Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s childhood wasn’t limited to playing organized football and also hanging around with other neighborhood kids. He also used to set-up make-believe football situations in his living room, complete with obstacles around the house and pillows on the faux sideline to break his fall when he made acrobatic catches. Between that and constant athletic training by his father, former Stephen F. Austin linebacker Maada Smith-Njigba, it’s no surprise that Jaxon made varsity as a freshman at Rockwall High School, about 30 minutes northeast of Dallas and around 40 miles away from AT&T Stadium.
It wasn’t until his junior year when he got on the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex map, leading all high-school players with 97 catches for 1,828 yards and 20 touchdowns. He bested all of those numbers as a senior, going for a 104-2094-35 stat-line, earning him both the Landry Award for being the best football player in North Texas and the Texas Gatorade Football Player of the Year Award. By the time he won these, he had landed a five-star composite rating from 247Sports and was considered the fifth-best WR prospect in the class. He also had committed to Ohio State.
As a sophomore, Smith-Njigba led all Buckeyes with 1,606 receiving yards, which is particularly notable since he was teammates that season with top NFL draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave (and future draft pick Marvin Harrison Jr.). He finished that season earning Rose Bowl MVP honors thanks to his 15 catches for a whopping 347 yards and three touchdowns. The 347 yards were Rose Bowl and Ohio State single-game records. Smith-Njigba also caught 95 passes that season, setting a single-year school record over the likes of Wilson, Olave, Parris Campbell, David Boston, Curtis Samuel, Terry Glenn, Michael Thomas and Cris Carter. Smith-Njigba played in two bowl games. His junior year was cut short by a hamstring injury.
Age as of Week 1: 21 | Height: 6-foot-0 1/2 | Weight: 196 | Hand size: 9.0 | 40-time: 4.53
Comparable body-type to: Amon-Ra St. Brown
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Young from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
We often talk about receivers who need good quarterbacks in order to fulfill their Fantasy potential — Smith-Njigba has made enough dazzling plays in college (and high school) to suggest his skill-set will make his quarterbacks look better than they are. He’s a refined, well-rounded receiver who should see terrific volume. He’s also just 21, so there’s a shot he’ll help Fantasy managers for a long time as well as right away in 2023. Expect him to get taken between second and fifth overall in every one-QB rookie-only draft, and potentially as soon as fifth overall in Superflex/two-QB formats.
Expected to be armed with a young, quality quarterback, the Texans would utilize Smith-Njigba as their top target immediately in an offense that prioritizes putting nuanced receivers in position to make plays after the catch. He wouldn’t take outside snaps away from Nico Collins (at least not to start) and could mix and match in the slot with a hopefully healthy John Metchie. More importantly, Smith-Njigba would quickly evolve into the team’s go-to receiver and potentially be on the other end of 140 targets as soon as 2023.
Combining the creativity of Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka’s play-calling with Smith-Njigba’s traits is exactly what Daniel Jones needs. The thinking is that Smith-Njigba’s great hands and precise route-running would push him into the immediate No. 1 receiver role in New York and line up everywhere. If he’s as good as we think, he could contend for over 120 targets and make a huge impact.
Like Houston, Carolina will have an electric new quarterback. And like Houston, Carolina needs a reliable top target for said quarterback. But unlike Houston, the Panthers have some salvageable pass-catchers already in place and have a potentially great defense that could shorten games and eliminate the excessive pass volume we’d want. Not that the Panthers would be a bad option since 110 targets could still be on the table, plus the chances of a long-standing connection with a young passer carries appeal.
How many times have we fawned over Bill Belichick’s slot receivers? Smith-Njigba would be the one with the best pedigree coming into the league, and could immediately serve as the best target for an accurate short and intermediate passer like Mac Jones. Jakobi Meyers averaged 6.9 targets per game in 2022 and 7.4 in 2021 — Smith-Njigba would have a shot to top that, even with JuJu Smith-Schuster already in the fold.
Next-best Fantasy fits: Arizona, Green Bay, Baltimore, L.A. Chargers
Least-appealing Fantasy fits: Indianapolis, Cleveland, Tennessee
Smith-Njigba should be a reliable receiver at the pro level. He’s ahead of most rookies when it comes to his technique and nuance, and though he’s undersized and not a straight-line speedster he made plays like crazy in 2021 while working alongside three other great young wideouts at Ohio State. I think he’ll at least be as effective as Amon-Ra St. Brown with the sky-high ceiling to fool us all and be at the level of Justin Jefferson, who, like Smith-Njigba, was pigeon-holed as a slot receiver without playmaking speed as a prospect before running rampant in the pros.
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