2023 NFL Draft: Why Jaxon Smith-Njigba is Still Worthy of Being Top-10 Pick

2023 NFL Draft prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
2023 NFL Draft prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big Ten (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

One of the highly debated prospects in NFL Draft circles right now is Jaxon Smith-Njigba and I’m here to tell you why he should still be a top-10 pick.

Coming into this season, Ohio State’s superstar wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was highly regarded as a top five or ten prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft class. Unfortunately, Jaxon Smith-Njigba injured his hamstring in the first game of the season. The injury has lingered throughout the year as he’s been limited to just 60 offensive snaps this season.

Because of this nagging injury, along with questions about his speed, Smith-Njigba has fallen down in mock drafts. While these concerns are understandable, I still believe Smith-Njigba is a top-10 player in this class and has a bright future in the NFL. For starters, just look at the absurd stat line he put up at Ohio State last season. He hauled in 95 passes, for an all-time Big Ten record, plus 1,595 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

Keep in mind he did this on an offense that also had Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson on it.  Both receivers went on to be top 15 picks and already look very good in their rookie seasons.  Olave has 547 receiving yards (first for rookies) and Wilson has 522 receiving yards (second for rookies).

The fact that he outproduced two receivers that are already producing in the NFL bodes very well for his projection to the next level. Production is just one piece of the puzzle, however, as he also has the tools to develop into a star in the NFL.

The best way to sum up Smith-Njigba’s game is that he’s simply always open. One of the most important traits for route running is suddenness and he has that for days. His ability to stop on a dime and change directions like it’s nothing is second to none.

He has impressive body control and ability to come down with contested catches. In his first career game at OSU, he made a spectacular catch on a throw that was essentially a throwaway. On the play, he stretched out to get his hands on the football, and then contorted his body to somehow get a foot down inbounds for a TD.

He’s also dynamic with the ball in his hands. This YAC ability was on display in the Nebraska game last season. He hauled in a short pass, made one guy miss with a dynamic move in the open field, and then exploded down the sideline and outran the DBs to the endzone.

One argument that may be used for why Smith-Njigba was so productive last season is because defenses focused most of their attention on Olave and Wilson, allowing him to reap the benefits. However, he ended those arguments with his performance in the Rose Bowl.  With both Olave and Wilson out for the Rose Bowl, Smith-Njigba had one of the best wide receiver performances ever as he caught 15 passes for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

That game Smith-Njigba showed exactly why he’s one of the best players in the 2023 NFL Draft class.  Although it’s unfortunate his hamstring injury has limited him this season, it shouldn’t have that much of an impact on his draft stock because he’s already displayed elite production and projectable traits to the NFL.

Moving forward, ideally the Buckeyes superstar gets back on the field at some point for the end stretch of the season.  He can not only provide a boost to Ohio State in their pursuit of a National Championship, but also remind everyone why he came into the season as such a highly-rated prospect.