Huard: What ‘the bar’ is for Seahawks rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jul 6, 2023, 9:02 AM

Seattle Seahawks Jaxon Smith-Njigba...

Seattle Seahawks rookie WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba during minicamp on June 6, 2023. (Photo: Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

(Photo: Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

The Seattle Seahawks already had a potent receiver room before the 2023 NFL Draft, but it got even better at No. 20 overall when they selected Ohio State star Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

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Smith-Njigba, who is 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds, was an All-American at Ohio State in 2021 as one of the very best receivers in the nation, but he barely played in 2022 due to a severe hamstring injury.

The former Buckeye played with other star receivers like 2022 rookie standouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson while at Ohio State, and he’s now teammates with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the Seahawks.

Smith-Njigba was drafted to be a reliable No. 3 option in the Seahawks’ passing attack, so what does his rookie season need to look like? Former NFL quarterback Brock Huard discussed that with guest host Matt “Stretch” Johnson during Wednesday’s Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports.

“I was looking at the greatest rookie receiving seasons in Seahawks history. Do you know who has them? Two guys who just numbers-wise (had) the two best rookie wide receiver seasons?” Huard asked.

Johnson nailed one of the guesses with Brian Blades, a second-round pick of the Seahawks in 1988 who had 682 yards and eight touchdowns in his first NFL season.

“Brian Blades had eight touchdown receptions. That is a franchise record (by a rookie). You’re absolutely right,” Huard said.

The other best rookie season by a Seahawks receiver? It was a recent one as Metcalf played very well back in 2019.

“And then for yards … it’s actually DK Metcalf and his 900 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie,” Huard said. “That is the bar. Are those two levels attainable for Jaxon Smith-Njigba? Eight hundred yards, 900 yards, seven or eight touchdowns. Are those numbers reachable for Jaxon Smith-Njigba?”

Replied Johnson, “The touchdowns, yes. The yards, no.”

Huard said he agreed.

“I think it will depend an awful lot on the health of Tyler and DK. If those two guys play 15 or 16 games, I don’t think those numbers are quite attainable,” he said.

Smith-Njigba may not go over 900 yards with eight-plus touchdowns as a rookie if both Metcalf and Lockett stay healthy, but Huard thinks there’s an area where the No. 20 pick can shine and emerge as a valuable part of Seattle’s offense.

“The numbers you’re going to want to see are third-down numbers. That is where I think he is going to be (key) and why they took him where they took him,” Huard said. “There were other (receiver prospects available. Zay Flowers, the kid out of Boston College, home-run hitter, great receiver (who went 22nd overall to Baltimore). They loved him, too. But ultimately it was like, ‘OK, DK’s here for the long-term, Tyler’s still got a few more years. We need that third component. We need that role player that can be a star. But we need that third-down difference maker,’ and that is where I think his numbers could supersede any rookie in the history of this team when it comes to that money down, and that’s what I’ll be watching.”

Listen to the full second hour of Wednesday’s Brock and Salk at this link or in the player below.

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