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.

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