Rookie receiver race: Juju Smith-Schuster making move for struggling class

JuJu Smith-Schuster has carved out a role with the Steelers and has 105 yards and a touchdown over his last two games. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Rookie receivers are struggling this season. Some can’t stay healthy. Others have been uninvolved in their offenses.

And considering the past few years, this is a surprise.

Through five weeks, rookie receivers have combined for 86 catches, 1,022 yards and seven touchdowns. Four receivers have scored touchdowns and three of them have two. Only three receivers have more than 10 catches, and only three have more than 100 receiving yards.

The two biggest names -- Corey Davis and John Ross -- have been hampered by injuries and largely inactive. Other than flashes from the Rams' Cooper Kupp and the Steelers' Juju Smith-Schuster -- both of whom have played well and found consistent roles -- no receiver has made a big splash, either.

The numbers early on would indicate an down class, but how does it compare?

Consider the last few years after five weeks of the season:

  • In 2016, receivers had 144 catches for 1,760 yards and 10 touchdowns. Six receivers had more than 100 yards, led by Will Fuller's 327. At this point, five receivers had multiple touchdowns, but they were the only five receivers with a receiving score. Six receivers had more than 10 catches.

  • In 2015, receivers had 130 catches for 1,539 yards and eight touchdowns. Six receivers again had more than 100 yards, led by 386 from Amari Cooper. Five receivers had touchdowns, including three with two each. And four receivers had 10 or more catches.

  • In 2014, which was a gold year for rookie receivers, the group had 207 catches for 2,183 yards and 15 touchdowns through five weeks. Eight receivers had 100 or more receiving yards, led by 367 from Kelvin Benjamin and 284 from Sammy Watkins. Two receivers, Benjamin and John Brown, had three touchdown catches. Nine receivers had 10 or more receptions, including 32 from Brandin Cooks.

  • In 2013, receivers had 147 catches for 1,964 yards and 10 touchdowns. Eight receivers had at least 100 receiving yards, topped by DeAndre Hopkins' 293. Three receivers had two touchdowns each. Seven had at least 10 receptions, including Tavon Austin's 23.

So it has been a down year thus far. With that in mind, here’s a look at rookie receivers through five weeks in the NFL with every receiver targeted this year included (according to ESPN Stats & Information):

Corey Davis, Tennessee (Year to date stats: 7 receptions, 73 yards, 13 targets, 51 routes): Davis did not play Sunday against Miami because of a hamstring injury.

John Ross, Cincinnati (YTD stats: 1 carry, 12 yards; 0 receptions, 0 yards, 0 targets, 2 routes): He was inactive against Buffalo because of a knee injury.

Zay Jones, Buffalo (YTD stats: 5 receptions, 66 yards, 20 targets, 159 routes): Jones continues to get a lot of work -- and continues to not do much with it. He was targeted six times on 41 routes, coming up with one catch for nine yards and also one drop.

Curtis Samuel, Carolina (YTD stats: 4 receptions, 12 yards, 10 targets, 50 routes): He handled kick return duties against Detroit on Sunday, but in the passing game he ran 10 routes, was targeted twice and didn’t catch a pass.

Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh (YTD stats: 12 receptions, 160 yards, 2 TDs, 20 targets, 152 routes): Adapting to the Pittsburgh offense, Smith-Schuster led all rookies in receptions and yards last week with four catches for 58 yards. He did his work on six targets and did not record a drop. He also ran a rookie-best 50 routes last week.

Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 17 receptions, 230 yards, 2 TDs, 29 targets, 135 routes): The best rookie receiver to date in the class had three catches for 44 yards against Seattle. Kupp, who was targeted eight times, was the intended receiver on a potential game-winning touchdown pass he dropped. Kupp ran 45 routes Sunday.

Taywan Taylor, Tennessee (YTD stats: 5 receptions, 72 yards, 8 targets, 74 routes): He was targeted once on 26 routes last week but did not catch the pass.

Kenny Golladay, Detroit (YTD stats: 7 receptions, 102 yards, 2 TDs, 14 targets, 79 routes): Golladay was inactive for the second straight week as he deals with a hamstring injury. Without Golladay, the Lions have not had much of a deep threat at receiver.

Mack Hollins, Philadelphia (YTD stats: 3 receptions, 32 yards, 3 targets, 33 routes): He was not targeted against Arizona.

Josh Reynolds, Los Angeles Rams (YTD stats: 1 reception, 28 yards, 1 target, 19 routes): He played but was not targeted against Seattle.

Amara Darboh, Seattle (YTD stats: 1 reception, 16 yards, 7 targets, 35 routes): He played but was not targeted against Los Angeles.

Chad Williams, Arizona (YTD stats: 2 reception, 23 yards, 3 targets, 17 routes): He was inactive against Philadelphia.

Trent Taylor, San Francisco (YTD stats: 12 receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD, 21 targets, 120 routes): One of the better rookies in the class, Taylor had a less productive day against Indianapolis than the past few weeks. On 27 routes, he was targeted twice, catching one pass for six yards. He also had one drop.

Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay (YTD stats: 4 receptions, 52 yards, 7 targets, 35 routes): He didn’t get a ton of work against New England on Thursday, catching one pass for eight yards off two targets and 10 routes.

ArDarius Stewart, New York Jets (YTD stats: 3 receptions, 34 yards, 5 targets, 40 routes): He played but was not targeted against Cleveland.

Isaiah McKenzie, Denver (YTD stats: 2 targets, 23 routes): The Broncos were off in Week 5.

Noah Brown, Dallas (YTD stats: 1 reception, 13 yards, 1 target, 3 routes): He was inactive against Green Bay.

The Jets' Chad Hansen (14 routes), Dallas' Ryan Switzer (7) and Minnesota's Stacy Coley (1) are receivers who have run routes but have yet to be targeted this season. Kansas City's Jehu Chesson has played in one game but has not run a route.