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

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

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


An elite ceiling will have plenty of teams interested in drafting Ohio State wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba, whose 2021 campaign was nothing short of impressive.

Smith-Njigba posted a remarkable 2019 senior prep season, securing more than 2,000 yards worth of receptions and earning five-star recruit status. He was named Texas State Player of the Year in Class 6A ball, and he managed to score a TD as a true freshman while coming off Ohio State’s bench in seven games.

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 196 pounds
40 time: 4.48 seconds

The 2021 season saw JSN go bonkers, highlighted by a 15-catch, 347-yard, three-TD appearance in the Rose Bowl after wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opted out of the contest in preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft. Smith-Njigba’s sophomore breakthrough led to being named a third-team Associated Press All-American and also making the Big Ten third-team roster.

With Olave and Wilson in the pros, Smith-Njigba couldn’t manage to stay on the field in 2022. He played in just three games after suffering a hamstring injury and wasn’t a factor when he did suit up. The one year of monster returns sandwiched between two years of 15 combined receptions leave some questions to be answered.

Table: Jaxon Smith-Njigba stats (2020-22)

Year School Class G Receiving Rushing
Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD
*2020 Ohio State Fr 7 10 49 4.9 1 0 0 0
*2021 Ohio State So 13 95 1,606 16.9 9 0 0 0
*2022 Ohio State Jr 3 5 43 8.6 0 0 0 0

*includes postseason/bowl games (stats from Sports Reference)


  • Quality size with enough speed to win most foot races if he has a step
  • Great body control and spacial awareness in traffic
  • Doesn’t have a lot of mileage on the tires
  • Flashed NFL WR1-caliber potential with a monster 2021 season
  • Fluid movement skills and enough wiggle to make would-be tacklers miss in space
  • Excellent ball-tracking skills and natural hands in general
  • Impressive feel for exploiting zone coverage and finding the soft spots
  • Fearless over the middle
  • Short-area agility traits help on manufactured touches


  • Function straightline speed but lacks elite explosion
  • One year of production will be in question, particularly since he was shielded by two top-level NFL receiving prospects in 2021 and caught passes from arguably the best QB of this year’s draft class
  • Lost nearly a full season to injury in ’22, raising durability concerns
  • Likely will be one-dimensional in the NFL as a slot receiver whose role will be overly predicated on scheming and game flow
  • Doesn’t separate easily at the line of scrimmage
  • Doesn’t gear up and down as quickly as others and tends to reach the top of his route at full speed, leaving him little room to operate after the catch in tight windows
  • In his breakout season, two games represented 32 percent of his receptions, 37 percent of JSN’s yardage, and 44 percent of his scores that year. More than 55 percent of his entire FBS career receptions, yards and TDs came over the final five games in 2021.

Fantasy football outlook

Smith-Njigba comes with a few major question marks that aren’t necessarily true negatives but still need to be addressed. Even still, he possesses Round 1 positives, performed at a high level in his lone full season, and stands out in a slot role, which will make him coveted on Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft. His stock is no worse than an early pick in the second round.

The likeliest landing spots are the Houston Texans at No. 12, Baltimore Ravens (No. 22), and Minnesota Vikings (No. 23). Other reasonable options include the Tennessee Titans (No. 11), Green Bay Packers (No. 15), and Los Angeles Chargers (No. 21).

JSN will be a weekly fantasy starter in time, which could come as early as Year 2. He offers a glimmer of hope for matchup utilization as a rookie, depending upon where he lands, but the overall outlook is much stronger as he approaches Year 3 or 4 than early on.

Possession slot receivers tend to be more meaningful to real-life NFL teams than our fake counterparts, unless the wideout is a true No. 1 (Michael Thomas, Chris Godwin types), and it isn’t a slam dunk that Smith-Njigba will live up to that billing in the pros.


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