Stud Ohio State WR Prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba is Entering the 2023 NFL Draft

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Stud Ohio State WR Prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba is Entering the 2023 NFL Draft

Chicago Bears

We cannot overstate the Chicago Bears’ need to upgrade at wide receiver. Even after adding Chase Claypool, this group needs some help. And even if you consider a future with a healthy Darnell Mooney and Cole Kmet returning next year, this group is still missing an “X” factor to add another element to the passing game.

Perhaps the Bears can find that player in the upcoming NFL Draft. Maybe it could even be a former Justin Fields teammate from his Ohio State days.

Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, a potential first-round pick, is declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft. And in order to fully focus on preparing for his journey to the NFL, the OSU product is not playing in the Buckeyes’ College Football Playoff game at the Peach Bowl. This is a big step for JSN:

If you’re feeling as if Smith-Njigba’s name is a familiar one, it’s probably because you’ve been following along as we have.

In a recent ranking of top prospects, Smith-Njigba is one of four receivers among the top 32 prospects. And in some circles, JSN is seen as a potential top-10 pick. Way-too-early mock drafts in May had the Bears connected to JSN *FOUR* times. And he has been discussed as a potential Bears draft target on several occasions since. One mock draft even predicted Smith-Njigba could go second overall. Even when there isn’t a direct connection, I still found it tough to not think about Smith-Njigba when Bears GM Ryan Poles was seen checking out the talent at the Ohio State-Northwestern game in Evanston. Talking about JSN is like discussing an elephant in the room. But in this scenario, the elephant is a skilled pass-catcher with a prior history of playing with Justin Fields.

A hamstring hindered Smith-Njigba’s production this season, limiting him to just 5 catches and 43 receiving yards. Despite the injury-shortened 2022, the 6-foot, 197-pound receiver drew a comparison to standout Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb from ESPN analyst Matt Miller. Even still … going into the NFL Draft after an injury cut your last college season short is going to come with resistance (yes, even from the most receiver-needy teams). The injury might push JSN out of the top-5. And maybe his size will push him down to the middle of the first round. But this could be good news for the Bears.

OK, hear me out. There exists a scenario in which Chicago could trade back, add picks, and use one of those picks on Smith-Njigba. But it would take a trade-back, as the contenders for where the Bears are picking now (Alabama EDGE Will Anderson, Georgia DT Jalen Carter) are on a prospect tier higher than the one Smith-Njigba currently resides. And it would definitely take JSN testing well in workouts, pro days, the Combine, and in private settings. However, we’ve got some time before we get to that bridge — let alone cross it. Nevertheless, a top receiver prospect is entering a draft in which the Bears could target help in that area. And that is worth keeping an eye on as we get a head start on the offseason ramp-up.



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.