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How Many Receiving Yards Will JuJu Smith-Schuster Have in 2020?

JuJu Smith-Schuster had a down year in 2019. Does he bounce back in full force for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020? Let's break down his over/under for receiving yards.

JuJu Smith-Schuster's rapid ascent from second-round pick to an internet and fantasy football sensation came to an abrupt halt last season due to a pair of injuries. The first was to Pittsburgh Steelers future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who went down with an elbow injury in Week 2 and never returned to action. The second was to Smith-Schuster himself, as he suffered a concussion and a knee injury during a game that's now infamous for Cleveland Browns pass-rusher Myles Garrett ripping off the helmet of Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and whacking him on the head with it. Smith-Schuster missed four weeks of action.

Between poor quarterback play from Rudolph and Devlin Hodges and Smith-Schuster missing Weeks 12-15, 2019 was a lost season for the former USC star. Can he bounce back in full force in 2020?

Let's take a look at where the over/under is set at FanDuel Sportsbook for Smith-Schuster's receiving yards this season:

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FanDuel has essentially used the 1,100-yard plateau as the benchmark here. That's a fascinating number because it's nearly identical to Smith-Schuster's career average for yards-per-16-games. Smith-Schuster's 2,895 receiving yards over 42 games comes out to an average of 68.93 yards per game or 1,102.86 yards per 16 games. 

While it may seem easy to just evaluate whether you expect Smith-Schuster to reach his career average or not, there are other factors that bettors should weigh heavily. Here are the pros and cons of each side:

Pros for betting OVER; Cons for betting UNDER

The biggest plus for Smith-Schuster this season is the return of a healthy and pain-free Roethlisberger. Smith-Schuster is averaging 78.73 receiving yards per game in contests started by Roethlisberger since Week 2 of the wide receiver's rookie season (2017). That's a 16-game average of 1,259.73 receiving yards. Even as bad as things were last season, he was still on a 1,013-yard pace through Week 8. 

Smith-Schuster and Roethlisberger come back healthy this season and they return to a Steelers team with more polished offensive weapons than this time last year. Diontae Johnson and James Washington proved they can be solid NFL contributors in their expanded roles, and the addition of Eric Ebron will draw considerable attention in the middle of the field. Smith-Schuster should easily move back into the slot role he had so much success in back in 2018. Everything is setting up for a major bounce-back season for the uber-talented 23-year-old.

Pros for betting UNDER; Cons for betting OVER

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Aside from the health of his quarterback, Smith-Schuster's injury history is the biggest factor to consider when making a wager on this prop. He missed one game due to a hamstring injury his rookie season (and another due to suspension). He played all 16 games in 2018 before missing the aforementioned four games last season. So he's missed five games due to injury (six total) in his three-year career. 

The other more specific concern is his head injuries. He's suffered three in three years in the NFL, two in his rookie season and one in 2019. It would be inappropriate the speculate about the severity or effect it could have on the young receiver moving forward, but it is something to be aware of.  

Keep these numbers in mind: Smith-Schuster has averaged 68.93 yards per game in his career (70.61 if you don't count Week 1 of his rookie season) and 78.73 yards per game when Roethlisberger starts. If he misses two games in 2020, his career average, he'd need to average 78.57 yards per game to hit the over. If he misses four games, like he did in 2019, he'd have to average 91.67 yards per game. 

The other con is whether the distractions about his future in Pittsburgh hold down his production. From AllSteelers reporter Donnie Druin:

"Up to this moment, we know little about Smith-Schuster's place in Pittsburgh beyond 2020. We know that Roethlisberger enjoys having Smith-Schuster to throw to, and we know that the Steelers are willing to cater to Roethlisberger at this stage in his career.

"However, we also know that this league is a business, both for player and organization. Smith-Schuster may prove himself worthy of a brinks truck following the upcoming season, and may want top dollar in order to continue wearing black and gold."

Betting Advice: This is one of the more interesting prop bets out there because of the variety of factors bettors must consider. On a pure talent basis, this bet is an easy OVER. But Smith-Schuster's injury history should give many pause before making a wager. It's tough to predict injuries, but I'll bank on Smith-Schuster missing between 0-2 games next season. If he plays at least 14 games with Roethlisberger in 2020, he'll get to 1,100 yards.

The Play: OVER 1,099.5 yards (-112)

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