Fantasy Football: What Can We Expect From JuJu Smith-Schuster for the Rest of 2017?

Following a huge Week 8 performance, is JuJu Smith-Schuster in a good position to keep the fantasy football production coming?

While Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster first entertained us on Twitter with his bicycle saga, it was what he did a few days later during the Week 8 edition of Sunday Night Football that really got our attention.

It was easily a breakout performance for him, as he hauled in 7 receptions for 193 yards, which included a 97-yard touchdown reception. Now that he's on everyone's radar, what can we expect from him for the rest of the season?

Carving Out a Role in the Steelers' Offense

To help analyze the performance of players on the football field, we like using our signature metric, Net Expected Points (NEP). NEP uses historical down-and-distance data to determine what is expected of a player on each individual play. The below table compares the Total NEP, Reception NEP per target, and Success Rate (the percentage of targets that positively impact NEP) between Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown, and Martavis Bryant.

Player Total NEP Reception NEP Per Target Success Rate
Antonio Brown 70.17 0.75 89.47%
JuJu Smith-Schuster 38.49 1.07 91.67%
Martavis Bryant 16.36 0.45 72.22%

Smith-Schuster's 1.07 Reception NEP per target is bound to come back to reality a bit as he continues garnering targets (he has just 36 so far this year, compared to Brown's 94), but this is a worthy comparison between him and Bryant, who both have an identical number of targets.

There's a big difference in NEP, but the gap is Success Rate is also rather significant here.

If we continue this comparison, we can remain confident with Smith-Schuster's production because his snap rate has steadily increased while his teammate's has gone in the other direction.

Player Last 5 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8
JuJu Smith-Schuster 69.60% 71.05% 82.28% 68.75% 44.93% 79.69%
Martavis Bryant 63.35% 63.16% 72.22% 51.56% 52.17% Benched

Not only is he producing more, but he's also getting a chance to be on the field more often. Opportunity is king in fantasy football, and it looks like the rookie is getting more of it.

Moving Forward

While it's obvious that nobody is coming close to sniffing Brown as the top receiving threat in Pittsburgh's offense, who will most likely be the second option at wide receiver for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the remainder of this season?

It certainly appears as though Bryant is falling out of favor in the Steel City, and our rest-of-season projections back that up.

Player FantasyPoints Position Rank Receptions Receiving Yards Touchdowns
JuJu Smith-Schuster 55.60 36 22.53 373.51 3.02
Martavis Bryant 22.44 80 13.92 168.88 0.90

With Bryant available to play in Week 10 against the Indianapolis Colts, we do expect Smith-Schuster's snap rate to drop a bit, but he still holds value. Our defensive rankings also provide a glimpse as to what the rookie pass catcher might be able to accomplish over the final seven games of the fantasy football season.

Outside of the Colts, Pittsburgh will also get favorable matchups against the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and Green Bay Packers, all of whom rank within the bottom eight of the league with regard to pass defense, per our metrics. In fact, the only defense that currently ranks within the top half of the NFL in pass defense that they'll face is the Baltimore Ravens, who are currently second.

And for those wondering, these final seven games include four at home and three on the road.

All signs point to Smith-Schuster being a viable fantasy option following his Week 8 breakout, so look to use him with confidence down the stretch -- especially when the situation calls for it.