As the NFL season winds down, FantasyPros will be taking a look at early NFL draft scouting reports before the combine in March. Here’s a look at Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
Check out all of our 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports & Prospect Profiles
2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio State)
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (WR – Ohio St.)
6’1″ – 200 lbs.
Older brother Canaan plays in the MLB. Caught ten passes as a freshman over seven games, then had a monster sophomore season alongside future first-round picks Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, putting together a line of 95-1,606-9 (16.9). Junior season was hobbled by a hamstring injury which limited him to just five catches over three appearances.
Slot machine who was able to do the heavy lifting in the Buckeyes’ offense at times in his breakout sophomore campaign. Pretty well-built receiver, especially for one who frequently lined up inside. Savvy beyond his years. Shows impressive quickness on his release to create separation against man coverage. Knows how to change speeds and get defenders to plant their feet. Fast accelerator who can put a lot of pressure on opponents when running patterns like shallow crosses from the slot. Shows the ability to bail out his quarterback and create windows by making adjustments mid-route; avoids settling into coverage when working against zone. Nice shoulder dips to avoid disruption by off-zone defenders. Adds window-dressing as appropriate on routes at the intermediate/deep levels. Works back to the ball when targeted. Reliable pair of hands who can come down with catches in traffic and absorb contact to make a grab. No-nonsense runner after the catch; gets upfield quickly, and shows some toughness to fight for yards after contact. Doesn’t shy away from contact as a blocker in the run game, although he could be more committed to sustaining through the whistle.
A lot of his production came out of the slot when defenses were paying attention to Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson; junior season was supposed to be his chance to establish himself as a true number-one but got derailed by injury. Overall route tree wasn’t the most diverse, with a lot of plays where he’s either running a deep over route, down the seams or settling in underneath to function as a safety valve. Sample size of him working near the sideline is limited. Hamstring injury will require further medical evaluation during the pre-draft process.
Hasn’t had a chance to show what he can do this past season, but what he showed as a sophomore strongly suggests he’s one of the most pro-ready receivers in the class, as a technically sound, nuanced wideout with a good understanding of releases, route-running, and coverages. Should be an early contributor out of the slot, with the potential to slide outside and work as a flanker with time. Looks likely to come off the board sometime in the first round, potentially as the first receiver chosen.
Projection: Round 1
Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | SoundCloud | iHeartRadio