BROCK AND SALK
OSU HC: What new Seahawks WR Smith-Njigba has that’s ‘off the charts’
May 4, 2023, 9:17 AM
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Thanks to last offseason’s trade with the Denver Broncos, the Seattle Seahawks were armed with two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
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With the fifth pick from Denver, the Seahawks were able to secure a new lockdown cornerback in Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon.
And later in the first round, the Hawks went back to the Big Ten and selected Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, an All-American in 2021, with the 20th overall pick.
To get further insight into the Seahawks’ newest wide receiver, Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk spoke to Ohio State head coach Ryan Day on Tuesday.
“They’ve got a great program,” Day said of the Seahawks. “Coach (Pete) Carroll and I were talking during the pro day, and I was bragging on Jaxon a little bit. And (Carroll) certainly recognized the talent. I think the Seahawks have really done a great job in their evaluation process, and they got a great one in Jaxon. And I think that because he really didn’t play much this year, folks forgot how talented he really is and how dynamic he is. I can’t wait to see him get going here this fall.”
Smith-Njigba had more than 1,600 yards for the Buckeyes in 2021, but he played just three games in 2022 due to a hamstring injury.
But when Smith-Njigba is on the field, he can do some incredible things, Day said.
“I think that’s the thing you look for in a receiver is what are their extraordinary traits? His short-area quickness is off the charts,” Day said. “His ability to get open, I say it all the time, I still haven’t seen him ever get covered because he’s always getting open. He can stop and start and change direction.”
Day likened Smith-Njigba’s ability to find space and change direction to that of a point guard in basketball.
“It’s like a point guard who can dribble the length of the court, crossover, make a guy miss but never really slow down. That’s Jaxon,” he said. “… He can really change direction, has strong hands, he’s powerful, he’ll block. He can play on the outside as well, but he’s got great spatial awareness and he’s going to be very difficult to cover in the slot.”
Smith-Njigba played right away as a freshman for the Buckeyes in 2020. When did Day realize they had something special brewing with the young receiver?
“I remember that first preseason saying to myself I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid come in as a freshman with this mature of a route tree and understanding of how to get open, releases, running routes, body language,” he said. “(Former OSU quarterback) C.J. Stroud loved throwing the Jaxon because he always understood where he’s going to be.”
Smith-Njigba now joins a Seahawks receiver room with two stars in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. That’s nothing new for him, though, as he played with 2022 first-round receivers Chris Olave (New Orleans Saints) and Garrett Wilson (New York Jets), the latter of which was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year last year.
“I remember they were doing an interview with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon, and the question was asked, ‘Who’s the best out of all three of you?’ and Garrett and Chris both pointed at Jaxon,” Day said. “I think he quickly gained the respect of the guys in that room as a freshman by his work ethic. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but is very competitive.”
Listen to Brock and Salk’s full conversation with Day at this link or in the player below.
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