Seahawks Draft Profile: ‘Cold-blooded’ OSU WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Apr 19, 2023, 11:06 AM

Seahawks draft Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State scores a touchdown against Utah in the 2022 Rose Bowl. (Harry How/Getty Images)

(Harry How/Getty Images)

Armed with not one but two first-round picks, the Seattle Seahawks have a number of directions they can go in the 2023 NFL Draft.

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The No. 5 pick naturally gets most of the attention as Seattle is in position to take either a top quarterback or top defensive lineman, but pick No. 20 is awfully interesting, too.

One of the most common scenarios in mock drafts is the Seahawks taking a receiver with that 20th overall pick. And one receiver has been there more than others: Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was the focus of Brock Huard’s draft profile during Tuesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

Huard, a college football analyst for FOX Sports, said this wide receiver class doesn’t have elite size or speed, and he doesn’t think there’s any true No. 1 receivers in the group.

“There’s a lot of slot dudes. There’s a lot of explosive dudes, and even the guy I’m going to be biased about and highlight today – Jaxon Smith-Njigba – he’s not your bonafide ‘put them outside and put them No. 1 and he can beat anybody in this league’ (type of guy),” Huard said. “He is a slot receiver that can destroy any nickelback in this league, and I do feel comfortable saying that.”

Smith-Njigba measured in at 6 foot 1 and 196 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine after a great career at Ohio State. And while he played just three games last year due to a hamstring injury, his 2021 campaign was stellar, to say the least.

“His junior season in ’21, let’s just say it was off the charts. Let’s say it was record-setting at the Ohio State,” Huard said. “(He had) 1,600 yards that year and broke the receiver record, and I think the Buckeyes have had some pretty good receivers that have gone to the NFL and been pretty elite receivers. He had 15 receptions in a game that year not once but twice.”

Smith-Njigba capped off that year with a 347-yard performance in the Rose Bowl against Utah.

“And he maybe could have had 500 because Utah could not cover him in Pasadena,” Huard said.

Like many of the other receivers in this class, Smith-Njigba didn’t showcase elite straight-line speed during the draft process as his 40-yard dash time at his pro day was reportedly right around 4.50 seconds. But he did have an incredible 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle time at the combine, which was the best time of any prospect not just this year but of any in the last six years.

“When you watch him play, you see that agility. You see that short-area quickness, and you see body control,” Huard said.

“Now here’s the challenge,” Huard added. “He comes to Seattle and you’re a slot guy. And slot guys have proliferated in the league, right? Cooper Kupp was a near MVP as a slot guy, but Cooper Kupp was 6-3, 210 and was a blocker … That’s not (Smith-Njigba). He’s not an end-around (guy), he’s not a jet sweep (threat). That’s not what he has been. He has been a calculated, cold-blooded killer as a route runner.”

Huard thinks Smith-Njigba would absolutely fit in with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to form an excellent receiver trio as soon as this season, but the question of his value at No. 20 is certainly a valid one, especially with Lockett getting older and entering his ninth NFL season.

“Can he be Tyler when Tyler slows down? I don’t think so,” Huard said. “And is that the value that you want to take in the first round where you need difference-making defenders? That becomes the question.”

Listen to the full profile in the podcast from Tuesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.

More Seattle Seahawks draft coverage

• Rost: The Seahawks’ best picks by round under Schneider and Carroll
• Bump: One position Seahawks still need to improve going into draft
• Bump & Stacy: Draft mistakes the Seahawks need to avoid making
• Seahawks Draft Profiles: Standout Big Ten OL Jones and Tippmann
• Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider talks draft board, what’s left to do

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