Jets land star Ohio State receiver in Mel Kiper’s 1st Round Mock Draft

jaxon Smith-Njigba, ohio state

With only the Super Bowl left to play, 2023 NFL mock drafts are in full swing. This upcoming draft for the New York Jets will be the third that Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh lead together. In just their first two drafts, they have provided the Jets with some of their best draft classes in over a decade. The 2022 haul Douglas and Saleh built, in particular, was not only widely applauded but had a generational start.

Now, Douglas and Saleh enter their first draft with only one first-round pick, which could end up being traded for a quarterback. But, for now, the 13th overall selection still belongs to the Jets and may very well be theirs when all is said and done. The pick is undoubtedly a huge one for a team in need of a few final pieces to get into the playoffs next year.

In terms of the position the Jets should take at 13, offensive line is far and away the popular pick, and for good reason. However, at the moment, there are only two offensive linemen who seem worthy from a value standpoint of being selected at 13. Peter Skoronski of Northwestern, who I added in my first mock draft the other day. Also, Paris Johnson Jr. from Ohio State. If both of those players happen to be off the board, which is an unfortunate possibility, the Jets may have to look elsewhere.

A few of the positions that could be in play are wide receiver should the Jets let Corey Davis and Braxton Berrios go. Defensive end if Carl Lawson is let go of. Lastly, safety is one of the Jets’ bigger needs after quarterback and offensive line.

The Jets get another Ohio State wide receiver in Mel Kiper’s mock draft:

Mel Kiper, NFL Draft Analyst for ESPN, recently shared his first-round mock draft and had the Jets selecting Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba. This pick would sure make Garrett Wilson excited. The two are extremely talented and accomplished immense success alongside each other at Ohio State. Wilson and Smith-Njigba would have the opportunity to build on that past dominance with the Jets as first-round draft picks for the organization in consecutive years.

With Wilson and Elijah Moore, it is not that wide receiver is necessarily a need by any means, but more just a matter of simply adding a safe prospect who would be one of the best players on the board. Smith-Njigba was utterly special at times, particularly down the stretch of the 2021 season as a sophomore. Wilson, Moore, and Smith-Njigba would form one young, electrifying wide-receiver trio for the Jets for years to come.

Smith-Njigba offers a whole lot to be excited about. As a five-star recruit by 247Sports and a four-star by ESPN, Smith-Njigba joined Ohio State in 2020. He has some height with a lean frame, listed at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds. Smith-Njigba is still very young as he turns 21 in the middle of this month, February 14th. He wrapped up his three years at Ohio State with 110 catches, 1,698 receiving yards (15.4 per catch), and 10 touchdowns. Virtually all of that came in 2021.

As a freshman in 2020, Smith-Njigba played in seven games but caught 10 passes for 49 yards and had one touchdown. He happened to join Ohio State as a freshman and be buried by three future first-round picks in Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jameson Williams.

Come 2021, after Williams transferred, Smith-Njigba got his chance to be the third receiver for Ohio State behind Wilson and Olave and delivered in a huge way. Smith-Njigba played in all 13 games and finished the year with 95 catches, 1,606 receiving yards (16.9 per catch), and nine touchdowns. Most notably, his performance in the Rose Bowl will go down in history. Smith-Njigba, without Wilson and Olave, propelled his team to a 48-45 win posting a dominant final stat line of 15 catches, 347 yards (23.1 per catch), and three touchdowns.

Unfortunately, Smith-Njigba could not build on that success in any way in 2022 as he battled injuries all year long. He ended up just playing in three games, catching five passes for 43 yards.

From a talent perspective, Smith-Njigba provides some enticing traits. He projects particularly as a slot receiver in the NFL with his great quickness and route-running ability. His hands at the catch point are strong and reliable. After the catch, he offers both good vision and shiftiness.

Smith-Njigba runs routes with good tempo and has a feel and understanding for leverage at the top of his stems. His short-area burst and change of direction ability enable him to quickly work against the technique of a cornerback. What also jumped out to me while watching some of his tape last summer was his consistent willingness to bring it as a blocker in both the run and screen game. Smith-Njigba always plays with great effort and is willing to get physical.

The main concern most draft evaluators in the media have with Smith-Njigba comes from his lack of an explosive gear and long speed. Some question whether his ability to separate will translate to the NFL. Most see him as a slot receiver prospect only. The last notable concern to mention with Smith-Njigba is the fact that he did have a hamstring injury sideline him for most of last season, as discussed above.

With Smith-Njigba, as is the case with just about every NFL Draft prospect, there are questions. But, ultimately, there is so much to be tantalized by. Whether it be his short-area burst, crafty footwork as a route runner, trustworthy hands, quickness after the catch, or tenacity as a blocker, Smith-Njigba is one promising, safe prospect with a high floor.

Smith-Njigba is still just 20 years old, was a highly productive player at a big-time college football program, and offers many qualities to love. He is a young prospect with both the talent and technique that give him a favorable chance of being a great NFL player. If the Jets go wide receiver at 13 with Smith-Njigba, pairing up him with Wilson and Moore would give the Jets a trio with lots of youth and fireworks offensively for many years.

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