COLUMBUS, Ohio (BVM) – In a wide receiver room that has seen former first-round picks such as Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams in it in recent years, it may be hard for a player to stand out among the special group. However, for former Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, he did just that, with Wilson once praising the wideout as “probably the best I’ve ever seen” at the position back in 2021.
As Smith-Njigba now prepares for the NFL Draft this offseason, Wison hasn’t backed off much from that claim. During Super Bowl week, Wilson was asked about Smith-Njigba and he had nothing but praise for the draft-eligible receiver.
“Jaxon is a cold-blooded man, man,” Wilson told Yahoo Sports. “That boy is, we call him ‘The Natural.’ He’s got hands, he’s got feet that will throw you by, make you miss. He’ll do the laundry for you. Jaxon’s cold, man. I’m confident that wherever he goes, he’s going to make a big impact early.”
When reminded of his previous comments saying Smith-Njigba was the best of the three that included Olave as well, Wilson responded, “I stand on that.”
Is Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba WR1 in this year's NFL Draft?
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) February 9, 2023
With so much praise, one wonders how these three receivers stacked up against each other during their time with the Buckeyes. While their statistics may look different on paper, when taking a closer look at the numbers, the trio is more similar than one may think.
Let’s start with Smith-Njigba since he’s the one who is hoping to become the next first-round draft pick from the program. In three seasons in Columbus, Smith-Njigba recorded 110 catches for 1,698 yards and 10 touchdowns in 23 games played with 15 starts. This included a sophomore season that saw Smith-Njigba record a program-record 1,606 receiving yards on 95 receptions with nine touchdowns.
When breaking down his play on a per-game basis, Smith-Njigba recorded 4.8 catches for 73.8 yards a contest. Looking at his per-catch yardage, he recorded 15.4 yards a reception.
This is where things get interesting. Looking at Olave’s career, he played four seasons with the Buckeyes, recording 176 catches for 2,711 yards and 35 touchdowns in 47 games with 24 starts. While his play was standout, Olave never had a season like Smith-Njigba’s sophomore year as he never surpassed the 1,000-yard mark in a single campaign with his highest total being 936 in 2021.
When breaking down his play on a per-game basis, his numbers are actually worse than Smith-Njigba’s with 57.6 yards on 3.7 catches a game. However, the two eerily match in yards per catch in their careers at 15.4.
Now looking at Wilson’s numbers, again there are similarities. Wilson recorded 143 catches for 2,213 yards and 23 touchdowns in 34 games with 19 starts over three years. His best season came as a junior in 2021 where he caught 70 passes for 1,058 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Taking a look at his per-game averages, Wilson recorded 65.1 yards on 4.2 catches. His per catch was very close to his running mates’ number as well with an average of 15.5 yards a reception.
So, when looking at the numbers, specifically on a per-game basis, Smith-Njigba bested his teammates in yards per game (73.8 compared to 65.1 and 57.6) and catches per game (4.8 compared to 4.2 and 3.7) while matching Olave in yards per catch at 15.4, just 0.1 yard behind Wilson.
While questions remain about Smith-Njigba’s health following a junior campaign where he saw limited action in just two games, his numbers are clearly in line with his fellow former Buckeyes. Though numbers do not make a player nor define how well they could play at the next level, given the rookie success of both Olave and Wilson, NFL franchises should be confident enough to select Smith-Njigba in the NFL Draft’s first round and continue Ohio State’s dominance as the league’s wide receiver university.