CFB Player Bracket: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Corey Davis
This first-round matchup in PFF’s Player Bracket features two standout wide receivers returning to the FBS for 2016: USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Western Michigan’s Corey Davis.
The case for JuJu Smith-Schuster
All JuJu has done since first stepping foot on a Pac-12 field as a 17-year-old in 2014 is produce. In his first game as a Trojan, Smith hauled in four receptions for 123 yards and a +1.7 receiving grade. It took just four games for him to tally his first overall grade north of +1.0, and in his seventh game (a Week 8 matchup vs Colorado) he exploded for an overall grade of +4.4. He finished that freshman season with an overall grade of +12.5, the eighth-best mark among the WRs who will be stepping onto a college football field in 2016.
The electric Trojan followed that rookie season up with an emphatic sophomore one, hauling in 89 catches (8th among returning WRs) for 1,454 yards (2nd) and 10 touchdowns (5th). His 3.39 yards per route run was third among returning receivers and his 123.1 WR rating (the quarterback rating when a receiver is thrown at) was seventh best. JuJu has also proved that he’s capable of thriving at any level of the field: in 2015 he accumulated 33.8 percent of his yards on balls that traveled at least 20 yards in the air, 31.4 percent on balls that traveled between 10 and 19 yards in the air and 34.8 percent on balls that traveled fewer than 10 yards in the air.
JuJu is without a doubt one of the most impactful offensive weapons in the FBS — but is it enough to beat out Corey Davis?
The case for Corey Davis
You know in middle school sports how there’s always that one kid who dominates every game while making it look effortless? That’s Corey Davis against MAC defenses.
Trailing only Rashard Higgins, Davis’ overall grade of +49.6 over the past two seasons was the second-best among all WRs in the FBS. As a true freshman in 2013, he hauled in 67 catches for 941 yards and six touchdowns; he followed that up with a 78-1,408-15 sophomore season and then a 90-1,436-12 junior season in 2015.
Davis’ +27.0 receiving grade in 2015 was the best among all returning FBS receivers — his 3.47 yards per route run was the second-best mark and his 15 forced missed tackles ranked 15th out of 307 qualified returning receivers. What’s crazy about Davis’ 2015 season was that his grade is actually suppressed by a slew of drops he had from Weeks 2 through 8 (seven of his eight drops came over that stretch and he had at least one drop in each game).
Once Davis figured out his drop issues he transformed into an unstoppable force — from Week 9 through the end of the season Davis was our highest overall graded receiver, including all of the receivers taking their talents to Sunday in 2016.
The Verdict: Corey Davis advances
Corey Davis wins this extremely close first-round matchup — he’s the complete package. His separation skills are superb, his catch radius is ridiculous and he uses his body well to shield defenders away at the catch point, I’m not sure he’s even slightly phased by contact. He’s also extremely dangerous in the screen game, he’s patient and reads his blocks very well, and his short-term burst allows him to absolutely blow through the second level once his blocks are in place. Both of these guys look like they’re going to be stars some day in the NFL, but somebody has to come out on top and Davis is the best wide receiver in the FBS.
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