Ohio State Athletics

PRO 2023 Rookie Spotlight: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR Ohio State

Rookie Spotlight: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR Ohio State
Height: 6-0 1/2″
Weight: 196
Hands: 9
Arm: 30 1/2″
40 yard dash: 4.54 (projected)
2023 Age: 21
NFL Comparison: Justin Jefferson, Keenan Allen
Breakout Age: 19 (sophomore)

Offensive Market Share Metrics (2021 – Most Recent Healthy Season)

Receptions: 27%
Receiving Yards: 32%
Receiving TDs: 20%
Total Production Percentage: 26%

As a high school prospect:
Class of 2020; 5-star

– Was the clear statistical alpha on a 2021 Ohio State offense that featured incredible NFL players/prospects like Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Marvin Harrison, Jr. among others 
– Incredible body control and hands 
– PFF’s highest-graded WR in all of college football in 2021
– Elite contested catch rate- Elite yards after catch and elusiveness 
– Utilized more versus zone, but perhaps more effective versus man 
– Insane efficiency when targeted, highest y/rr in CFB in 2021 
– Not much tread on the tires and still very young as a prospect (won’t turn 22 until after the 2023 season has ended) 
– Clear ability to absolutely take over a football game (see 2021 versus Utah)
– Historic agility testing at the combine

– Was injured and didn’t play much in 2022 (hamstring) 
– Played almost exclusively in the slot
– Played with teammates that could have taken some focus off of him from opposing defenses
– Not a speed burner
– Utilized more heavily versus zone than versus man

Scouting Notes: Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been on the RosterWatch radar big-time, dating back to last year’s evaluation period when we were having a hard time deciding whether Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave would be our WR1 in that class. In watching so many of those Buckeyes games, it was impossible not to notice JSN, who was technically the squad’s alpha. JSN went for 95 receptions, 1606 receiving yards and 9 TDs that year, which was superior to both Garrett Wilson (70-1058-12) and Chris Olave (65-936-13). In looking at that last healthy season in Columbus, it’s hard to find many flaws. JSN has elite body control and soft, dependable hands. PFF’s highest-graded receiver in that season across all of college football, JSN operated almost exclusively out of the slot and was targeted with almost a 2X greater frequency versus zone than versus man, consistently showing an incredible knack for finding soft spots and giving his QBs exploitable windows. It doesn’t mean he was not strong versus man coverage, though. In fact, his QBs had a 157.3 passer rating when targeting Smith-Njigba versus man (2nd best among all CFB qualifiers) and he boasted a truly elite yards/route run in 2021 of 4.01 which was the best in the sport. This insane target efficiency coupled with the ability to create on his own after the catch (8.3 yac/reception that season) is ready-made for fireworks. Of course, detractors will point to the following holes in the profile: 1) he’s been a slot specialist thus far; 2) his 2022 season was an injury-induced letdown and; 3) he is not going to blow up the combine with elite speed.

Fantasy Outlook: If JSN is not the first WR off the board in your dynasty rookie drafts, he should not last long after that. Our comp of Justin Jefferson not only based on JSN’s body size, his terrific production despite elite WR teammates and his proven ability to win versus different schemes and looks with excellent hands and a slinky ability to find the open spaces for his quarterback. It also has to do with the fact that Justin Jefferson was also questioned coming out about whether he would be able to play outside at the next level — a question we’d say he’s answered in spades by now. JSN may be better in the slot at the NFL level, but it’s not a given that he’ll be completely relegated to that role. His contested catch rate of 90% (No.2 among all receivers in the 2021 season) coupled with his passer rating when targeted versus man as noted above both point to opportunities for JSN to grow in ways that we haven’t yet seen. In the right situation, we have all the potential you could reasonably ask for when trying to make a case for future fantasy success.

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