A widely held opinion is that the Buffalo Bills still need to add players to the team’s wide receiver room. Whether that’s to help quarterback Josh Allen find a route quicker, free up wide receiver Stefon Diggs from double coverage, or allow wide receiver Gabe Davis to flourish more as a WR3 — talent is needed.
One of the more underrated receivers in this draft class is Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He’s a player flying a bit under the radar because he hardly played any football last year due to a hamstring injury. Smith-Njibga had a banner year for the Buckeyes in 2021, totaling 1,6,06 receiving yards and scoring nine touchdowns. He was considered the best receiver on a team with 2022 NFL rookie standouts Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. So, let’s look at the tape and break down what makes Jaxon Smith-Njigba such an intriguing prospect despite missing most of last year.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba makes catches in tight coverage
Pre-snap you see Jaxon Smith-Njigba in the slot. At the snap, the Ohio State receiver ran left into the middle of the field. He jumped up to catch a pass that was a little high over the middle and brought the ball down. What makes this catch impressive is Smith-Njigba has no space on the catch. Being able to make something out of nothing is a big part of being a high-level receiver.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has breakaway speed
NFL teams want to know if receiver can ably run away from defenders. Here we see Smith-Njigba do a great job of creating initial space on his route. Once the ball was caught, he got into his stride and accelerated away from the defender for the long gain. Breakaway speed like this is the difference from a five-yard gain to a potential 20-yard gain.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s ability to handle contact
Catching the ball through contact is a big-time quality for starting receivers in the NFL. In an era where the short completion is so important, teams need guys who can withstand tough contact, keep their balance and then have the ability to run for a few extra yards. At the snap, as Jaxon Smith-Njigba ran across the middle he knew contact was coming. The OSU receiver absorbed the hit and ran for the first down. This is the difference in completing a lot of 3rd & 3 or 4th & 2 conversions when the offense goes to the passing game.
I believe Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the best receiver in the 2023 NFL Draft class. He’s also someone who I see sliding down the draft board due to his injury history. If that situation came to pass, the Buffalo Bills would be wise to bring him to Orchard Park, NY. That’s likely true whether they have to move around the draft’s first round or stay put and turn their card in at pick 27. If you don’t think Jaxon Smith-Njigba fits the Bills, which receiver should general manager Brandon Beane and One Bills Drive consider above all?