PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes eludes the tackle of Vonte Davis #9 of the Utah Utes during the second half of the Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 01: Jaxon Smith-Njigba #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes eludes the tackle of Vonte Davis #9 of the Utah Utes during the second half of the Rose Bowl game at Rose Bowl Stadium on January 01, 2022 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Jaxon Smith-Njigba Looks Like A Real Catch

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a star receiver in the NFL waiting to happen.

They call him, “JSN” for short, and he is lethal catching the ball in the short to intermediate route levels.

He is going to make an absolute ideal No. 2 receiver at the next level, and he is going to make the team that lands him better.

I liked Smith-Njigba from the first-moment I saw him on game film while studying two of his now former teammates, receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

I wasn’t sold on Olave, and as much as I liked Wilson, I remember thinking Smith-Njigba was the best receiver out of all of them at Ohio State.

What makes Smith-Njigba special?

He’s incredible coming off the line-of-scrimmage and he’s incredible at the route breakpoints, which are two things that make him so dangerous.

Smith-Njigba is a skilled pass catcher who put up some monster games down the stretch in 2021.

Just look at the number of catches he had in these games to close out the season:

Nebraska: 15 (240 yards)

Purdue: 9 (139 yards)

Michigan State: 10 (105 yards)

Michigan: 11 (127 yards)

Utah: 15 (347 yards)

That’s 60 catches in these five games for 958 yards. That’s as much production as a lot of receivers put up in an entire season.

Smith-Njigba averaged 16.0 yards-per-catch down the stretch, which also perfectly summarizes what he is. He is a modern-day dream possession receiver who will do wonders for an NFL offense that likes to work the short to intermediate passing game.

Don’t let the terminology “possession receiver,” be a deterrent, because he will keep running after the catch until the defense stops him, and that is not easy to do.

Smith-Njigba’s Yakety YAC

Yakety Yak was a popular song back in 1958, and YAC (yardage-after-catch) is one of the most important characteristics a receiver can have.

This Ohio State receiver is a tough cookie who likes to occasionally get physical with defensive backs, and he will mix it up as a blocker.

He shows that same determination and toughness after making catches, which is yet another characteristic that makes him special.

Smith-Njigba is just plain tough to bring down and he excels picking up that coveted YAC.

Is there anything Smith-Njigba can’t do?

He hasn’t shown he can take the top off a defense.

He hasn’t shown that break-away home run speed.

That’s not his game.

Smith-Njigba put up a 4.64 when he was recruited (espn.com), and we will wait to see what he puts up prior to the 2023 NFL Draft.

In the 2021 match-up against Penn State, he was in the clear, but he got caught from behind making me question his speed.

However, if you look at him for what he is, he is great.

#11 Jaxon Smith-Njigba 6-foot-1, 200 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s Grade: First-Round – Early Fall 2022 Report

Projected by 94.5% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of September 21, 2022 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2021 game film reviewed: Oregon, Nebraska and Penn State

2021 stats: 95 receptions (112 targets) 1,606 yards (16.9 avg.), 9 TD, 75-yard long

2023 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Tough receiver with long arms who has sure hands and an uncanny ability to create separation in the short to intermediate route levels. Takes control of the routes right off the bat with shake-in-bake off the snap. Does a phenomenal job setting up corners at route breakpoints and creating separation with a lot of body flexibility and athleticism. Has a lot of wiggle to him when snapping it off at the top of a route. Works a secondary well and knows how to find the soft spots. Accomplished, skilled, and polished route runner. Has an above-average, but not great catch-radius. A few thrown high went off his fingertips and he couldn’t handle one thrown behind him. Outside of that, can reach up and pluck the ball out of the air with his strong hands. Showed excellent concentration in double and even triple coverage. A handful after the catch and he is tough to bring down. Not a deep option. Above average, but not great speed. Got after it blocking. He will move the meter.

What to watch for during the 2022 college football season:

  1. Does Ohio State throw deep to him?
  2. Does he look faster?
  3. Has his catch radius improved?
  4. Can he put together back-to-back great seasons with Wilson and Olave gone?

I just have a feeling about this one…

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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