Mock drafts are thought exercises. Very rarely are they intended to be predictive before the week of the actual NFL Draft is upon us, and mock drafts before free agency are especially volatile. They are intended not just to generate clicks, but individual reactions to a multitude of different possibilities.
Chris Trapasso from CBS Sports released a mock draft on Wednesday, March 1 that’s sure to draw strong reactions from many in Bills Mafia over the first-round pick for the Buffalo Bills:
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR
OHIO STATE • JR • 6’1” / 200 LBS
The Bills jump at the value pick here with Njigba, who almost assuredly would’ve gone higher had he played a full season in 2022 at Ohio State. He’s not a freaky athlete but glides after the catch.
This article is titled “mock mocking or mock marveling” for a reason. It’s about the gut and initial reaction that I have to the player being selected for the Bills in the selected mock draft, and in this case, the coin lands on “marveling.”
I expect Jaxon Smith-Njigba to be gone before the Bills pick at 27. In this example, however, he’s available and I would make exactly the pick the Bills made if that ended up being the case.
Part of the discussion about the receiver position in Buffalo this offseason focuses on the degree of need relative to other positions, most notably that of offensive line. But a sub-discussion around the potential acquisition of a new wide receiver or two is that specific type of player the Bills should be targeting. Should they target an outside player who can move Gabe Davis into more of a slot vertical role? Should they target a slot player who can be a security blanket in the short area for Josh Allen a la Cole Beasley?
When you pick a player like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, the answer is “both.”
JSN is a refined and nuanced route runner, having learned under wide receivers coach Brian Hartline at Ohio State — whose previous pupils include Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, and Jameson Williams, and current OSU stud Marvin Harrison, Jr. Smith-Njigba played 88.6% of his snaps in the slot during his fully healthy 2021 campaign, according to Pro Football Focus. But his hand usage, short-area quickness, and route nuance should give teams confidence that he can develop into an outside player with more work on his release package.
Smith-Njigba could follow the path blazed by superstar Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson as a slot-heavy player who does it all at the next level, or he could also maintain his role as a “super slot” receiver like Amon-Ra St. Brown of the Detroit Lions. No matter where he ends up playing on offense, he’d still be a big boost immediately to a Buffalo Bills offense that needs to find answers in the passing game that don’t revolve around Josh Allen either throwing to Stefon Diggs or breaking the pocket to make a big play down the field.
...and that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I’m Bruce Nolan with Buffalo Rumblings. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @BruceExclusive and look for new episodes of “The Bruce Exclusive” every Thursday on the Buffalo Rumblings podcast network!