2023 NFL Draft Player Preview: Jaxon Smith-Njigba

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, 6-0/193

  • Wide Receiver

  • Ohio State

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba 2023 Preview
    By Charlie Campbell

    Career Recap: Ohio State has been loaded with wide receiver talent year after year now, and Smith-Njigba is the program’s model for the 2023 NFL Draft. In 2021, Smith-Njigba was the third receiver behind Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, but Smith-Njigba still managed to dominate the competition. He caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards, nine touchdowns on the year. In November 2021, Smith-Njigba caught fire to close out the season, putting up huge games against Nebraska (15-240-1), Purdue (9-139-1), Michigan (11-127) and Utah (15-347-3).

    2022 Season Outlook: With Olave and Wilson in the NFL, Smith-Njigba should be the No. 1 feature receiver for the Buckeyes, and of course, he has good talent around him as well. The Buckeyes have junior quarterback C.J. Stroud returning and trying to make the case to be a high first-round pick in his own right. As long as Smith-Njigba stays healthy, Smith-Njigba should produce a huge season going against the Big Ten’s weak cornerbacks.

    Skill-Set Summary: The first attribute that jumps out about Smith-Njigba is his speed. He is a fast wideout who can break a game open. Beyond his a fast first-step, Smith-Njigba has a second gear to accelerate down the field and stretch defenses over the top. He can run by double coverage and score from anywhere on the field. His speed and athleticism allow him to consistently generate separation from defensive backs beccayse he is very difficult to run with. Along with being a vertical threat, Smith-Njigba should be a good third-down weapon in the NFL given his ability to get open on short to intermediate routes.

    Like Wilson and Olave, Smith-Njigba shows polished technique as a receiver. He tracks the ball well and uses late hands to reel in passes even when defenders are close. While Smith-Njigba is not a pure size mismatch, he has good enough height and shows an ability to make contested catches over defensive backs. He has good feel and instincts as well, showing an ability to break off his routes to get open for his quarterback when plays break down. While Smith-Njigba is a little straight line, he can still tack on some more yards after the catch with his ability to dart past defenders for further gains.

    For the NFL, Smith-Njigba could fit well as a X – split end – receiver who works along the sideline and challenges teams vertically. Smith-Njigba also is very dangerous on crossing routes and working the middle of the field, and he functions very well out of the slot too.

    Smith-Njigba could stand to add a little more muscle to his frame to help him get off jams at the pro level. He looks a little thinly framed, but looks can be deceiving on the screen. Some pro team sources felt that previous receivers prospects out of Ohio State, particularly Wilson, were thin-framed, so they will be checking on that with Smith-Njigba in the pre-draft interviews and visits.

    2023 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2022 season, Smith-Njigba is one of the top wide receiver prospects and a consensus top-16 talent for the 2023 NFL Draft.


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