Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba Out To Prove He’s One Of The Best Players In Draft At NFL Combine

Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba burst onto the national radar during his sophomore season when he put up 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. In the 2022 Rose Bowl against Utah, Smith-Njigba set an Ohio State record for receiving yards, as he hauled in 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Playing alongside 2022 first-round picks in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Smith-Njigba out-produced both and Wilson said that Smith-Njigba was the best out of the trio. However, an injury-plagued junior season limited Smith-Njigba to five receptions for 43 yards, and his draft stock slipped from being a surefire first-round pick. Now fully healthy, Smith-Njigba is out to prove that he’s the best wide receiver in the draft, no matter where he’s selected.

Speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the former Buckeye said he’s 100% recovered from his hamstring injury, but he only got 100% healthy two weeks ago. As a result, he won’t run the 40-yard dash when wide receivers work out on Saturday, but he will participate in every other drill.

“Just trying to take things very slowly so that I can close the book on this nagging hamstring.” He said he will run the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, which is scheduled for March 22.

For a player with such high expectations heading into 2022, the injury and inability to see the field was frustrating for Smith-Njigba.

“Never really had an injury that sat me for games or even practices or stuff like that.” He said that he believes the injury will make him stronger in the long run.

“I feel like I’m gonna come out a better person, better man, better player. So I’m definitely thankful just looking at it as a positive, and I think it’ll be beneficial for me at the end of the day.”

Smith-Njigba met with the Steelers at the combine, and he already has a connection to the city of Pittsburgh. His older brother, Canaan Smith-Njigba, made his MLB debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2022. The younger Smith-Njigba said it would be “crazy” to join his brother in Pittsburgh.

“I think my parents would be very, very happy to be in Pittsburgh and be able to see him and me. I mean, that would be awesome.”

With Pittsburgh having a need in the slot, Smith-Njigba could be the perfect guy to fill that void. During his breakout 2021 season, 88.6% of his snaps came in the slot, and he could be a really nice complement to Diontae Johnson and George Pickens. He also has a team-first mindset that would play well in Pittsburgh.

“I’m a team guy. I want the team to win. I want the team to be successful first. I’m about the team. Whatever they ask from me, whatever they need me to do, I’m willing to do. I just want to win.”

He echoed that sentiment when talking about his role in an offense.

“I can go into an offense and find my role, find my place and attack and be the best at it. And that’s anywhere. You need me to be the man, you need me to be receiver three, then I can do that.”

He also said his playmaking ability sets him apart from other wide receivers.

“I just think my playmaking ability is second to none in this draft. I see myself as a top-five player, not just receiver, I see myself as a top-five player in this draft. Just being able to make plays, and given the opportunities, if you throw me the ball 7-9 times, I can win you the game, and I think that speaks for itself.”

Smith-Njigba said watching his former college teammates in Wilson and Olave have productive rookie seasons was something that gives him confidence heading into his rookie year. His draft stock right now is probably dependent on how he tests during the combine and his Pro Day, as he could go inside the top-15 picks or fall to the second round.

With the Steelers having met with him, he’s a name to watch for the team at either No. 17 overall or No. 32 overall, although I think No. 32 is more likely. In his draft profile of Smith-Njigba, Tyler Wise advocated for considering the 21-year-old in the second round due to his ability to create separation over the middle of the field. He’s a guy who’s proven he can produce at an elite level, and he could be a real weapon as the Steelers’ WR3 in the slot as soon as his rookie year if he were to be selected by the Steelers.

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