Jaxon Smith-Njigba has done next to nothing since his historic 2021 Rose Bowl performance when he put up 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns against Utah.
Since that night, he suffered a severe hamstring injury in Ohio State’s 2022 opener against Notre Dame. He attempted to return to action twice but re-aggravated the hamstring and was eventually shut down for his final season in Columbus.
After balling out at the NFL Combine, highlighted by a 99th percentile agility score, the Seahawks selected JSN 20th overall. They added him to their lethal receiving corps that features DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Smith-Njigba made some early noise at camp. However, he broke his wrist in a preseason game and has since gotten off to a very start to his NFL career.
“Yeah, it was a challenge,” Smith-Njigba said. “But we took care of it and I feel like we made all the right moves. I definitely felt better each week and can actually do some more stuff. So yeah my comfortability is rising every day. So I feel close to 100 [percent] now.”
With Smith-Njigba’s average depth of target (aDOT) looking like a high school dropout’s GPA, it’s easy to see why he was dropped in roughly half of fantasy leagues. Yet, there is some hope for JSN’s rest-of-season fantasy outlook, and I’ll tell you why.
WHY YOU SHOULD BUY-LOW ON JSN
Not only did the wrist injury cost the rookie some time at the end of camp, but the Seahawks lost both of its starting tackles in Week 1– with right tackle Abraham Lucas still on IR. Thus, they were forced out of three-receiver sets and into two tight-end sets. Rookie receiver Jake Bobo also played in JSN’s place to run block, with the wrist injury hampering his ability to play all three downs.
Ultimately and unfortunately, Smith-Njigba was the odd man out.
Through the team’s first four games, JSN wore a protective guard on his wrist and did not play in over 44% of the snaps. His aDOT was pathetic, and he was primarily utilized on receiver screens– which is just odd if you watched him play in college. The man had a 75% success rate vs. man coverage and an 81.4% success rate vs. zone in 2021 at Ohio State.
But things changed in Week 5.
Smith-Njigba recorded season-highs in snaps (53), route run percentage (81%), aDot (7.4), PFF grade (69.1), and yards per catch (12). His final numbers would’ve been even higher if Geno Smith saw him streaking down the sideline for a would-be 30-yard score.
From the wrist injury to the Seahawks’ offensive line issues, it’s clear things were not lining up for the former Buckeye. But, we’re taking baby steps, and it’s going to all pay off in the end.
Simply put, JSN is too damn talented to not be utilized and is too much of a consistent and reliable playmaker not to make an impact as a rookie.
We may have to wait until Lewis returns from IR because the offensive line is coming off its worst performance of the season after allowing three sacks and five quarterback hits to the Bengals. Although he’s not set to return this week, it could be next week or the week after. More three-receiver sets equal more snaps for JSN.
Plus, if Metcalf or Lockett were to miss any time, JSN would be an automatic start in fantasy.
Smith-Njigba is still available in 49% of leagues and needs to be rostered or acquired. He’s likely not going to make a significant Week 7 fantasy impact, but it’s happening, and it’s happening soon. Be patient and he could be the stretch-run hero to help win fantasy leagues. JSN currently sits in Tier 6 (WR52) on The Wolf’s Rest of Season Rankings, alongside the likes of Josh Downs, Rashee Rice, Michael Thomas, and Jerry Jeudy.
“I think any passing of judgment up until now I think was premature,” Pete Carroll said of the rookie. “He’s just getting going. And we love him and he’s going to be a real big factor for us.”