In March, JuJu signed a one-year, $10.75 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. Playing with Patrick Mahomes, this was the season that proved his success. There’s no excuse if JuJu isn’t playing to the No. 1 standard of receivers when the best young midfielder of this generation is throwing him into a vortex.
JuJu had blown up the tournament before, but if he had glanced too hard in the spacious room of the tape recorder at the man in the number 12 shirt, he might have seen the Ghost of Christmas Future coming. stare back. It’s been nine years since Josh Gordon burst into NFL consciousness with a nine-touch 1,400-yard touchdown season in 2013. Due to a series of suspensions for repeated violations of substance abuse policies of the NFL, Gordon has not been eclipsed for 1,000 yards since then. Earlier this week, Gordon was released from prison. JuJu doesn’t run the risk of falling off the NFL’s radar like Gordon does. He’s five years younger, keeps a clean sheet and somehow still holds the NFL record for youngest player to hit 2,500 yards in his career. However, his inability to replicate 2018 was also a source of similar frustration.
The same thing happened with JuJu at USC. His second-year breakout JuJu hit 89 catches, more than double USC’s No 2 pass catcher, and 1,454 yards, 1,000 yards more than leader Adoree’ Jackson. His output dwindled during his junior year as Trojans sought to diversify their attack and JuJu’s concern about terminal speed sent him plummeting towards the end of the second round. , where he was eliminated by Pittsburgh.
Their pedigree couldn’t be more different, but there are still some similarities between Gordon and JuJu. Gordon’s 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns was the gold standard of thrilling year-long campaigns – especially for the wide receivers. Included in the 2011 Supplemental Draft after catching just 43 721-yard passes during his college career, Gordon experienced modest success as a rookie, but no one saw 2013 his explode are coming. The league’s top 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games have lit up the NFL. But like a meteor entering the atmosphere, Gordon burned out when he entered.
Whether it was the result of injuries, suspensions, or just defense catching up, NFL history is littered with “now you see them, now you don’t” talents who have tantalized and then fade into obscurity.
Peyton Hillis’ 1,200-yard season in 2010 made him one of the most unlikely Madden cover athletes ever. Ickey Woods’ 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl XXIII berth, and Larry Brown’s Super Bowl MVP to cap off the 1995 season are some of the most notable flash-in-the-pan runs to the Big Game in league history.
JuJu had a passing moment of greatness in 2018. That year, his teammate Antonio Brown was the cover athlete on Madden and then reached 10,000 yards in fewer games as a receiver besides Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones. However, JuJu’s emergence was the highlight of that campaign.
JuJu’s second season witnessed him emerging from the shadow of Brown as he hauled in 111 catches for 1,426 yards. The Steelers were so confident in JuJu, that Brown sent a top-three receiver in the NFL walking. However, JuJu has faltered with the weight of the top pick on his shoulders.
Three seasons later, JuJu is known more for his TikToks than his pass-catching prowess. In his first full season as the go-to receiver, JuJu recorded a career-low 552 yards while playing through a toe injury and sprained MCL. Pittsburgh chalked up his disappointing performance to JuJu’s injury-riddled season and the fact that he was catching passes from career backups Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges. JuJu spent much of his last two seasons in Pittsburgh watching Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool eat his targets. The skinny on JuJu is that he maxed out as a No. 2 receiver alongside an all-time great, but once coverages and top cornerbacks fixated on him, he lacked the technique or physical attributes to thrive.
There are some differences that should give JuJu believers hope. In 2022, JuJu has an opportunity to return to glory as Mahomes’ top target. Replacing Tyreek Hill will be an insanely difficult task. It will take a composite of Skyy Moore, Marquez-Valdes Scantling, and Mecole Hardman to equal Tyreek Hill. Hardman has blazing speed, but his route running technique leaves much to be desired. Valdes-Scantling has always been a bundle of potential without the breakout year to show for it.
If there’s anyone who can put a defibrillator to JuJu’s career the same way Tyreek Hill is attempting to awaken Tua’s, it’s Patrick Mahomes. JuJu’s in a better place now. But he’ll have to prove to stay there past this season.