential Dez replacement on the roster, ready to step in immediately a few years down the line, in which case Smith-Schuster would make a lot of sense. Either way, given the needs on defense and that Smith-Schuster would only be decent value at the end of the 2nd, I’d hold off until the end of the 3rd where I feel like he’d be excellent value if available, and potentially the BPA. I have no doubt that he will be a very good player in the NFL and I never want to get short-sighted by only focusing on certain positions in the draft, but spending the 60th overall pick on him would seem wasteful given the current roster and the defensive prospects likely to be available who will provide similar, if not better value at that point.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.