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Steelers Scouting Report: Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

With uncertainty looming into the offseason at slot wide receiver, could Jaxon Smith-Njigba be the Pittsburgh Steelers target in the first round?

Could record-setting Ohio State wide receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba be in the play for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round?

Coming into this season, Smith-Njigba was considered to be the top overall prospect at the wide receiver position as he finished with a record-setting Rose Bowl performance. He also set many school records in the 2021 season where he shattered the most receiving yards in a single game by an Ohio State WR, the most catches in a game and the most receiving yards in a single season.

Smith-Njigba very rarely lined up along the outside, as he lined up in the slot approximately 88.6% of the time. He also has some experience returning punts as he fielded about 11 punts in his career, but only averaged about 6.5 yards per return.


Smith-Njigba grew up in Rockwall Texas and attended Rockwall High School. He was considered the number five overall ranked player in the state of Texas coming out of high school. Currently going for a major in health sciences. 

Coming into the 2021 season, both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave had raving reviews for him saying he’s the best they’ve seen and described him as a "rare talent." His older brother Canaan Smith-Njigba is a left-fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates.


Well proportioned frame with a solid hip build overall. Smooth as silk off the line of scrimmage and out of his breaks. Shows some sudden movements off the secondary release, with good violent movements. 

Has a plan off the line of scrimmage as he consistently restems his routes to attack towards the corner’s leverage while knowing when to vary his tempo as he either pumps the arms with pads over knees to sell vertical or slows his strides to sell underneath, then selling the secondary release with a mixture of hesitation moves, dead leg cuts, helmet fakes and foot fires. 

Despite mainly playing in the slot, he dealt with more press in his career than expected and consistently showed a plan to deal with that initial contact as he’d keep his chest clean with excellent hand usage off the line of scrimmage along with stellar hand placement that attacked the elbows. He also would vary his releases with a mixture of head fakes, hesitations, foot fires, two to three step footwork, etc. Great feel for zone coverage and knowing how to influence zone defenders, but also knowing where to sit between those soft spots and was very reliable at working his way back to his quarterback. 

The ability after the catch is special, very seamless transitions from receiver to runner as he gets up field, has a nasty stiff arm to be able to churn out tough yards through contact, but also shows a great spatial feel for defenders and how to make them miss. Shows good, strong hands in contested areas, with good high and tight hands technique. Shows good ability to track the ball, knowing when to let it come to him, or go up and get it, while also being able to track well over the outside shoulder vertically. Takes his role seriously in the slot and is always making the crucial block on run plays.


Will never be a burner in the open field and gets caught from behind with relative frequency after the catch. Won’t separate down the field off of pure speed vertically. May only be a true fit as a pure slot receiver, due to his lack of speed to run most of the routes outside. 

Requires a good bit of projection on the outside as he mainly played within the slot and might not offer the correct skillset to be at his best in those particular roles. Dealt with a nagging hamstring injury all year and only has one year of true production in college.

Numbers to Note

- Career Totals: 110 receptions, 1698 receiving yards, 15.4 yards per reception and 10 receiving touchdowns.

- 2021 Totals: 95 receptions, 1606 receiving yards, 16.9 yards per reception and nine receiving touchdowns.

- First in yards per routes run with 4.01 in 2021. (PFF)

- Forced 19 missed tackles in 2021, while finishing 2nd in total yards after the catch with 790. (PFF)

- 5.9 drop percentage, with six drops on 112 targets. (PFF)


In a weaker wide receiver class overall, I firmly expect Smith-Njigba to be among the first receivers taken in this year's draft. A lot can change from now till then, but it's looking likely that he could be picked anywhere from the top 20 to very-early second round. While I am expecting a less-than-ideal 40-yard dash time, I expect him to put up some elite agility numbers in the three cone and short shuttle. Still currently only 20 years old and put up elite production at OSU at age 19 in 2021.

Even though much of his production was only generated through the slot, Smith-Njigba's traits and what he offers in the slot is very hard to find outside of day two of the draft. Depending on how a team values the slot and what their skill position talent is looking like, it would be very hard to pass on a player of this caliber. 

Given what we've seen in the rise of slot wide receivers like Amon-Ra St. Brown, Cooper Kupp, Keenan Allen, Tyler Boyd, etc, I am firmly expecting teams to value his skillset.

NFL Comparison: Cooper Kupp

Scheme fit: Slot wide receiver

Prospect Grade: Fringe 1st/2nd round

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