It’s looking increasingly likely the New York Giants will choose the 2023 NFL draft as the best way to solve their problem at wide receiver. The issue has been lessened somewhat by the team’s work in free agency, notably the signing of Parris Campbell, but that hasn’t stopped the Giants from meeting with one draft wideout who has been compared to Dallas Cowboys’ star CeeDee Lamb.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba sat down for a meal with Giants brass ahead of his pro day at Ohio State, according to NFL Media’s Andrew Groover:
Smith-Njigba is one of many appealing prospects from a rookie class loaded at wide receiver. The 21-year-old has merited comparisons to a number of productive pro pass-catchers, including two-time 1,000-yard receiver Lamb.
Meeting with Smith-Njigba in person shows the Giants are serious about running the rule over the premier playmakers in this class. USC’s Jordan Addison told Heavy’s Lorenzo Reyna he’s already spoken with the Giants. It also means the team is unlikely to dip back into the veteran market for a big-name wide receiver.
Using the 25th-overall pick to select Smith-Njigba would give quarterback Daniel Jones a catch machine who could be trusted to keep the chains moving.
Rose Bowl Star Similar to Several NFL Wideouts
Smith-Njigba could only get onto the field for a mere three games in 2022 because of a hamstring injury, but he’s still a legitimate first-round prospect. His credentials are based largely on a prolific 2021 campaign during which Smith-Njigba caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns, per Sports Reference, despite sharing time with would-be first-round draft picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.
Smith-Njigba’s best game was the 93-point shootout against Utah in the Rose Bowl, a game won by the Buckeyes thanks to Smith-Njigba’s record day, highlighted by ESPN College Football:
Performances like this have earned Smith-Njigba some lofty comparisons. They include Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen dubbing him a “slower CeeDeeLamb.”
Smith-Njigba might dispute the “slower” part of that description after posting a swift time in the 40 during his pro day, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
Either way, the comparison is a worthy one since 6’1″, 196-pound Smith-Njigba has a similar physical profile to 6’2″, 197-pounder Lamb. The Giants know all about Lamb’s productivity after the 23-year-old burned Big Blue’s defense for 14 catches, 193 yards and a touchdown during two games last season.
Lamb works well between the numbers, as does another pro compared to Smith-Njigba. The veteran in question is former Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and New Orleans Saints receiver Jarvis Landry, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.
Landry has two 100-plus-catch seasons on his CV, the level of production teams will expect from Smith-Njigba.
Former Dolphins and Minnesota Vikings’ general manager Rick Spielman has another comparison in mind. He told CBS Sports podcast With the First Pick how Smith-Njigba shares traits with Adam Thielen: “Both of them are excellent route-runners (and) catch the ball extremely well. If they’re going to get open down the field, they’re probably going to have to use their route-running ability. By that I mean maybe putting a double-move on a corner in order to get him to bite in order to get separation downfield. Extremely tough when they’re coming across the middle, when they hang on to the ball when they know they’re going to whacked.”
Jones would welcome a receiver with the traits Spielman described. The Giants’ QB1 has something to prove after signing a four-year deal worth $160 million, but Jones may already have enough small and resourceful receivers.
Giants Need a Big Body On the Outside
Bringing back Sterling Shepard ensured the Giants kept a receiver able to work between the hashmarks. So can Wan’Dale Robinson, assuming 2022’s second-round pick makes a full recovery from the torn ACL that derailed his rookie season.
Campbell is yet another wideout barely over 6’0″ who can be an asset on inside passing routes. His presence means the Giants are well-stacked with possession-style pass-catchers.
What’s still missing is a big body capable of making game-breaking plays on the outside. In other words, a vertical threat who can strike fear into the hearts of covering defenders.
There are options in this class, including Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt and TCU burner Quentin Johnston. Both make more sense than Smith-Njigba for what Jones and the Giants need to take their passing game to the next level.