Jaxon Smith-Njigba 2023 Fantasy Outlook
The first wide receiver taken in the draft usually ends up having some real relevance for fantasy purposes in their first season in the NFL, and this year, that’s Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who was taken by the Seahawks with the 20th overall pick in the draft.
Smith-Njigba had an up-and-down career in college. In 2021, he exploded for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns on 95 receptions on an offense that featured two other eventual first-round receivers in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. He was widely regarded as one of, if not the, best receiver in all of college football, and he seemed to be a surefire top-ten pick for the draft. That all changed in 2022. Smith-Njigba suffered an early season hamstring injury that he had trouble recovering from, and he ended up missing nearly the entire season because of it.
His draft stock dipped lower than it ever was after he announced that he wouldn’t be back for the College Football Playoffs, so that made it crucial for him to test well in the off-season to stay in the first-round conversion. Needless to say, he did just that. At the NFL Combine, he logged a 6.57-second 3-cone drill and a 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle, both of which are elite times for receivers. He also took part in on-field drills, and scouts and fans alike seemed to agree that he looked healthy and smooth coming off of his injury.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba showed OUT today at the NFL Combine.
Njigba recorded a 6.57 second 3-Cone Drill, which is currently the best of all combine participants this year.
Njigba recorded a 3.93 20-Yard Shuttle, which is also the best of all combine participants this year.
— NFL Rookie Watch (@NFLRookieWatxh) March 5, 2023
After testing well at the combine and his pro day, he was gaining hype as the top receiver in the class on the big board for multiple teams. Aside from his physical testing, teams were enamored with the NFL-ready skill set that he brings to the table. His sky-high football IQ and seasoned route running helped him dominate college football in 2021, and that led to the Seahawks buying into his talent and taking him as the first receiver in the class at pick 20.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s role in Seattle seems pretty clear. He played primarily out of the slot in college, and with the Seahawks already having two above-average outside receivers in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, he will likely continue to play there in the NFL as well in triple wideout sets. Playing as the WR3 on an offense that continues to invest in the running game could prove to be a lot to overcome in his rookie season, however, so he may struggle to get enough work to put up big fantasy numbers until he establishes himself as a key piece of the offense. Geno Smith also isn’t thought of as a high-volume passer, so that may also end up being an issue for him while he’s lower on the depth chart.
"Jaxon Smith-Njigba can't be productive with DK Metcalf & Tyler Lockett in Seattle"
Y'all know this is the same guy who put up 1600 yards with Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave & Marvin Harrison Jr ?
— Mason Dodd (@MasonDoddFFN) May 9, 2023
Early ADP lists have him being taken beyond the eleventh round in a typical 12-person league, regardless of format. Despite all of the obstacles that he has to overcome in his rookie year, this should be a good value pick late in fantasy drafts. We’ve already seen him dominate from the slot and overcome having two other good receivers ahead of him, so there’s a good chance that he will be able to do so in the NFL as well. Seattle clearly has some plans for him after taking him as the first receiver off the board in the draft, and this relatively low eleventh-round ADP makes him an appealing option in redraft leagues, especially in PPR formats.
He may not be a top-tier pick in some leagues, but in dynasty formats, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is a stellar long-term investment. His pro-ready skill set offers a lot of assurance that he will be a quality player in the NFL for years to come and means that he’s less likely to bust than most players. He is primed to take over the WR2 spot in Seattle whenever the 30-year old Tyler Lockett starts to regress, which could come sooner rather than later.
Early rookie draft ADPs have him going as the third overall player off the board and the top wide receiver in dynasty leagues, and that seems about right for a player of his caliber. At worst, he’ll be a productive and safe PPR option over the course of his career. At best, he’ll be a dominant fantasy receiver who shoulders a heavy workload on a Seattle offense that’s talented enough to be one of the league’s best for years to come. There’s an argument to be made that he deserves to go higher than Detroit RB Jahmyr Gibbs because of the fact that wide receivers typically last longer in the NFL than running backs, but how competitive your dynasty team is right now should be the main consideration when making the decision between these two players.
Leo Sells is a passionate fan for the Patriots and 76ers, and he has been playing fantasy sports for over five years. In addition to writing articles about sports and winning his fantasy football leagues, Leo likes to play sports and spend time with his family and friends doing outdoor activities, such as hiking or fishing.