Wide receivers are the lifeblood of dynasty fantasy football. If you can hit on a Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, or AJ Brown, it’s like finding free money. Hitting on these players allows you to tier down and pick up multiple assets or hold onto them and focus your assets on obtaining something other than a legit, difference-making player from the top half of the WR1 ranks.
The 2023 wide receiver class has several players that might be able to soar to elite WR1 levels in Jordan Addison, Quentin Johnston, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Smith-Njigba is looking to carry on the tradition of elite Ohio State wide receivers in the NFL.
Smith-Njigba dominated during his high school career and had over 5,300 receiving yards and 63 receiving touchdowns, with little of that production coming in his freshmen season.
This production led to JSN being the #5 ranked wide receiver and 29th overall nationally as a high school senior. He had 21 offers, including from major programs such as Notre Dame, Ole Miss, and Arizona, before settling on Ohio State.
Stats courtesy of Sports Reference.
Smith-Njigba had a rough freshmen season with the Buckeyes only totaling 49 yards on ten receptions. Keep in mind that JSN was competing with future NFL 1st rounders Chris Olave, who was a junior, and sophomore Garret Wilson. Covid also shortened the 2020 season to just eight games for Ohio State, and JSN played in seven of those contests, so his counting stats were likely to be depressed even without the target competition. JSN ended his freshmen year on a positive note with four receptions, 40% of his yearly tally, for 32 yards in the college football playoffs against Clemson and Alabama.
Playing an entire season and with a season of college experience under his belt Smith-Njigba came out firing in his sophomore season. Though he only went for 2/12 in Week 1 against Minnesota, he proceeded to top 100 yards in seven of his next 12 games. Smith-Njigba had two 15-reception games during the 2021 campaign putting up a 240-yard day against the Nebraska Cornhuskers and finishing his season with 347 yards against the Utah Utes. He set Ohio State records with 95 receptions and 1,606 receiving yards during his transcendent sophomore season. That stat line is absurd in and of itself, but even more so when you realize that JSN again shared the field with two future NFL first-round receivers, Olave and Wilson, while breaking out as 19-year-old to the tune of a 32% market share and 26% dominator rating.
Courtesy of DLF Market Share App.
Unfortunately, JSN’s junior season never really got started. He injured his hamstring early in the season and could only play in three contests. Though rumors of him being healthy enough to play in the Ohio State’s College Football playoff loss to Georgia, Smith-Njigba wisely opted not to play and risk injury, thereby ensuring his soon-to-be first-round draft capital.
- Good straight-line speed
- Good hands
- Excellent body control
- Route running technician
- Ability to gain separation from the defender
- Ability to get open
The below Tweets highlight some of JSN’s strengths.
Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is my favorite WR this year.
Missed most of 2022 w/ a hamstring injury but his production is undeniable:
2021: 95 rec 1606 yards 16.9 avg 9 TDs.
These #s Garrett Wilson & Chris Olave were on the field as well.pic.twitter.com/BtbVq3sgGN
— Jared Tokarz (@JaredNFLDraft) January 10, 2023
- Doesn’t have elite speed
- Drops, mainly due to concentration lapses
- A little underweight at 198 lbs. (though being a little underweight didn’t stop Garrett Wilson or Chris Olave from smashing as NFL rookies)
- Mostly has played out of the slot
- Was not really the WR1 at Ohio State
NFL mock draft database has Smith-Njigba being drafted in the first round at 22nd overall to the New York Giants as the third wide receiver drafted of this class. The landing spot would be ideal because the Giants clearly need WR1, but it could present some concerns since Smith-Njigba played mostly slot in college, and the Giants already have Wan’dale Robinson, who ran routes from the slot on over 64% of his routes last year.
Courtesy of NFL Mock Draft Database.
No matter where he’s drafted, Smith-Njigba will likely have the first-round draft capital that we crave for rookie wide receiver prospects.
Smith-Njigba is the running for the WR1 of this rookie class, and that battle between him, Addison, and Johnston will be highly dependent on how highly each is drafted in the first round and which team they are drafted to. Assuming all three players get first-round draft capital, I would personally discount that as a differentiating factor among these three, but would certainly take into account their specific team landing spots. Even with that said, even a landing spot is just a piece to the puzzle; as we have seen over the recent past, circumstances can and often do change quickly in the NFL.
Even though JSN “only” produced in one college season, that one season of production was simply elite. His 1,606 receiving yards during that sophomore season are the 43rd most in one season in college football history. He may not have been named WR1, but he still dominated both Wilson and Olave from a reception and yardage perspective.
Courtesy of DLF Market Share App.
I often hear dynasty players make excuses for players when they have stiff competition for targets at the college level as a reason that they could not excel, so what does it say when a player absolutely dominates when two of his teammates were also elite? When ranking my rookies, I prefer production over everything else, and I’d have JSN right behind Jordan Addison in this class.
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