After the Seattle Seahawks bucked every prediction to select cornerback Devon Witherspoon with their No. 5 overall pick, the team pulled off another surprise by snagging the first wide receiver off the board during the 2023 NFL Draft, taking Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba at No. 20
While the five-star recruit only appeared in three games during the 2022 season due to a left hamstring injury, he broke Ohio State’s single-season record for receiving yards in 2021, recording 95 receptions for 1,606 yards in 13 games. He hit that number even with wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave on the roster, the latter of whom was a first-round pick last year.
Several teams were hoping to grab the 6-foot-1, 196-pound receiver, and Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith was thrilled they snagged the sought-after offensive weapon. The Score‘s Jordan Schultz tweeted, “Just got a text from @GenoSmith3 following #Seahawks’ picking Jaxon Smith-Njigba: ‘Eliteeeeee.'” Smith also tweeted a salute to the Seahawks’ newest receiver.
ESPN‘s Mel Kiper listed Smith-Njiba as the 14th-best prospect available in the draft. Kiper wrote, “He has stellar burst and explosiveness out of breaks. He’s a hands catcher who can run the entire route tree, and he can make defenders miss after the catch. Most of Smith-Njigba’s work came from the slot in 2021 — all but eight of his catches came while aligned there. He led the FBS in receiving yards per route run (4.0).”
Geno Smith was Prepared for the Seahawks to Draft a QB in the First Round
During the 2022 NFL season, Smith’s ninth and statistically best year in the league, he threw for 4,282 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, along with 366 rushing yards and one rushing score. While the Seahawks subsequently signed Smith to a three-year, $75 million contract that could be worth up to $105 million in incentives, Seattle seriously considered taking a quarterback in the first round.
Per SI, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was transparent with Smith about their quarterback research ahead of the draft. “I told Geno we’re doing it. He knows what is going on; he’s just trying to win; he knows we are trying to win. So this is how we compete.”
“We’ve said for years we are going in every single opportunity that is out there, and [general manager] John [Schneider] has done a marvelous job of always having his ear to the ground to know what is going on so if an opportunity does fit us, we are prepared and ready to pounce on it… Here we are, a No. 5 pick, and there are legitimately four great prospects at the quarterback spot, and we may never have this opportunity again, so we’ve got to maximize it.”
Fans Loved the Prospect of Jaxon Smith-Njigba Joining DK Metcalf & Tyler Lockett
Smith now has three top-tier wide receivers on his offense and like the Seahawks quarterback, fans are thrilled. The idea of having Smith-Njigba alongside Seahawks play the slot alongside wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett is no doubt an exciting development.
While the Seahawks still have several holes to fill on defense, Seattle Sports‘ Bob Stelton said, “They go with the top wide receiver in this year’s draft by everybody’s estimation, and it’s exciting to think of the possibilities. It doesn’t address their most pressing needs, but this is them sticking to the philosophy (of) ‘We’re going with the best player available’ that they’ve got on their board.”
When Smith-Njigba was asked his thoughts about playing with Lockett and Metcalf, “Super excited,” he said, per FOX 13‘s Curtis Crabtree. “Big fans of those guys. For me to be in that room, I know how I am and it’s going to push me to compete harder and and find my way amongst those guys. So I’m looking forward to lining up next to them.”
The Athletic‘s Michael-Shawn Dugar believes he can make an impact right away, even if he’s No. 3 on the depth chart. Dugar wrote, “The third receiver in any offensive scheme doesn’t see a large sum of targets, but what’s left over after Geno Smith feeds Metcalf and Lockett could go to Smith-Njigba before Young and Eskridge. Even if that’s only 30 or so catches and 400-500 yards, the impact could be significant, particularly on third down and in the red zone. He won’t be as productive as Metcalf was his rookie season, but the Seahawks don’t need him to be based on the talent around him in the receiver room.”