The Seattle Seahawks selected wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Here's what you need to know about how his Fantasy stock in both season-long and Dynasty formats is affected by his landing spot.
Smith-Njigba's Fantasy fit with the Seahawks
It's tough to love Smith-Njigba's potential role as a rookie as long as he's sharing the field with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Seattle is already a run-leaning squad; now they'll spread out their targets as much as ever with three quality targets for Geno Smith to throw to. It means that Smith-Njigba won't be a reliable Fantasy option in 2023 unless Metcalf or Lockett miss time, or unless the Seahawks completely change their offensive identity. And, sadly, it might stay this way for more than one year.
I don't mind suggesting that you overlook the short-term situation with Smith-Njigba and focus on the talent. Eventually, the Seahawks won't have Geno Smith at quarterback and won't have Tyler Lockett as a roadblock to a higher target share. When one or both of those things happen, Smith-Njigba could evolve into a target-dominant volume-driven receiver. Those guys definitely carry awesome value in Fantasy. So think long-term with Smith-Njigba and you should be all right. Expect him to get taken between third and seventh overall in every one-QB rookie-only draft, and potentially as soon as fifth overall in Superflex/two-QB formats.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba: What to know
Smith-Njigba's childhood wasn't limited to playing organized football and also hanging around with other neighborhood kids. He also used to set-up make-believe football situations in his living room, complete with obstacles around the house and pillows on the faux sideline to break his fall when he made acrobatic catches. Between that and constant athletic training by his father, former Stephen F. Austin linebacker Maada Smith-Njigba, it's no surprise that Jaxon made varsity as a freshman at Rockwall High School, about 30 minutes northeast of Dallas and around 40 miles away from AT&T Stadium.
It wasn't until his junior year when he got on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex map, leading all high-school players with 97 catches for 1,828 yards and 20 touchdowns. He bested all of those numbers as a senior, going for a 104-2094-35 stat-line, earning him both the Landry Award for being the best football player in North Texas and the Texas Gatorade Football Player of the Year Award. By the time he won these, he had landed a five-star composite rating from 247Sports and was considered the fifth-best WR prospect in the class. He also had committed to Ohio State.
- WR profile: Zay Flowers | Jordan Addison | Quentin Johnson
As a sophomore, Smith-Njigba led all Buckeyes with 1,606 receiving yards, which is particularly notable since he was teammates that season with top NFL draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (and future draft pick Marvin Harrison Jr.). He finished that season earning Rose Bowl MVP honors thanks to his 15 catches for a whopping 347 yards and three touchdowns. The 347 yards were Rose Bowl and Ohio State single-game records. Smith-Njigba also caught 95 passes that season, setting a single-year school record over the likes of Wilson, Olave, Parris Campbell, David Boston, Curtis Samuel, Terry Glenn, Michael Thomas and Cris Carter. Smith-Njigba played in two bowl games. His junior year was cut short by a hamstring injury.
Age as of Week 1: 21 | Height: 6-foot-0 1/2 | Weight: 196 | Hand size: 9.0 | 40-time: 4.53
Comparable body-type to: Amon-Ra St. Brown
We're breaking down everything you need to know about Young from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
- Long arms are perfect to help reel in off-target throws.
- Consistently got defensive backs flat-footed with a garden variety of jukes, hesitations, and subtle nuance off the snap to easily create leverage and quickly become an open target. Footwork is well-practiced. Body control is tremendous.
- Good burst and acceleration helps his elusiveness.
- Especially quick at changing directions both in his routes and after the catch to evade tacklers.
- A lot of experience running shorter routes but did have success running deeper out routes and fades.
- Strictly good speed but somehow found his way to plenty of long catch-and-run touchdowns versus collegiate competition.
- Fearlessly made his fair share of close-quarter contested catches but seemed to especially flourish finding soft spots to exploit versus zone coverage. Seemed to know exactly when and where to change gears and find a spot to get targeted.
- Vibed with quarterback on improvisational plays. Clearly knew when to break off a route and do what his quarterback liked to get open and earn a target.
- Hands were terrific. Seemed to catch everything in stride.
- Adjusts wonderfully to off-target throws, flashing great concentration in locating and contorting his body to be in position to make the grab (even when he has to stretch around the hip of a defender!)
Jaxson Smith-Njigba had one of the toughest catches in 2021 against Michigan.— Joe DiTullio (@DiTullioJoe) June 23, 2022
It’s no secret he’s in store for a huge season in 2022. pic.twitter.com/6bGvvu5GQp
- Already a pro at tracking downfield throws over his shoulder.
L’an dernier, dans un Rose Bowl d’anthologie entre Utah et Ohio State, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba avait réalisé une performance XXL :— The Trick Play - NCAA/CFB (@TheTrickPlayFR) January 2, 2023
- Playmaking ability after the catch was not just limited to gliding away from defense but also from willing to be physical with defenders for extra yardage.
- Willing, "good enough" blocker with flashes of excellence. Needs a little work here to be more consistent but can get the job done.
- Teammates raved about him, calling him the best receiver on the team.
- Had just one excellent year at Ohio State.
- Has some girth, but is pretty average-sized.
- Was schemed into free releases plenty of times and had free releases by the grace (or stupidity?) of opposing defenses often. Very limited experience dealing with press coverage in the Big Ten. Could get tested physically by opponents, especially since his speed isn't to be feared.
- Rarely lined up anywhere except the slot. Ran 83 routes from out wide and two from the backfield over 23 games (three seasons and 506 pass routes run). His route-running suggests he'll be solid as an outside receiver, but he wasn't put there enough at Ohio State to offer overwhelming evidence. Being blocked for that role by faster receivers in college was a huge factor.
- Occasionally tipped his routes with his head movements.
- Strictly good speed and isn't a burner. Expect him to get caught from behind when coverage isn't busted or he's not schemed wide open.
- Appears to have suffered a serious hamstring injury in 2022, one that cost him playing time in a couple of games and ultimately cost him all but three games. Hamstring injury lingered into NFL Combine, where he didn't run the 40-yard dash. He did run his 40 at his Pro Day in late March (4.53).
Advanced stats to know
- Five or more receptions in 10 of 13 games in 2021. Had nine-plus receptions (and 105-plus yards) in each of final five.
- Among 132 qualifying WRs with at least 75 targets in 2021, Smith-Njigba was top five in catch rate (84.8%), yards per route run (4.05) and yards per game (123.5).
- Among those same qualifying WRs in 2021, Smith-Njigba was top 12 in receptions (95), YAC/reception (8.32) and tackles avoided (19). Each of these stats were either on-par or higher than Garrett Wilson's.
- 5.4% drop rate in 2021, 80th among qualifying wide receivers.
- Wasn't quite as prolific when in the red zone, though limited opportunities were a factor. He was outside the top-30 in red-zone catch rate (69.2%), and touchdowns (three).
- Ran just 25 routes on 59 Ohio State pass plays inside of 10 yards in games he participated in over two-plus seasons.
- Played only 62 snaps (three games) in 2022.
Smith-Njigba should be a reliable receiver at the pro level. He's ahead of most rookies when it comes to his technique and nuance, and though he's undersized and not a straight-line speedster he made plays like crazy in 2021 while working alongside three other great young wideouts at Ohio State. I think he'll at least be as effective as Amon-Ra St. Brown with the sky-high ceiling to fool us all and be at the level of Justin Jefferson, who, like Smith-Njigba, was pigeon-holed as a slot receiver without playmaking speed as a prospect before running rampant in the pros.