Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was taken by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 20 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He is the first receiver to be selected in this year’s draft and was the top wideout prospect heading into Thursday. Sharing a receiver room with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave in 2021, he ended up breaking Ohio State’s single-season receiving records. He now joins an explosive receiver room containing DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Jaxon Smith-Njiba was part of the Buckeye’s powerful wide receiving trio in 2021, along side Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Though it’s amazing to think that there were enough passes to feed all three of those monsters, Smith-Njiba hauled in 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns during his sophomore campaign. And when those other two opted out of the Rose Bowl that season to prepare for the NFL Draft, Smith-Njiba turned heads with 15 catches for a stunning 347 yards and three touchdowns to power a comeback win for the Buckeyes.
Unfortunately, his junior season wasn’t so special as a hamstring limited him to just three games in 2022. Still, don’t let dampen the outlook for his pro career. Smith-Njiba has the skills to be a productive pass catcher for years to come, and he’s likely to hear his name called on the opening night of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Jaxon Smith-Njiba: Scouting Report
While he may lack the top-end speed that would make him a presence on weekly highlight reels, Smith-Njiba makes up for that as an incredible route runner with the agility and smooth hips to create separation.
He’s a real threat on deep throws as well, tracking throws well and using his separation skills to get behind a defense. Smith-Njiba is a reminder that sometimes being a smart, cagey player is better than having pure straight-line speed to make plays.
At Ohio State, he did most of his damage as a slot receiver, and that’s where he figures to see most of his snaps in the NFL, though a smart offense can easily use him lined up outside for a handful of snaps every week.
Smith-Njiba’s hands might just stand out over everything else he brings as the best predictor of success at the next level. He has a real knack for catching the ball in crowded spaces with a heightened focus. On deep throws, he tracks the ball well and hauls it over his shoulders without breaking a sweat.
His lost season in 2022 could definitely work against him in the draft process, leaving some questions about how ready he is for the pros. But his game tape from the year before should help ease some of those concerns.
Mock Draft landing spots
Smith-Njigba is likely going to be a first-round pick and the first receiver off the board in this draft. CBS has him going to the Houston Texans, the Athletic sees him at the Seahawks, and PFF has the Tennessee Titans taking him.
Fantasy football implications
Smith-Njiba’s skillset could translate nicely right out of the gate in the NFL. He can be a reliable pass catcher, a quarterback’s best friend, who can get the first down and more. He could see enough volume in the passing game as a rookie, depending on where he lands, to be a productive part of a fantasy football roster. He’s definitely someone to have on the radar in dynasty leagues too.
The Texans are likely getting a rookie quarterback this year in either CJ Stroud or Bryce Young, both of whom would be expected to start right away. If he joins Stroud in Houston, the two could fall into step without missing a beat after their time together at Ohio State. The Texans don’t have a particularly strong starting receiver lineup, so Smith-Njigba could start getting snaps very quickly this season.
With the Seahawks, he would be joining Geno Smith’s offense alongside DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Seattle doesn’t have much depth at the position right now and would likely expect Smith-Njigba to be a quick standout. Smith had plenty of 300-yard passing games this past season, and if they stick with their play-calling, this could be a good fit for the rookie receiver.
With the Titans, he joins a team that drafted a first-round receiver last year, as well, in Treylon Burks. It seems unlikely that they would go for that again so early, and Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis may be in the midst of a quarterback battle. Smith-Njigba would not be as valuable of a fantasy asset if he lands on this Derrick Henry-centered team.