With Antonio Brown no longer in Pittsburgh, it is time for JuJu Smith-Schuster to not only perform as, but serve as the team’s top wide receiver. After being the team’s offensive MVP in 2018, Smith-Schuster has even larger expectations in 2019. Last season, he would have had the more productive fantasy season if Brown didn’t nearly double his touchdown output. Smith-Schuster caught 111 passes for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games last season. He was a top 10 wide receiver in PPR formats last season, but fantasy owners everywhere have their eyes set on a top seven, or perhaps even a top 5 campaign for the alpha receiver in the Steel City.

Let’s not undermine just how statistically significant Smith-Schuster was in 2018. Check out his ranks amongst all wide receivers in the National Football League last season.





Receiving Yards


Even the most casual football fan could tell you that the loss of Brown opens the door for more production for the third-year receiver, but will it be across the board? Perhaps. I believe the jumps will be in the targets department (obviously), likely the receptions, maybe a small increase in receiving yards, but the touchdown potential with Smith-Schuster in 2019 is huge.

First and foremost, Brown scored 15 touchdowns last season, so there’s that. In the red zone, Brown saw 25.3 percent of the team’s targets. Smith-Schuster outpaced him in that department (30.5%), but with Ben Roethlisberger only targeting one player (Vance McDonald ) more than 10 percent of the time within the 20-yard line, there’s reason to believe that Smith-Schuster should see a sizable increase in this department and potentially even contend for the league lead. If that’s the case, Smith-Schuster is a lock for a double-digit receiving touchdown season.

With Brown out West, the Steelers have a revamped receiving core, but per some grades from Pro Football Focus, it’s an underwhelming crew behind Smith-Schuster. Here are their grades, per PFF, from the 2018 season.





Eli Rogers


Donte Moncrief


Ryan Switzer


James Washington


While Washington has the ability to stretch the field for the Steelers, he really struggled in this role last season. Smith-Schuster should run more intermediate-to-deep routes compared to last year, and if he is anywhere near as effective as Brown, it’s going to be a big year for the third-year wideout. Of the 14 passes Brown caught that were thrown 20 or more yards downfield, nine went for touchdowns. Of the nine that Smith-Schuster caught, just three went for touchdowns. There’s a route to more success here, considering that he has a relatively favorable strength of schedule for the season as a whole.

Lastly, Smith-Schuster has a knack for making things happen once the football is in his hands. No receiver in the National Football League had more total yards after the catch than the star receiver in Pittsburgh. In fact, the closest to him, Tyreek Hill , was 130 yards behind Smith-Schuster! That’s absolutely crazy, and in the first season without Brown for quite some time, look for Pittsburgh to be creative as to how they will get Smith-Schuster the football in space.

Can he get behind the defense? Check.

Can he make the tough catches? Check.

Is he electric with the football in his hands? Check.

Smith-Schuster is the No. 1 wide receiver with a quarterback who wants nothing more than to sling the rock around the yard all day. He’ll average over 10 targets per game in 2019, and has every opportunity to crack the top five scorers at his position in PPR formats this season.

As the top wide receiver for a notoriously fantasy friendly offense, Smith-Schuster is an excellent early-to-mid second round selection.

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