After amassing 1,606 yards receiving as a sophomore last fall, you could make an argument that Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the wideout ineligible for this year’s draft, proved to be the premier pass-catcher within a loaded Buckeyes offense.
Why is that a big deal you ask?
Well, if you haven’t followed us during the evaluation process, Ohio State already has two potential first-round receivers in this year’s draft class. Both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson have seen their stock rise during the pre-draft process. So, anointing Smith-Njigba as top receiver for the Buckeyes last fall may be blasphemous for some. However, after enjoying the aforementioned success in his second season in Columbus, and looking toward this fall and the ensuing draft cycle, there isn’t a talent like Smith-Njigba in college football.
A unique blend of size and speed, with Olave and Wilson now gone, Smith-Njigba will headline what will be the deepest, most star-studded wideout room college football has to offer. From Smith-Njigba to Marvin Harrison Jr. (yes, that Marvin Harrison) and fellow five-star recruits Julian Fleming and Emeka Egbuka, the Buckeyes tout an embarrassment of riches in the receiving game – but Smith-Njigba still might be the crown jewel.
Although he was listed on the depth chart as Ohio State’s third receiver last fall, there won’t be a more clear, de-facto top wide receiver in the nation. Working in cahoots with signal-caller C.J. Stroud – another potential high selection in 2023 – the performance ceiling is truly uncapped for the 6-foot, Rockwell, Texas native.
Working “behind” two future top receivers in Olave and Wilson, as good as Smith-Njigba was last fall for Ryan Day’s unit (finishing third in the FBS for total receiving yards), he should put up gaudy, video-game like numbers his fall with plenty of targets to be had between him and Harrison.
Projecting Smith-Njigba to the next level is a fun exercise too, especially considering how pass-happy the NFL has become. While you could always play devil’s advocate that Smith-Njigba could use some extra beef to his frame to help against the physicality he’s set to face this fall thanks to such a high-target rate expected, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. When it comes to Smith-Njigba, his story has just begun as a true takeover talent on the outside. He’s a modern-day pass-catcher whose alignment versatility saw him dominate from a multitude of spots last fall. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say Smith-Njigba would challenge this year’s deep wide receiver class as the first pass-catcher to hear his name come off the board – he’s just that dynamic.
Allow his numbers strictly in November to speak for themselves: 60 catches, 958 yards and 6 touchdowns, to be exact. It was arguably the greatest five-game stretch any receiver has had in the history of college football. And while the recent of seasons of Ja’Marr Chase at LSU, and DeVonta Smith at Alabama, are marks that will remain undeniably hard to reach, Smith-Njigba may just be able to do it given what is expected of Ohio State as a program this fall. A national title remains within expectations and a Heisman trophy shouldn’t be out of the question for the Buckeyes’ top receiver.
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