Shotgun Spratling | USCfootball.com

JuJu . . . Rhymes with Day 2

JuJu Smith-Schuster should find out where he's going Friday. That looks like the best-case scenario -- Day 2 for JuJu.

He did well at USC. He's done well in the run-up to the NFL Draft.

Next week we get to see how leaving college after three years works out for JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Athlon Sports has JuJu at No. 51 in its Top 100 NFL Prospects rankings, just ahead of Michigan tight end Jake Butt and Texas running back Donta' Foreman. Not a bad place to be. But solidly in the middle of the second round, not the first 32 that will get called Thursday on Day 1.

NFL Media Analyst Mike Mayock, in his rankings of the Top Five players at every position, has JuJu in a tie for No. 5 wide receiver with Eastern Washington's Cooper Kupp. They're behind Western Michigan's Corey Davis, Clemson's Mike Williams, Washington speedster John Ross and East Carolina's Zay Jones.

But JuJu, Mayock notes, is on the rise as we get closer to the draft, up from out of the Top Five in his previous rankings. No doubt a sign that JuJu's 4.5 speed at nearly 220 pounds, now that those are certified at the Combine, and his interview performance as an upbeat team guy, hard-nosed hard worker just turned 20, has a chance to mature and improve once he hits the NFL.

Pro Football Focus has JuJu No. 6 on their Top 15 WR list behind four of the above five and Oklahoma's Dede Westbrook. Here's their take on JuJu: "Smith-Schuster seemed to have lost some momentum in the draft process after a down year production-wise compared to 2015, but don’t let that fool you. Smith-Schuster is a strong, physical receiver who knows how to use his body to make catches. He’s not the fastest or quickest receiver by any means, but he does run some routes well enough to get open. Once the ball is in his hands he’s hard to bring down, especially by smaller secondary defenders. Smith-Schuster is the kind of guy who loves underthrown deep balls, because it allows him the chance to get under it and high point the ball over a defender. He still needs to get more consistent at those contested catch situations, but his size and hands should help him there. Smith-Schuster may never be more than a good second option receiver but in today’s pass-happy NFL, that is something a lot of teams should covet."

Now those numbers would seem to translate to somewhere in the middle of the second round on Friday. And the NFL.com's Chad Reuter does have JuJu going there at No. 52 to the Cleveland Browns. But it's not a cinch he makes it into Round 2 -- just somewhere on Day 2. But more representative are the third-round projections we see in most places.

CBSSports.com's mock draft has JuJu going in the third round at No. 81 to Washington. Foxsports.com has JuJu, still in the third round, at No. 67 to the Chicago Bears. No.65 is where DraftWire has JuJu going to start off the third round.

And in that same neighborhood, but also in his home neighborhood, Drafttek.com crunches the numbers and comes up with JuJu at No. 69 but staying home to play for the Rams. Pro Football Focus' mock draft has JuJu staying in the state at No. 66, but going up to the Bay Area to play for the San Francisco 49'ers.

The latest reports we're hearing have the Rams showing the most interest in JuJu and no wonder when you factor in all the qualitative factors revealed in this cover letter JuJu wrote to NFL teams considering him: "If you draft me, I’ll come in and compete every single day. I love and respect the game too much to take the opportunity to play in the NFL for granted. I’ve worked my whole life for this. Now I’m ready to work harder than I’ve ever worked before. And I’m ready to win."

At USC's Pro day, JuJu amplified on that a bit: "I don't like to smoke or drink," he said, although admitting that "I do like to party."

Which will be the case, we'd guess, if he gets to stay in California.

But he's been to Buffalo in the snow already and says he can handle that with his NFL contract clock starting at a young age. There's always a second contract. And JuJu says he's in this for the long haul.

"I'm really confident," he says. There was "so much pressure on me to run the 40 . . . I concentrated on it and ran a 4.5."

But speed for his size isn't all JuJu is selling. "My football IQ," he says, which is right up there with his work ethic. "And I'm going to stay out of trouble."

And stay on the field.

"I played with a couple of broken bones," he reminds you. It's a badge of honor. And a reason to draft him.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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