Something we cover often here at Pro Football Network is how injuries can impact fantasy football performances and force fantasy managers to spend a lot of time debating who to start. These decisions only get more important as the season goes on, because a bad lineup choice in Week 12 can mean the end of your season. So this week, let’s look at the latest information about JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury. For starters, is he playing in Week 12? And what should we expect from him if he does?
Recapping JuJu’s 2020 season so far
For the season, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is WR22 in terms of fantasy with 143.5 PPR points. JuJu has 58 catches on 75 targets for 773 yards and five touchdowns. His teammates are also doing really well on the year for fantasy managers. Chase Claypool is WR18 with 155.1 PPR points and Diontae Johnson is WR30 with 126 PPR points. Overall, the Pittsburgh offense has been rolling, clearly helping them to a 10-0 record on the season.
JuJu himself has been somewhat up and down, however. If you look deeper at his numbers something else appears. His highest score was 24.9 points in Week 1, but his lowest was 2.6 in Week 6. While 24.9 points is what you would expect from a solid WR2 option in fantasy, 2.6 points can absolutely wreck your week. While this season has seen a lot of this kind of fluctuation at the wide receiver position, this isn’t exactly good news either.
From a consistency standpoint, JuJu is far from a lock as a starting WR. PFN’s Consistency Score (CS) has JuJu at WR35 with a 3.66. This puts him in the neighborhood of DeVante Parker, Jerry Jeudy, and Curtis Samuel, all of whom are more boom or bust types of players in their own rights. For fantasy managers this year, JuJu Smith-Schuster has done okay, but the rise of his teammates and his new injury have many managers worried about his Week 12 outlook.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s injury history
JuJu isn’t exactly injury-prone, but he’s definitely had his share of bumps and bruises throughout his NFL career. In 2017, JuJu suffered one concussion that forced him to miss a preseason game and a second concussion that forced him out of his Week 7 game early. He later experienced a hamstring injury that forced him to miss Week 12 of that season entirely.
During the 2019 season, JuJu suffered another concussion as well as a knee injury on the same play in a loss against the Cleveland Browns in Week 11. This combination of injuries forced him to miss four games. The Steelers would drop to 5-5 after that loss and were relying on starting QB Mason Rudolph for the injured Ben Roethlisberger, so it’s very likely that the team didn’t see a need to risk getting JuJu back on the field too quickly.
In last week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, JuJu Smith-Schuster suffered his first injury of the 2020 season. This time it was a fluke injury that happened away from the action. Early in the second half of the game, JuJu stepped on a flag and tweaked his ankle in the process. The game was well in hand, and the team opted not to have him return as a precaution, but ankle injuries like this can greatly impact a receiver, especially ones on teams that are undefeated and have their eyes on the playoffs already. The context couldn’t be more different than last season. So will the Steelers rush him back this time?
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Week 12 outlook and beyond
Prior to leaving the game last week, JuJu Smith-Schuster had only recorded four receptions on five targets for 19 yards, scoring 5.9 PPR points for fantasy. Looking at the season as a whole, JuJu’s usage has clearly gone down with the rise of his younger teammates in Claypool and Johnson, both of whom are seeing more and more targets lately. Claypool has even been used a lot more in gadget plays, a sign that the offense wants to get him the ball more however it can.
This week will be a challenge for Steelers wide receivers regardless of JuJu’s availability. The Baltimore Ravens are ranked 21st in Defense Points Against Consistency (DPAC), allowing an average of 31.97 PPR points to opposing wide receivers. On average so far this season, the top three Steelers WR options score a combined 30.6 PPR points per game themselves, meaning this game will likely be middle of the road for all three, meaning each one has slightly lower upside than many fantasy managers may be looking for in their lineups.
If the injury is indeed something minor, which it very well could be, then expect JuJu to suit up and play on Sunday afternoon against the Ravens. However, even if he plays, fantasy managers might be better off looking elsewhere if they want to be safe. At the moment, Juju is an injured player on a team with other offensive options, against a defense that tends to hold their ground against wide receivers, making him someone worth avoiding if you can. If your team looks like a lock to win this week, then feel free to start JuJu with caution, but if you need a big performance out of him to have a chance, it might not be a good idea to rely on JuJu to carry your team this week.
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Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering the NFL and Fantasy Football. You can follow him on Twitter: @AndrewHallFF.