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Ted’s Talk: Predicting Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s rookie season

An overview of Seattle’s (second) first-round pick along with predictions for his rookie season.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Capital One Venture X - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks bolstered their receiving corps at No. 20 by selecting Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State. He’s a savvy route runner who should immediately be a threat from the slot.

Athletic Profile/Comps

Relative Athletic Score (RAS)


JSN’s 40-yard dash was reported between 4.48 and 4.52 at his pro day, and you can see he still has a good RAS using the slowest range of that time. His style isn’t a straight-line burner since he relies on quickness – and boy, does JSN have that in spades! Both his 3-cone time of 6.57 seconds and shuttle of 3.93 seconds led all players at the 2023 NFL combine regardless of position.

The best-case comparison from Mockdraftable is Julian Edelman, who was a menace from the slot throughout his NFL career. JSN has almost identical agility and speed scores while being two inches taller. That elite agility and change-of-direction is a huge reason why he was so successful getting open at OSU. Smith-Njigba also has great hands and body control. Check out this catch in the back of the end zone to see it all in action.

JSN may not have upper echelon speed, but he is also surprisingly slippery after the catch due to his short-area quickness.

Gut reaction to the pick

When the Seahawks were back on the clock at No. 20 there hadn’t been a WR or TE chosen. JSN was at the top of my mind along with Michael Mayer, so I wasn’t surprised when JSN was the selection. Similar to Devon Witherspoon, Seattle had its choice of WR and took the top guy on their board instead of reaching for the fifth EDGE or third DT.

It may not seem like a huge need on the surface, but the Seahawks have been searching for a consistent third target and slot receiver for years. JSN set school records at Ohio State in 2021 with 95 receptions for 1,606 yards – that yardage total also eclipsed the Big Ten record which had stood since 2001. Had he not suffered a hamstring injury that limited him to three games in 2022, JSN would very likely have been off the board before No. 20 and Seattle wouldn’t have had the chance to draft him. The threat of JSN from the slot should also free up DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on the outside and allow them to face more single coverage. Seattle picked their favorite WR in the range he was expected to be taken. I like this pick.

Rookie season prediction

JSN will start the year as the de facto third WR and should see plenty of targets off the bat. He gets open early and will be Geno Smith’s best friend on third down and in the red zone. JSN may not quite be the threat after the catch in the NFL that he was in college, but I’m expecting him to be a reliable target right off the bat as a rookie.

How many balls will be thrown his way? JSN will undoubtedly get the targets that went to Marquise Goodwin in 2022 and will probably steal some of them from the TE group. I can’t expect him to have a 1,000 yard season with Metcalf and Lockett ahead of him, but I’m anticipating something along the lines of 50 catches for 600 yards and 6 TDs which would compare favorably with Tyler Lockett’s rookie season with the Seahawks. Not a bad guy to follow in the footsteps of!