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2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State University

Jaxon Smith-Njigba lit up the Rose Bowl as he hauled in 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba lit up the Rose Bowl as he hauled in 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns.

Headed into draft season the opinions on Jaxon Smith-Njigba are split. We break down the skillset he brings to the table here.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba was amongst the best wide receivers in college football in 2021. This all cultivated in a 347 yard performance in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury shut down his 2022 season.

With what he showed in the 2021 season he’s amongst the best receivers in this class. So, let’s break down why that is the case.

Fanfield.io

The scouting report is also available in a video format here. I strongly encourage everyone to watch that video as it allows you to visualize everything I discuss in this scouting report.

Overview

Birthdate: 2/14/2002

Height/Weight: 6-foot-0, 198 pounds

High School: Rockwall HS (Rockwall, TX)

Recruit (247): 2020 Class No. 29 Natl No. 5 WR

2022 Stats: 4 Rec 39 Yards 0 TD

2022 PFF: 55.1

2021 Stats: 95 Rec 1,595 Yards 9 TD

2021 PFF: 91.9

Strengths

  • Elite Route Runner
    • Suddenness/Change of Direction
      • Gets open more consistently than any WR in class.
      • One of the most important traits for an elite route runner is suddenness & he has that for days.
      • Ability to stop on a dime and change directions like it’s nothing is second to none.
    • Smart Route Runner
      • Consistently finds holes in zones, creating passing lane for QB.
    • Knows how to win at all levels of the field
      • 2021: 13 catches on throws of 20+ air yards downfield
      • 2021: 23 catches on throws of 10-19 air yards downfield
      • 2021: 44 catches on throws of 0-9 air yards downfield
      • 2021: 15 catches on throws behind the LOS
  • Ability with ball in his hands
    • Elusiveness
      • Tough for defenders to get their hands on him after the catch.
      • Jaxon Smith-Njigba forced 19 missed tackles in 2021.
      • Acceleration and change of direction make him lethal after the catch.
  • Elite Production
    • Impressive yardage numbers
      • Set a Big Ten record for receiving yards with 1,595 in 2021.
      • Outperformed two current star rookie receivers in offense.
        • Garrett Wilson: 2022 draft 1.10- 1,014 rec yds- first for rookies
        • Chris Olave: 2022 draft 1.11- 982 rec yds- second for rookies
    • Rose Bowl
      • Went off for a 337 yard and three touchdown performance in the Rose Bowl with Olave and Wilson out.
    • Efficiency
      • 4.01 Yards/Route Run was the best amongst qualified WRs in 2021.
  • Body Control
    • Contested catches
      • At 6-foot-0, 198 pounds he doesn’t look like a contested catch receiver but it is something in his arsenal.
      • 2021: Had nine contested catches on just ten targets
    • Sideline catches
      • Impressive ability to get feet down and secure catches in bounds near sideline.

Weaknesses

  • Injury Concerns
    • Hamstring Injury
      • Hamstring injury in week one vs Notre Dame limited him to just 60 offensive snaps this season.
      • Attempted to return in week three vs Toledo and week eight vs Iowa, but reaggrevated the injury both times.
    • Draft Stock Down
      • Injury caused him to lose a season where he could have added to his production and shown evaluators what he can do.
  • Lack of Speed Concerns
    • Long Speed
      • Change of direction and suddenness is impressive, but there are questions about his long speed.
      • Wins with quickness, suddenness, and change of direction, but a look of elite speed hurts his ability to win vertically in the NFL.
  • Production product of OSU offense?
    • Being surrounded by Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson in 2021 OSU offense has caused some to question how much of his production came from defenses focusing on stopping them instead of him.
    • Was primarily utilized as a slot receiver in 2021 (88.6% of snaps).
      • Causes questions about whether he can win on the outside as well.
    • Injury this season caused him to miss chance to dispel any of those notions.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR Ohio State- Final Evaluation

Position Rank: WR1

Projection: Top 20 Pick

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s injury this season has caused him to slide down some draft boards. However, I believe that he showed more than enough in his 2021 season to be considered a top 10 player in this class.

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