Ravens to Host ‘Consensus 1st Round’ WR for Pre-Draft Visit: Report

Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Getty The Ravens are scheduled to bring in Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a pre-draft visit.

The Baltimore Ravens made good on their vow to rebuild their wide receiver depth chart with the additions of veteran free agents and former first-round picks Odell Beckham Jr. and Nelson Agholor over the past month and likely aren’t done adding more quality talent at the position.

According to a report from NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport, they doing their due diligence on one of the top wideouts in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Ravens are reportedly one of several teams that Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is scheduled to visit soon per a source on April 10, 2023.

His source also informed him that the other teams he is slated to meet with include the Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, and Dallas Cowboys.

Despite having played just three games in his final year in college due to a hamstring injury, Smith-Njigba’s stock has steadily been on the rise throughout the pre-draft process.

He impressed during the field workout portion of the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine and did the same at the Ohio State Pro Day where he ran an unofficial 4.53 in the 4o-yard dash that quelled some concerns about his speed.

Former Buckeye Being Considered as Cream of the Crop

Smith-Njigba is widely viewed as a “consensus first-rounder” and according to former NFL scout and Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Jim Nagy, he is the only prospect at the position that is worthy of the designation per his sources around the league.

“One thing has become clear on calls around (the) league past couple weeks: NFL isn’t nearly as high on this year’s WR class as media,” he wrote in a post. “Frequently seeing 4-5 wideouts in mocks. Have spoken to numerous teams that have only one first-round grade at the position.”

Smith-Njigba being that lone prospect with a round-one grade shouldn’t come as a surprise since he is the most polished and pro-ready of the bunch and especially when it comes to route running.

The last time he was healthy was in 2021 and a strong argument could’ve been made that he was the best player at his position in the entire nation. That year he led the team and recorded career highs in receptions (95), receiving yards (1,606), and yards per catch (16.9) and caught 9 touchdowns according to Sports Reference.

The two receivers that finished second and third behind him on the team that year in every category except touchdowns was Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson who went on to get selected in the top 12 picks of the 2022 NFL Draft. They each eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards as rookies and Wilson was named Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Both players admitted that Smith-Njigba was the best of the Buckeye’s deadly trio and many pundits believe that he would’ve been the highest drafted of the three of them had he come out and declared last year.

In a recent appearance on the ‘Bussin’ With The Boys’ podcast, Ohio State offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Brian Hartline ranked Smith-Njigba second in the top five list of the best receivers he’s coached during his time with the Buckeyes.

He had him behind only Marvin Harrison Jr. who is the son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison Sr. and ranked ahead of both Wilson, Olave, and Pro Bowler Terry McLaurin of the Washington Commanders.

Potential Fit & Impact in Ravens Offense

General manager Eric DeCosta has selected a receiver in the first round in two of his first four years since taking over as the head of the organization’s front office. Making Smith-Njigba the third would give the team four first-rounders at the position on the roster including Beckham Jr., Agholor, and 2021 top pick Rashod Bateman.

It would further bolster an already much-improved depth chart at the position and provide quarterback Lamar Jackson with the most talented group of pass catchers that he’s ever had at any level of competition by a wide margin.

The Ravens still have a talented trio of tight ends as well with three-time Pro Bowler Mark Andrews as well as 2022 fourth-rounders Isaiah Likely and Charlie Kolar who both showed promise as rookies.

Pairing Smith-Njigba with Beckham Jr. and Bateman in particular would give the Ravens and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken three receivers capable of playing inside the slot as well as outwide who are dangerous after the catch in space once they get the ball in their hands.

Since Beckham Jr. and Agholor will be 30 years old by the time the season starts and both are playing on one-year contracts, drafting a talented and versatile weapon like Smith-Njigba makes sense for the future of the position beyond 2023.

Even if he doesn’t produce at a high level as a rookie because of all the mouths they’d suddenly have to feed at pass catcher, the duo of him and Bateman could be a dangerous one for years to come.

Jackson is at his best throwing over the middle which happens to be where Smith-Njigba does his best work. Even though some analysts view him as a ‘slot-only’ receiver, his ability to track the ball downfield, create separation at the top of his route stems, high point the ball, and make contested catches will allow him to excel no matter where he lines up. He can also make defenders miss in the open field and adjust his body to make almost any catch while staying in bounds.

The schematic versatility his presence would bring could make the Ravens one of the most dangerous and diverse offenses in the league capable of carving up teams in 10, 11, and 12 personnel as well as empty with five receivers or four and Andrews on any given down.

He is projected to come off the board in the top 20 picks of most mock drafts so the Ravens would likely have to trade up to ensure they can get him. However, given their lack of draft capital with just two picks in the top 100 and only five overall, the likelihood of that happening is very low.

By hosting him for a visit, they are further doing their due diligence just in case he were to fall into their laps in the same way that Kyle Hamilton did last year. If he got within a reasonable trade-up range that wouldn’t cost them anything more than a future pick in next year’s draft or their sixth-rounder this year, DeCosta just might consider pulling the trigger.