Fantasy Football

2021 Fantasy Football: JuJu Smith-Schuster Injury

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Let’s take a look at JuJu Smith-Schuster‘s injury and the impact it has on the rest of the 2021 Fantasy Football season.

Through five weeks, we’ve seen a concerning amount of injuries amongst NFL players. As these injuries occur, it’s important to consider the effect they will have on an offense.

We just published a similar article on how to manage the upcoming weeks without Russell Wilson!

In addition to discussing the effects, I’ll be covering the next man up, as well as waiver advice moving forward.

2021 Fantasy Football: JuJu Smith-Schuster Injury

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Injury Recap

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During Pittsburgh’s Week 5 match-up against Denver, Smith-Schuster suffered a shoulder injury that forced him out of the game. It was later reported that the slot receiver would miss the remainder of the season after surgery.

Following Smith-Schuster’s departure from the game, Ray-Ray McCloud stepped up as the WR3. McCloud featured a 52.3% snap share in the game, per FantasyData. It’s important to note, however, James Washington was out for the Week 5 match-up, as he is dealing with a groin injury.

Team Outlook

The most pressing issue moving forward is the question of who will be the WR3 for Pittsburgh. Washington being out for the Week 5 game makes things a little tricky as well, considering we didn’t get a preview as to how the team will operate without Smith-Schuster.

Historically, it seems as if Ray-Ray McCloud would take over slot wide receiver duties. McCloud has operated out of the slot on 74% of his snaps so far this season, compared to Washington, who has only played out of the slot for 13.9% of his snaps, per PlayerProfiler.

To further complicate things, Pittsburgh signed Anthony Miller today.

Miller is someone who is quite familiar with the slot receiver role too. Last season, 86.3% of Miller’s snaps came from the slot, per PlayerProfiler. So the question remains, who is the next guy up?

At this point, it seems as if Miller is best suited to take over the role as the WR3. It also appears as if Pittsburgh wants to make the WR3 a full-time slot receiver, as opposed to moving around Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.

Although, I think this could be a mess of a rotation at the WR3 spot. Even so, Smith-Schuster, a far more talented receiver than the three left battling for his job, struggled enough himself to maintain Fantasy production this season.

If anything, Smith-Schuster’s injury should open the door to more volume for Johnson and Claypool. In fact, Claypool saw an uptick from his previous target share of 22%, to 24%.

Najee Harris may be another beneficiary of the Smith-Schuster injury in terms of volume. Ben Roethlisberger will assuredly need someone to maintain a low aDOT role, and Harris has already formed a bond with him.

So Now What?

As the Smith-Schuster Fantasy managers scramble to the waiver wire, let’s take a look at some viable options. As I mentioned previously, I think things will only get complicated at Pittsburgh’s WR3 position moving forward.

I prefer other wide receivers that are still out on the waiver wire over the likes of Washington, McCloud, and Miller. But for those of you in deeper leagues, if I had to take a shot on one, it would be Miller.

Otherwise, I’m much more interested in the following players, who are available in over 50% of ESPN leagues:

  • A.J. Green – It’s hard not to prefer a wide receiver on a significantly better team, catching passes from a significantly better quarterback. Green is currently the WR2 in terms of targets, but is slightly behind Rondale Moore and Christian Kirk in terms of fantasy points. Tight end Maxx Williams may also be out for the rest of the season, which could lead to more volume for Green.
  • Kadarius Toney – The jokes about the Giants drafting Toney in the first round were funny, but Toney certainly has impressed in his first two starts. With Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton all banged up, there’s potential for Toney moving forward. Not to mention, Shepard has been the only consistent receiving option so far this season.
  • Rashod Bateman – The first-round pick is expected to return from injureded reserve for Week 6. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson has been tearing it up in the passing game. Jackson is currently averaging more passing yards per game, and more yards per attempt than he ever has previously in his career. Now enters an elite wide receiver, that the team intentionally spent first-round draft capital on.

Long Term Outlook

As it relates to Smith-Schuster in Dynasty, he suddenly becomes an even more intriguing trade target. Fantasy managers might be looking to sell low now more than ever, following the news.

JuJu is set to be a free agent in 2022, where he’ll almost certainly be departing from Pittsburgh. Any change in scenery should benefit the receiver, who was one of the most valued Dynasty assets just a couple of years ago.

After all, JuJu Smith-Schuster will only be 25 at the start of next season. And so far, nothing suggests medically that the receiver won’t be ready for the start of the 2022 season.


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About Preston White

Preston is a long time Fantasy Football player, and a big time Best Ball guy. He finds great joy in life's pleasures including data, analytics, IPAs, and #ZeroRB drafting. Feel free to give him a shout on Twitter (@FF_Engineer_) regarding anything Fantasy Football and Best Ball related.

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