Dynasty Rookie Profile: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
With the Super Bowl behind us, it's time to turn our attention to the NFL Draft and the incoming 2023 rookie class. Dwain McFarland discusses the pros and cons of Jaxon Smith-Njigba as a dynasty prospect and how to bet on him in the NFL Draft.
- Rookie Draft ADP: 6 (WR1)
- Underdog ADP: 59.5
- Mock Draft V3: 15th overall (Packers)
- Landing Spot: Seattle Seahawks (20th overall)
The haters will look at last year's Seahawks and Pete Carroll's conservative tendencies and label Jaxon Smith-Njigba as an avoid. They'll cite target shares for D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett and claim there's no room for a third WR until Lockett retires.
But we know better.
We know Geno Smith ran the Seattle offense with 11 personnel (3 WR sets) on 63.4% of his dropbacks. It was a slight downtick from '21, but their pass rate over expected jumped into the top 10 after moving on from Russell Wilson. We know this team also added Zach Charbonnet, who was top-12 in YPRR amongst all FBS RBs last season.
All signs point to the Seahawks becoming a pass-first offense, and JSN gives them the firepower to let Geno cook. While Seattle may get conservative in the red zone, Smith-Njigba's ability to create after the catch should still give him a safe floor in an efficient offense alongside two high-end WRs.
Way-too-early 2023 redraft rank: mid-range WR3
Smith-Njigba is typically one of the top three WRs off the board in NFL mock drafts, going in the mid-to-late first round along with Quentin Johnston and Jordan Addison.
Despite playing with NFL-caliber teammates, he delivered an eye-popping 1,595 yards in his sophomore campaign, accounting for a team-high 32% of receiving yards. He primarily operated from the slot, where he attacked the intermediate areas of the field and gobbled up yards after the catch (YAC).
Unfortunately, the 6’1”, 196-pound WR was injured early in the 2022 season, cutting short the amount of data and film we can analyze. There are questions about his top-end speed, but most analysts consider him a first-round NFL talent. He will only be 21 this season.
High-end Target Earner
As a sophomore in 2021, Smith-Njigba garnered a 23% target share for the Buckeyes. While 23% doesn’t seem significant without context, it takes on new meaning once considering his target competition: Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave – both first-round NFL selections. Plus, it was his age-19 season.
The scouting community consistently lauds Smith-Njigba for his ability to uncover in the middle of the field and make the tough catches for his QB.
|Dane Brugler – The Athletic||A route technician with terrific ball skills and a knack for working to open space in coverage.|
|Daniel Jeremiah – NFL.com||He has strong hands and thrives in the middle of the field, as he can pluck the ball while absorbing contact.|
|Lance Zierlein – NFL.com||Plays tough in the teeth of the defense as a zone-beater.|
There are some concerns about Smith-Njigba’s top-end speed in scouting circles, which the film supports. He doesn’t show the next gear to pull away from secondary defenders and can get caught from behind. However, he hasn’t had a problem creating big plays.
He was electric with the ball in his hands in 2021, with a mind-bending 8.8 YAC. The average YAC for a player with his aDOT is 4.6, which JSN almost doubled. Over his career at Ohio State, he delivered a 15-plus yard reception on 34% of his targets, well above the 22% average.
He might not be a burner, but JSN tested exceptionally well in the agility drills (shuttle and 3-cone). We have seen other slot receivers like Cooper Kupp dominate despite lackluster 40-yard-dash times.
While Smith-Njigba operated primarily from the slot, he wasn’t tethered to the line of scrimmage with a super low aDOT. When studying his film, you quickly realize this isn’t just a dink-and-dunk slot option.
Smith-Njigba can work the seams and deep crossing routes regularly – and come down with the contested throw. He was more of an intermediate option with a 9.3 ADOT, and 16% of his targets came on 20-plus-yard throws. His career yards per route run (YPRR) of 3.32 is in the 87th percentile for prospects dating back to the 2017 draft, per PFF data.
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com sees JSN as lacking top-end speed but making an impact similar to Amon-Ra St. Brown at the NFL level – which is another great slot comp, like Kupp.
You might have noticed by now that most of the data we are referencing is from 2021. That is because Smith-Njigba suffered an injury in early 2022 that limited him to only 40 routes in three games. Having a larger sample would be ideal because it isn’t uncommon for sophomore breakouts to regress in their junior season.
Ultimately, Smith-Njigba’s draft capital can help ease our concerns here. He should go in the first round of the NFL Draft and has a chance to be the No. 1 WR off of the board.
While NFL circles might be torn on which WR prospect should go first in the draft, fantasy players have already spoken. Smith-Njigba is the No. 2 player off the board in rookie drafts behind Bijan Robinson. Best-ball enthusiasts are selecting JSN in the fifth round (WR30) of Big Board drafts on Underdog. The next closest rookie WR is Addison in Round 7 (WR41).
Smith-Njigba is a high-end asset with long-term WR1 upside in dynasty formats – even if he remains a slot WR, given the successes we have seen from players that aren’t low aDOT options at the position. He is my No. 1 WR prospect in the class.
In best-ball and redraft formats, JSN is a value as a fifth-round selection, assuming he holds onto his anticipated first-round draft capital. He has carved out targets in a competitive team environment before. Plus, over the last three seasons, we have seen seven out of 16 first-round WRs average 12.5 or more fantasy points per game.
His anticipated first-round draft capital also makes him the favorite to be the first WR selected in the draft, at -150 on DraftKings Sportsbook.
If you're confident in this anticipation, there's still value hanging on that -250 number and you can instantly get $200 in bonus bets just for signing up and placing your bet on JSN, below.