Weight: 196 lbs. (25.9 BMI)
NFL Draft Projection: Round 1
Draft Sharks Model Score: 7.91
Analytics Score: 0.61
Film Score: 0.54
Production Score: 0.32
Smith-Njigba isn’t the most comfortable projection. We essentially have 13 college games to go on. But – damn! – they were an impressive 13 games. Going for 1,600 yards as a sophomore in the Big Ten is one thing. Doing it alongside a couple of guys who look like potential NFL stars in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave puts Smith-Njigba’s 2021 in truly elite territory.
The tape is clean, too. Smith-Njigba can separate against man and zone coverage – and make contested catches when he doesn’t. His after-catch ability might be his best trait.
We’ll see whether his NFL team keeps him in the slot as Ohio State did or moves him around the formation. We didn’t see Smith-Njigba outside the numbers very much in college. But he was productive in limited opportunities out there and has the size and skills to win on the outside as a pro.
We see shades of Amon-Ra St. Brown in Smith-Njigba’s pro projection – in terms of size, play style and likely deployment. Anything close to St. Brown’s early-career success would be an excellent result for Smith-Njigba.
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Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s values:
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Arm length: 30.5"
Hand size: 9"
40-yard dash: n/a
10-yard split: n/a
Bench press: n/a
Broad jump: 10'5
3-cone drill: 6.57 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 3.93 seconds
Percentiles vs. Combine wide receivers since 1999, per MockDraftable.
Smith-Njigba posted some silly numbers at Rockwall High School in Texas. He caught 97 balls for 1,828 yards and 20 TDs as a junior and then went for 2,094 yards and 35 scores on 104 grabs as a senior.
Smith-Njigba was named the 2019 Texas 6A State Player of the Year and earned a 5-star rating from Rivals and 247Sports. He opted for Ohio State over offers from 15+ other schools, including Notre Dame, Oklahoma, and Ole Miss.
Smith-Njigba joined a 2020 Buckeyes squad that featured junior Chris Olave and sophomore Garrett Wilson. Smith-Njigba finished fourth among WRs in both snaps (162) and routes (75) in that COVID-shortened season, behind Olave, Wilson, and sophomore Jameson Williams.
Then came a massive 2021 campaign. Smith-Njigba ranked third in the nation with 1,606 receiving yards and 9th with 95 catches. He topped 100 yards in seven of 13 games, including five straight to close the season. That included an otherworldly 347-yard, 3-TD outing in a Rose Bowl win over Utah, with both Olave and Wilson out.
That production is even more impressive when you consider that most of it came alongside a pair of 2022 first-round picks who both turned in strong rookie seasons. Smith-Njigba easily beat both Wilson and Olave in catches and yards, as well as yards per route run and Pro Football Focus receiving grade.
|Rec||Rec Yards||Yards Per Route Run||PFF Rec Grade|
Remember, too, that Smith-Njigba was a sophomore at this point. Wilson was a junior and Olave a senior.
Smith-Njigba not only led Ohio State WRs in yards per route run and PFF grade … he led all 199 WRs in the country with 40+ targets in both metrics. A few of the names right behind him: Drake London, Treylon Burks, Wan’Dale Robinson and Skyy Moore.
Unfortunately, a hamstring injury wrecked Smith-Njigba’s 2022 season. He went down in the first quarter of the opener vs. Notre Dame and missed Week 2. He aggravated the injury in Week 3 and then appeared in just one more game the rest of the season. Smith-Njigba wound up playing just 60 snaps all year.
Games watched: Oregon (2021), Penn State (2021), Nebraska (2021), Utah (2021)
Smith-Njigba is a sum-of-the-parts WR. He might not have one dominant trait, but he doesn’t have any weaknesses.
Smith-Njigba has no trouble creating separation against man or zone coverage. He earned an 89.9 PFF grade vs. man coverage and a 90.0 against zone in 2021, both top-6 marks in the nation.
Smith-Njigba’s quicks and explosiveness make him a nightmare to stick with in one-on-one coverage. (He confirmed his elite agility with top-end showings in the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle at the Combine.)
Here, he freezes the defender before a quick break inside for a catch and run.
Smith-Njigba is also adept at finding soft spots in zone coverage. And he has a good feel for working back to his QB and presenting an open target when plays break down.
When he doesn’t create big separation, Smith-Njigba is comfortable and capable of making catches in traffic.
He’s also a weapon after the catch, with an impressive combination of strength, elusiveness, and speed.
Smith-Njigba puts the entire package on display here, beating press coverage, creating separation, shaking a would-be tackler, and then picking up big yards after the catch.
If there’s a hole in Smith-Njigba’s resume, it’s that he did almost all of his damage from the slot. He ran 89% of his routes and compiled 85% of his yardage from the inside in 2021. He ran just 45 total routes outside the numbers – although he did turn 9 outside targets into 8 catches, 239 yards and 1 TD.
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