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NFL Draft Profile: Jaxon Smith-Njigba

School: Ohio State

Position: WR

Year: Junior

The Good: Smith-Njigba (JSN) is an outstanding route runner and he gets open more with craft than raw talent – which is how I’d prefer it. He’s a pain in the ass for defenses when someone is assigned to covering him in space, and he gets those opportunities with regular slot alignments and pre-snap motions. He’s bendy and patient, which both help him in setting up DBs really well. JSN by no means is devoid of talent that leads to wins at the WR position; his footwork is impressive and you see it in his high-caliber releases. When the ball is in his hands, he’s feisty and slippery so he should provide value via YAC in the NFL. JSN is a physical competitor too. He consistently works back to the QB, and he’s a good blocker in the run game.

The Bad: Smith-Njigba doesn’t possess top-end speed – he’ll likely clock a 40 in the 4.6 range – and he’s not particularly explosive. JSN’s hands are fine but his catch radius is limited; QBs really need to put the ball on him. I was surprised to watch how JSN handled zone defenses in his game film; it was common for him to miss the softest spots of zones or run through them. I mentioned in the previous section that Smith-Njigba is good in YAC situations – and that’s true – but he isn’t the type to make a tackler miss in tight spots. It also needs to be mentioned that he missed the 2022 season almost entirely due to injury. Notre Dame clamped down on Smith-Njigba in OSU’s 2022 opener – the closest thing to a full game he played against a legit opponent last season.  

The Bottom Line: Smith-Njigba is definitely going to be one of the tougher evaluations of this NFL Draft process. While I’d contend that the NFL Combine matters less for WRs than it does for most other positions, it matters nonetheless and it speaks volumes that JSN might be better off skipping certain drills. I’m also not sure how to measure his production. Like, he’s a former five-star recruit and has a season of 95 receptions/1,606 yards/9 TDs on the back of his football card. But two of his three college seasons were totally absent, and in that other season with the massive stats he lined up next to Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave with a potential first overall pick in CJ Stroud throwing the ball. Like I said, he’s confusing to evaluate. Still, if I had to wager I’d predict that JSN is ultimately the first WR drafted this year. That has plenty to do with the overall lackluster caliber of this WR class, but it’s also possible to see a Cooper Kupp-esque player in JSN. I personally wouldn’t go that far, but it only takes one team.

Grade: Mid First Round

Pro Comp: Jarvis Landry

Games Watched:

  • Oregon 2021
  • Penn State 2021
  • Nebraska 2021
  • Utah 2021
  • Notre Dame 2022

Plays That Matter [LINK]


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