College: Ohio State
Projected 40 Time: 4.52
Weakness: Top Speed
Draft Projection: Top 15
After Ja'Marr Chase's success, Jaxon Smith-Njigba's lost 2022 season doesn't seem to bother many analysts. Chase's lone, dominant sophomore year was enough to lock him in as the top WR in his draft class. JSN might earn similar respect from NFL teams.
Jaxon's game will carry over smoothly to the NFL. He's been a technically refined receiver since his high school days. The tape from all-star recruiting camp one-on-ones showed an unstoppable player with an advanced release toolkit. With Garret Wilson and Chris Olave on the outside, Jaxon lined up 95+% of his reps in the slot. That many slot reps can lead to questions about a players release, simply because you don't get very many reps against press coverage (only able to find about 30 seconds worth in 5+ games for our Film Room "Vs Press" vid). Justin Jefferson faced similar questions due to his high slot volume at LSU. Like Jefferson, I think there's enough in Jaxon's tape (even high school tape) to indicate that he can win at the line.
In the play below, JSN puts his defender in the blender. Just undresses the dude. There are so many layers to the greatness of this rep but the first is his release. Most of the time, the WR has several seconds to read his defender's position and come up with a plan of attack. He can gain a feel throughout the game after facing the same guy at the line multiple times and put together a strategy for each play. Due to the offensive motion and late shift of the DB into press position, JSN's release is entirely improvised. And he's instantaneously gone. No hesitation, just wiggle & out. That type of immediate problem-solving reveals immense experience. His release game is not going to be an issue.