It seems like only yesterday that former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster was widely regarded as one of the premier wideouts in the NFL. But a couple of underwhelming seasons and an injury-plagued 2021 has transitioned Smith-Schuster into a “prove it” year for 2022. After playing just five games last season the former Pro Bowler has a chance to remind the league how talented he is, and he’s walking into arguably the perfect situation.
Smith-Schuster agreed to a one-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs and joins a legitimate Super Bowl contender in an ever-competitive AFC West. The Chiefs saw a few notable departures on the offensive side of the ball but Smith-Schuster can help fill the void. If all goes according to plan then his setup in Kansas City has the makings of a substantial fantasy season for Smith-Schuster.
2021 season statistics & fantasy finish
Receiving: Smith-Schuster finished with 15 receptions for 129 receiving yards in his injury-shortened season. He averaged 25.8 receiving yards per game with three receptions per game.
Fantasy: In point-per-reception scoring, Smith-Schuster compiled 34.8 total fantasy points last season with an average of 7.0 fantasy points per game. Among standard scoring leagues, he totaled 19.8 fantasy points and averaged 4.0 fantasy points per game.
Chiefs offseason moves
Kansas City saw a few notable departures including their third-leading receiver in Byron Pringle and defensive stalwart Tyrann Mathieu in the secondary. No loss was more significant than the Chiefs’ trade of Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. To offset the loss on the outside, Kansas City added Smith-Schuster on a one-year deal and also agreed to terms with Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a three-year $30 million deal. To provide some reliability in the backfield the Chiefs also signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Ronald Jones to a one-year deal.
2022 best case scenario
Smith-Schuster has proven he can be a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver, having achieved the milestone back in the 2018 season when he totaled 1,426 receiving yards on 111 receptions and seven touchdowns. In seasons past he was the bonafide WR1 for the Steelers and now walks into an ideal situation to reclaim that label with the Chiefs. Forming synergy early on with Patrick Mahomes and posting close to 1,000 yards receiving in 2022 is not a lofty goal among this offense and would be a home run for fantasy owners.
2022 worst case scenario
Even with the departure of Hill and Pringle, the Chiefs continue to have a multitude of weapons on offense. Since Smith-Schuster is on a one-year “prove it” deal there is the possibility that he may not form the chemistry of a WR1 with Mahomes and that proving not to be an issue for this team’s title aspirations. Mahomes could continue to feed Travis Kelce and potentially form a synergy with Valdes-Scantling, leaving Smith-Schuster as the odd man out with limited fantasy production to account for.
Last year was an injury-plagued season for Smith-Schuster, and so as long as he remains healthy, then 2022 will be a bounce-back year for the former Pro-Bowler. Early indications through camp have highlighted how he good he looks running his routes, which bodes well for his fantasy outlook this season. It’s hard not to imagine he benefits significantly with Mahomes throwing his way. I predict he returns to a productive fantasy season and finishes as a top-15 fantasy receiver.