The NFL Draft is behind us, rookie drafts are taking place, and as dynasty managers, we are looking ahead to the upcoming season. In our Dynasty Rookie Post-Draft Update series, we break down all the incoming fantasy-relevant rookies, looking at their profiles and where they fit. The basis of the rookie profile involves the usage of STORM analysis, focusing on five key components: Situation, Talent, Opportunity, Risk, and Market.
Name: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Position: Wide Receiver
Pro Team: Seattle Seahawks
College Team: Ohio State
Draft Status: Round One, Pick 20
Unfortunately, I wish Smith-Njigba landed in a better situation. He slid slightly in the draft compared to my expectations, as I thought he had an excellent shot at being a top-10 pick. Additionally, he landed on the Seahawks, which isn’t the best landing spot. They don’t have an elite quarterback, have two solid wide receivers on the roster, and drafted a second high-end running back in the second round, allowing them to operate a run-heavy offense.
DK Metcalf is the Seahawks’ clear top receiver, and they recently signed him to a three-year, $72 million extension through 2025. Additionally, the guarantees in the deal pretty much lock him in on the Seahawks through 2024, as the Seahawks would take a massive dead cap hit to cut him before then. They also have Tyler Lockett on the roster, and they restructured his contract this off-season. Therefore, he will likely remain on the team through 2024, although the team can cut him next off-season if they want to.
Luckily, the team’s other primary offensive weapons are on rookie deals, allowing the Seahawks to provide Geno Smith with one of the NFL’s most loaded sets of offensive weapons. Few quarterbacks have a player as talented as Smith-Njigba as their WR3 and a solid running back like Zach Charbonnet as their RB2. However, it’s now on Smith to support this entire offense, which is an extreme risk.
As you can see, Smith was absolutely awful until 2021 and 2022 with the Seahawks. Over that period, he threw 35 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions, a complete departure from his previous career. Before that, he had a horrific 29 touchdowns to 36 interception ratio, which is why he lost his starting job with the Jets. The Seahawks gave Smith a massive extension this off-season, but it’s a one-year prove-it deal. Also, head coach Pete Carroll is very old and can retire anytime. Overall, this situation is very crowded and comes with lots of moving parts.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba Combine Results:
Height: 6′ 1″
Weight: 196 lbs
Arm: 30 ½”
Vertical Jump: 35″
Broad Jump: 10′ 5″
40-Yard Dash: 4.48 seconds (Pro Day)
3-Cone Drill: 6.57 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 3.93 seconds
There’s no doubt that Smith-Njigba is among the most talented wide receivers in the 2023 class. However, his testing and physical attributes don’t tell the whole story. He’s relatively fast at 4.48 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but that’s not a fantastic time considering his weight. Additionally, he didn’t impress in the jumping events, finishing with a below-average score in each of them.
Luckily, he excelled in both the 20-yard shuttle and 3-cone drill, displaying his elite agility. At the NFL level, he profiles mainly as a slot receiver, where he can get open with his agility. And best of all, NFL teams have shown they are willing to play smaller receivers on the outside. Devonta Smith is far smaller than Smith-Njigba and almost exclusively played on the outside in the NFL. Similarly, Jaylen Waddle is shorter and lighter than Smith-Njigba, and he’s played over half his NFL snaps outside of a slot alignment. As a result, I’m far less concerned about Smith-Njigba’s size than I would’ve been ten or even five years ago.
Beyond his testing numbers, Smith-Njigba displayed elite production in college.
He entered Ohio State as a freshman in 2020 and saw a bit of playing time. He only had ten receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown, but I’m impressed he saw the field as an 18-year-old competing with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, and others.
In 2021, he ascended to a new level. His talent encouraged Williams to transfer to Alabama, allowing him to take a spot in the starting lineup.
As you can see, he forced one top-15 pick in Williams to transfer and far outproduced two future top-10 picks in Wilson and Olave. Amazingly, he had over 500 more receiving yards and 25 more receptions than Wilson, although he only scored nine touchdowns. This type of production would be excellent for any college wide receiver, let alone a 19-year-old playing alongside two future NFL stars.
Smith-Njigba doesn’t have the best immediate opportunity of the first-round rookie wide receivers. As a rookie, he will likely remain the third receiving target behind Metcalf and Lockett on a non-elite passing offense. However, he will almost certainly play most of the offensive snaps immediately, as the Seahawks have a relatively barren depth chart behind their top players.
I fully believe Smith-Njigba can play on the outside, and Lockett is a capable slot receiver. Eventually, I’m hoping he can overtake Lockett as the WR2 on the depth chart, perhaps as soon as late in the 2023 season. Lockett is also a talented slot receiver, so that combination gives the Seahawks opportunities to move their other receivers around the field to complement Metcalf’s size.
I already covered most of the risks with Smith-Njigba in other sections. But to reiterate, his size and speed are not impressive, which is often a red flag for high-end fantasy production. Additionally, he doesn’t have an elite quarterback and faces intense competition for targets from the wide receivers on his depth chart. But for me, his elite production at Ohio State in 2021 mostly shows he can overcome those obstacles, although he did have that season with CJ Stroud at quarterback. Therefore, the main risk short-term is that Smith flops, forcing the Seahawks into quarterback purgatory and stunting Smith-Njigba’s development.
In superflex rookie drafts, Smith-Njigba mostly goes off the board as the 1.06.
Bijan Robinson is pretty locked in as the 1.01, and Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young are usually the next two picks. Then after that, CJ Stroud and Jahmyr Gibbs are typically 1.04 and 1.05. I’ve occasionally seen Smith-Njigba sneak into the top five ahead of Stroud or Gibbs, but that’s been relatively rare.
Even more rarely, he’s fallen behind Jordan Addison or Quentin Johnston, but I can’t understand why. Neither Addison nor Johnston has Smith-Njigba’s elite production, and both come with a long list of their own red flags. I think the ADP has nailed Smith-Njigba’s rookie pick value, as I rank him somewhat in a tier of one, behind the top five players but way ahead of everyone else.
Somewhat stunningly, though, Smith-Njigba is already a top-25 startup pick in May’s DLF 1 QB ADP, coming in at WR15 and 24th overall. Of course, I am even higher on him than that value, ranking him WR14 and 20th overall, but I’m surprised to see him go that high. Generally, dynasty startup ADP favors older productive veterans more than I would, so I’m ecstatic to see managers recognizing the elite potential in Smith-Njigba.
I would be happy to spend a draft pick on Smith-Njigba despite his sketchy Year 1 situation, as he doesn’t necessarily need to dominate for fantasy football to gain dynasty value. For example, Drake London had major quarterback issues in his rookie year, but he’s a top-12 dynasty wide receiver heading into his second season. Most notably, he gained that value without a real quarterback upgrade or any significant changes to the coaching staff. Smith-Njigba could easily have a similar value path or even catch the value of Wilson or Olave with a stronger rookie year.
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