Kansas City Chiefs: Could JuJu Smith-Schuster Have a Career Year in KC?

Oct 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) takes the field to play the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) takes the field to play the Denver Broncos at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Kansas City Chiefs are hoping that wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, can help fill the void left behind by former franchise legend — Tyreek Hill.

JuJu Smith-Schuster is an interesting case study when you take a look back at his career to this point. The former USC Trojan was taken at No. 62 overall in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. In his rookie season, Smith-Schuster tallied 917 yards while finding the end zone seven times. The following season is when he broke out in a major way. Smith-Schuster, serving as the Robin to Antonio Brown’s Batman, received 166 targets in his second year as a professional. This produced an incredible stat line of: 111 receptions, 1426 yards, and seven touchdowns.

So, how does a guy with a season like that under his belt find his way onto an article like this? Smith-Schuster injured his knee in a divisional bout with the Cleveland Browns, and missed four games as a result in 2019. Even when on the field, he posted underwhelming numbers across the board. Things turned around a little in 2020, as JuJu found his way to 97 catches, albeit for a meager 8.6 yards per reception. To his credit, he was able to score on nine separate occasions. Last season, Smith-Schuster was slow out of the gate and was dealt a significant blow when a shoulder injury ended his 2021 season, only five games into the campaign.

Smith-Schuster did not return to Pittsburgh as a free agent this off season, instead he signed on to catch passes from former NFL MVP — Patrick Mahomes. Smith-Schuster enters a locker room led by offensive mastermind Andy Reid. The wide receiver is hoping to boost his stock by being a key cog to one of the most powerful offenses in the league. With Tyreek Hill having moved on to the Dolphins, there are a number of targets that Smith-Schuster can step directly into. He is by no means the player that Hill is, but during his time in Pittsburgh he did well to create separation when in the slot.

Andy Reid is the type of play-caller that will always put his players in the best position to succeed. I know, I know, “duh, that’s what coaches do”. Reid happens to be one of the best though. He will be able to mix Smith-Schuster in seamlessly, allowing him to move in and out of the slot or to the outside. From the slot, Reid will be able to call crossers and a slew of other plays that see Smith-Schuster stretch the field horizontally. As the “Z” receiver on the outside, Smith-Schuster can use his elite footwork and create yardage with the ball in his hands. He really is quite versatile.

The Chiefs brought in former Packer wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Western Michigan’s own Skyy Moore in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. I don’t have to tell you that tight end Travis Kelce is going to eat, but in order for the Chiefs to truly contend for a championship, they must get production from the receiver room. Smith-Schuster, oddly enough, will be able to serve a mentor role of sorts as a 25-year old. Skyy Moore can emulate the type of play that Smith-Schuster utilizes, primarily focused on route running and serving as a the safety valve every down for the quarterback. Mahomes and Smith-Schuster should be able to build up a strong rapport and if we hit the fast-forward button to the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Smith-Schuster eclipse the 100-reception plateau.

If he lives up to the hype, JuJu will be in a prime position to break the bank in free agency next off season. He wisely only signed on for one year, because going somewhere like Kansas City and having a strong bounce back season can set him up for a lucrative contract in 2023. The Chiefs are in dire need of a No. 1 target in the wide receiver room, and Smith-Schuster is equally as desperate for a great season. Players in their contract year have the obvious incentive to perform at their highest level, and that will be no exception here. I am excited to see what Smith-Schuster brings to the Chiefs offense. The proposition of catching footballs from Patrick Mahomes must be tantalizing. Here’s to hoping JuJu can regain the form that we all saw in 2018.