Huard: Where Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba has room to grow

May 26, 2023, 2:13 PM

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Jaxon Smith-Njigba with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being drafted by the Seahawks. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

(Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)

What are the biggest adjustments the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie class needs to make as they transition to the NFL?

That’s a question former NFL quarterback Brock Huard has been tackling on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk this week.

On Monday, Huard dove into Seattle’s first three draft picks – cornerback Devon Witherspoon, receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and edge rusher Derick Hall.

You can read about Witherspoon in the link below and about Hall on Saturday, but this story centers around Smith-Njigba, an Ohio State standout who was an All-American in 2021 and landed with the Seahawks at 20 overall.

Huard: 3 adjustments top Seattle Seahawks pick Devon Witherspoon faces

You’ll hear the word “polished” a lot when reading or hearing about Smith-Njigba, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room to grow, as Huard explained on Monday.

“You hear this about quarterbacks as they go into OTA season for rookies like, ‘Wow, that window is so much smaller,'” Huard said. “Hey Jaxon, the windows in this league are so much smaller than what you had at Ohio State and what you had in high school football in Texas. It just is.”

Part of the adjustment, Huard said, is that fields in the NFL are different than in college.

“The hash marks are different. (Ohio State head coach) Ryan Day did an incredible job in his system … of creating space all the time,” he said. “And in the college game with the wide hashmarks, you create a lot of space. Those windows for Jaxon are going to feel tighter than they’ve ever felt.”

Smith-Njigba played mostly out of the slot in college, and figures to do much of the same for the Seahawks. While he showcased some elite ability at that spot in college, the type of defenders he’s set to go up against will change.

In college, Huard said, the nickel corner is often just a cornerback who’s lower on the depth chart as many schools don’t have multiple elite players at that spot.

“So he’s picking in college on oftentimes the weakest corner. That’s not the way it is in the league,” Huard said. “Some of these nickel corners, while they’re the third corner on paper, they are some of the most talented coverage guys in the league. He’s going to feel some of that and man, there’s going to be some amazing battles (in practice) with Julian Love coming down and covering Jerrick Reed coming down and covering and certainly Coby Bryant coming down and covering him as well.”

The last area Huard wants to see Smith-Njigba grow is when it comes to anticipation, though he thinks he has a leg up on some other receivers entering the league in that category.

“This is where he is more advanced than most is because he played with a QB that was tremendous in anticipation – so much so that he was the No. 2 pick in the draft (in C.J. Stroud) – but when Jaxon comes out of those routes, he’s got to know that ball is coming now,” Huard said. “When Dee Eskridge came out of routes a few years ago, he had no idea like, ‘Whoa, why is this ball on me?’ Because this is the league. This is how fast those things happen. So he will have a leg up when it comes to anticipation having played with a guy that I think is a lot like Geno Smith, but yeah, just that anticipatory level is still another level up from what he’s ever experienced.”

Listen to Huard’s full breakdown of Smith-Njigba as well as Witherspoon and Hall in the podcast of Monday’s Blue 88 segment below.

Huard: Charbonnet has fewest adjustments to make of all Seattle Seahawks rookies

Brock and Salk podcast

Brock and Salk

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais Jerry Dipoto...

Brent Stecker

Jerry Dipoto previews the Mariners’ 2023 trade deadline path

Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto detailed what he expects as they go about their quest for a bat before the trade deadline.

19 hours ago

Mariners Dylan Moore...

Brent Stecker

Dipoto: When Mariners expect Andrés Muñoz, Dylan Moore back

Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto shared just how soon the team expects Andrés Muñoz and Dylan Moore back with the team.

19 hours ago

Seattle Seahawks Evan Brown Olu Oluwatimi...

Brent Stecker

Big Ray: How many Seahawks rookies can start on OL?

The Seattle Seahawks picked two offensive linemen on the final day of the 2023 NFL Draft. Former NFL O-lineman Ray Roberts shares if they can start this season.

2 days ago

Seattle Seahawks Cameron Young...

Brent Stecker

Huard: The strength Seahawks rookie DT Cameron Young must play to

For Seattle Seahawks fourth-round defensive tackle Cameron Young, Brock Huard says he needs to keep it simple because of his biggest strength.

3 days ago

Seattle Seahawks Kenny McIntosh...

Brent Stecker

Seahawks’ 7th-round RB Kenny McIntosh could have big role

Seattle Sports' Brock Huard breaks down what Seattle Seahawks seventh-round pick Kenny McIntosh offers that their other running backs don't.

4 days ago

Seattle Mariners Eugenio Suárez Teoscar Hernández...

Brent Stecker

How big is Mariners’ 1st walk-off, success on homestand?

Seattle Mariners insider Shannon Drayer details what stands out about the M's and Eugenio Suárez in particular after his walk-off homer in Sunday's win.

4 days ago

Huard: Where Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba has room to grow