INDIANAPOLIS – 2022 was a challenging year for Jaxon Smith-Njigba with the Buckeyes and now the then-favorite to win the Biletnikoff Award (nation’s top wide receiver) now needs to prove himself in an upcoming draft that may not have a definitive No. 1 pick at the receiver position.
The first day of 2022 was the best day of the year for JSN as he helped the Buckeyes on to a 48-45 win over Utah in the Rose Bowl with 15 receptions, 347 yards and three touchdowns against the Utes.
Things went awry to start the 2022 season however when Smith-Njigba let the game against Notre Dame early and then a failed return trip against Toledo would see just brief action from JSN and before anyone could really process things, the season was shut down, even with the Buckeyes making it into the College Football Playoff and a national championship being within reach.
There is no doubt in Smith-Njigba’s mind how things would have played out if he would have been able to go last year.
“Definitely would have won a national championship,” Smith-Njigba said.
But that is all hypothetical now. JSN was not able to play against Michigan or Georgia and wouldn’t have been able to go against TCU if that opportunity had presented itself. There was a lot of information out there in the ether saying that he would, but as with most rumors, that was not entirely true.
“No, unfortunately not,” Smith-Njigba said when asked about playing in the CFP. Ohio State made the call to shut him down shortly after learning their playoff draw even if there was some hope the answer could be different. “Maybe, with the information that I was given at the time, I wouldn’t be back for the national championship. So, at that point hearing that, I just had to close the door and move on.”
The decision was made to focus on more rehab and getting ready for the NFL Scouting Combine. And now that the event is here, where does Smith-Njigba stand?
“I’m 100-percent,” Smith-Njigba said. “I feel good. I’m ready to go out here and attack and show my skill set.”
Despite being 100-percent, JSN will still not run the 40-yard dash, instead holding off for Ohio State’s upcoming Pro Day. What went into that decision?
“I would say that I was 100-percent maybe like two weeks ago, just trying to take things very slowly, so I can you know close this book on this nagging hamstring or whatever,” Smith-Njigba said. “Just wanting to take it slow, you know, so we can close the book, which I feel like I have. But just haven’t had enough reps in the 40 just yet. So pro day, you’ll see me.”
There are a lot of great receivers in this draft with Quentin Johnson (TCU), Jordan Addison (USC), Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee) and Josh Downs (UNC) to name just a few. But there has not been an overriding consensus on who may be the first one to come off the board.
Smith-Njigba was asked to make his case why he should be the first one off the board. Remember, going into the 2022 season, there probably would have been little question as to who it should have been.
“I just think my playmaking ability is second to none in this draft,” Smith-Njigba said. “I see myself as a top-five player, not just receiver. I see myself as a top-five player in this draft, just being able to make plays and given the opportunities, you know, you throw me the ball seven to nine times, I can win you the game. And I think that speaks for itself.”
Check out more of what JSN had to say during his media availability below in this video from the NFL Scouting Combine and keep it here for more coverage from this annual event.
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