Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is one of the most polarizing pass catchers in the 2023 NFL Draft. This detailed scouting report highlights what makes JSN special and which areas of his game still need work.
Name: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Ohio State
Weight: 198 pounds*
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State: 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Jaxon Smith-Njigba rose to stardom at Rockwell High School in Rockwell, Texas, where he became a five-star recruit, according to both 24/7 sports and Rivals. Smith-Njigba turned down offers from multiple in-state schools and decided to take his talents to Columbus.
As a freshman, Smith-Njigba was a depth piece who would get a few snaps a game. Cracking the lineup as a true freshman on a squad loaded with talent like the Buckeyes was no easy task, especially considering how COVID-19 protocols impacted preseason practices.
Smith-Njigba broke through in 2021, recording 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. Alongside Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Smith-Njigba was a part of one of the most talented wide receiver rooms in recent memory.
On the heels of an incredible 2021 season, expectations were high for Smith-Njigba’s 2022 campaign, with many early projections having him go inside the top ten of the 2023 NFL Draft. However, things took a turn for the worst when he suffered a hamstring injury in week one that he dealt with for the remainder of the season.
Smith-Njigba appeared in only three games, catching a total of five passes for 43 yards. While this season didn’t undo Smith-Njigba’s stellar 2021, it wasn’t exactly the statement season fans — and scouts — were hopeful he would make.
Smith-Njigba is one of the most technically refined receivers in this class. He showed elite route running throughout the 2021 season, running a variety of concepts at a high level. Though not a true burner, Smith-Njigba has a knack for creating separation due to his outstanding footwork and spatial awareness.
Additionally, Smith-Njigba possesses high-end body control. This skill gives him a much larger catch radius than his frame might indicate. Smith-Njigba’s smooth footwork has proven to be just as effective after the catch as it is before. Utilizing his great field vision, he’s routinely able to create YAC opportunities.
An underrated aspect of Smith-Njigba’s game is at the point of the catch. He has some of the best hands in the 2023 NFL Draft and has very few drops on tape. He doesn’t have the physical profile of a jump-ball receiver, but Smith-Njigba does have the skills to come down with challenging grabs.
The main concern regarding the former Buckeye’s status is his lack of explosiveness. He has demonstrated adequate lateral quickness and change of direction, but Smith-Njigba’s top gear is just a notch slower than others in the class.
The lack of high-end athletic ability puts a lot of pressure on his technique, and many scouts are unsure if that will be enough for him to flourish at the next level.
At 6-foot and a little under 200 pounds, Smith-Njigba has an NFL frame and shouldn’t have any problem handling the physicality at the next level. But because he primarily operated out of the slot in college, there are still questions of how well he can handle press coverage.
As previously stated, Ohio State’s 2021 wide receiver group was filled with talent, and it’s hard to deny that the younger Smith-Njigba benefited from the attention the upperclassmen garnered from opposing defenses. Playing sparingly in 2022 did little to dispel the uncertainty surrounding his ability to be a true WR1.
Of any of the top receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft, few are considered as much of an unknown as Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He certainly has an NFL skill set. But his middling athletic ability, to go with limited reps on the outside, casts doubt on his ceiling at the next level. Still, these questions don’t stop Smith-Njigba from being a very appealing prospect for receiver-needy teams.