Draft’s Top Wide Receiver ‘Would Definitely Love to Play for’ Giants, Brian Daboll

Brian Daboll

Getty The top wide receiver in the 2023 NFL draft wants to play for Brian Daboll and the New York Giants.

Coming out of Round 1 of the 2023 NFL draft with a true playmaker at wide receiver would be a win for the New York Giants. Fortunately, the prospect many consider the top pass-catcher in this class is keen to play for Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba told reporters Daboll’s “an awesome coach, would definitely love to play for him.” The Ohio State standout also admitted “it would be cool to be a Giant.”

While the perception of this year’s crop of wideouts has changed recently, Smith-Njigba is emerging as the consensus best-in-class prospect. He’d be a terrific fit for the Giants as somebody who can produce catches and yards at multiple levels.

Giants a Great Landing Spot for No. 1 Receiver

Reese’s Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy revealed in early April how he’s “spoken to numerous teams that have only one first round grade at the position. That guy is JSN.”

It’s a sentiment endorsed by Nate Tice of The Athletic, although he sees Smith-Njigba as a “great secondary weapon to use from the slot.”

A role in the slot is a common projection for Smith-Njigba, with Sports Info Solutions’ Ryan Rubinstein describing how the player “excels in the slot. He consistently shows burst off the line and can beat press coverage with a stutter step or by swiping the defender’s hands away.”

Smith-Njigba’s sudden moves and precise routes make him an obvious mismatch on the inside, like for this catch and run against Nebraska from 2021, highlighted by Fox College Football.

Although he does have a knack for winning inside, JSN can also make plays on the perimeter. The latter quality would be a welcome boost for the Giants, who are already stocked to overflowing with slot-style receivers who live over the middle.

Versatility Key for Giants’ Next WR1

Whoever emerges as the next go-to target for Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones, will do so only after proving his versatility. Smith-Njigba has the raw tools to do just that, despite losing all but three games to hamstring injuries in 2022.

Pro teams gauging the 6-foot, 197-pounder’s potential have instead focused on his banner 2021 campaign. That’s when JSN made 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns.

Significantly, Smith-Njigba averaged 16.9 yards per reception, ample proof of his big-play threat. He offered a reminder of his ability to stretch the field during Ohio State’s pro day, per NFL Network’s James Palmer.

Daboll’s offense needs a vertical target after the Giants mustered just 28 completions of 20-plus yards last season, the fewest in the league. General manager Joe Schoen took steps to improve Jones’ quick-strike capability by signing Parris Campbell from the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.

Campbell’s a burner, but he’s also somebody more comfortable in the slot. The same is true of returning veteran Sterling Shepard and second-year man Wan’Dale Robinson.

Both Shepard and Robinson can thrive between the 20s, but neither is renowned for getting open inside the red zone. It is an area where Smith-Njigba can make plays, something he showcased from the start of his Ohio State career, according to Adam King of 10TV Sports.

Taking Smith-Njigba 25th overall, assuming he’s still on the board, would give the Giants a complete receiver. That’s worth a first-round pick, even if Schoen has other pressing needs to address like cornerback, inside linebacker, edge-rusher and interior offensive line help.

This draft is deep in the lower order, despite a lack of elite talent at the top level, so the Giants should be able to fix those problems in the later rounds. Yet, calling Smith-Njigba’s name will be too tempting to pass if the first round unfolds the way many expect for the receivers in this class.

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