If you are reading this article and are like me, then you are most likely a movie nut. One of the movies that I watched a lot growing up was Back to the Future. In this Devy Spotlight, it is time to jump in our DeLorean and head back to 2015 when three initials were taking the NFL by storm. OBJ, from the one-hand catch and his on-field play to some of the on-field antics, Odell Beckham Jr. was one of the hottest names in football in 2015. Going back to the future, new initials are taking the world by storm. J.S.N. Jaxon Smith-Njigba from Ohio State set the world on fire in his bowl game performance, where he set the bowl game receiving yard and touchdown record. But what makes him such a special devy asset? Let’s dive in.
Smith-Njigba entered Ohio State in 2020 with a ton of pedigree. He was a 5-star recruit and the fifth WR in his class. As a prospect, he rated as the 29th overall prospect. Coming to the team, it was assumed he would have to wait his time sitting behind a loaded receiving core for the Buckeyes. He didn’t explode onto the scene until the 2021 season.
Smith-Njigba had a quiet freshman campaign for the Buckeyes. Sitting behind Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, and even Julian Fleming on some occasions, Smith-Njigba didn’t stand out much. He did have an amazing back-of-the-endzone touchdown catch where he showed off some pretty phenomenal body control. Flash forward to 2021, and JSN broke out in a big way to the tune of 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. Three hundred forty-seven of those yards came in the massive shootout against Utah in the Rose Bowl. Remember that Smith-Njigba did this as the third option on the depth chart. Flash forward to 2022, and the offense should flourish with JSN as the true WR1 for the Buckeyes.
One of the most important traits that set a WR apart is route running, and Smith-Njigba has that in spades. He has a quick release off of the line of scrimmage, often utilizing a stutter step and hesitation move before exploding through his breaks. He sinks his hips well at the top of his routes and then explodes through his breaks to get a clean separation. When watching his film, you would often see him get 5-7 yards of separation against opposing defensive backs. It was easy to see why he was one of CJ Stroud’s favorite targets with this skill set.
Smith-Njigba has excellent route running, but he also has phenomenal long speed. He is the type of receiver that can take a short screen or dump off pass 50 yards for a long touchdown. He has excellent run after the catch ability. When watching his film, you can see a little bit of early Beckham in Smith-Njigba when he is in the open field. Mixing this speed and playmaking ability with his ability to create consistent separation, Smith-Njigba is a weapon for any offense,
One of the things that I first noticed about him was his body control. Most of us remember his first touchdown pass; the link is above if you missed it. In 2021 Smith-Njigba had these types of plays and more. He tracks the ball well over his and adjusts his body well to the catch. He has a knack for making NFL catches on the sideline, getting two feet down on hard-to-catch passes. This will be a trait that sets him apart at the next level.
Areas to Clean up
Smith-Njigba does have some things in his game that he needs to clean up. He is by no means a perfect prospect. When I was watching him, I noticed that occasionally while carrying the ball, he carried it loosely. This can lead to the ball being poked loose by the tackling defender. We saw evidence of this in the Rose Bowl. I also noticed that his play strength, at times, was lacking. Occasionally Smith-Njigba would get jammed up at the line of scrimmage if his footwork could not get him open. He also struggled to maintain blocks at times. This season I would like to see him improve on his upper body strength to improve some of these things.
Overall as a prospect, JSN is my WR1. Great Scott. Coming into the season, he is the clear-cut alpha on this offense. With Heisman contender Stroud leading the charge, it is easy to see Smith-Njigba contending for the Biletnikoff Award this season. While 1,600 yards in 2021 was a huge season, JSN could potentially be in for an even bigger one en route to a top first-round pick in 2023.
Well, that does it for us today. For more devy and college football analysis, make sure to follow me on Twitter @DevyMatt and subscribe to my Youtube Page at Devy Database, where I am starting to put out player profiles. We will see you next time.