NY Jets very interested in WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, per report
By Ryan Shafer
The 2023 NFL Draft is all about last-second rumors, changes of mind, and surprises. It seems the NY Jets might be involved in all three.
Per ESPN's Matt Miller, the Jets have "spent considerable time and resources doing work on" Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
The Jets have spent a lot of time scouting Ohio State players throughout the 2023 draft process, but it appears Smith-Njigba has caught their eye late. As Miller states, "If you're looking for a Thursday night surprise, this could be it."
Although I think there is legitimate interest between the Jets and Smith-Njigba, I do think there might be some smoke in the air behind this report. Let's see why Smith-Njigba does — and does not — make sense for the Jets at pick 15.
The case for Jaxon Smith-Njigba
The Jets have been adding to their wide receiver room all offseason. They have already brought in Rodgers' former teammate Allen Lazard and former Kansas City Chiefs speedster Mecole Hardman to pair with Corey Davis and Garrett Wilson. Adding Smith-Njigba would be the final piece in turning around the position group.
Additionally, it is widely believed, and even suggested by general manager Joe Douglas, that Corey Davis could be a cap casualty in the coming days. If Davis is cut, traded, or released, the Jets would need to add another receiver.
Smith-Njigba is also a former teammate of Garrett Wilson. Wilson had a breakout year as a rookie with very questionable quarterback play. Getting both former Buckeyes reunited would add a level of consistency and trust in the receiver room that the Jets could build off of.
Additionally, having Wilson and Smith-Njigba together would form a really solid receiver group for the foreseeable future, even after Rodgers retires.
If the Jets want to make their new signal-caller happy, drafting Smith-Njigba might be more than just a rumor for the Jets. Also, can you imagine the irony that Rodgers, who lobbied Green Bay to draft a receiver in the first-round yearly, gets his wide receiver in year one with the Jets?
The case against Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Despite the appeal, there are some drawbacks to drafting Smith-Njigba. Let's start with the obvious — he probably will not be available at pick 15. Smith-Njigba is the only true first-round worthy receiver in the 2023 draft and many teams picking ahead of the Jets are in need of a difference-maker at the position.
The Chicago Bears at pick No. 9 and the aforementioned Packers at 13 are both likely landing spots for Smith-Njigba. I do not see the Jets trading up ahead of the Bears at No. 9 as a likely scenario in this draft because of the additional draft picks they would have to give up to make a move like that.
Also, the Jets need to add an offensive lineman. Even after bringing back Connor McGovern earlier this week, the Jets need to add to their line. What good is a wide receiver room full of stars if the quarterback doesn't have the time to throw the ball because the line cannot hold their blocks long enough?
As currently situated, the Jets starting line looks like this: Duane Brown, Laken Tomlinson, Connor McGovern, Alijah Vera-Tucker, and Mekhi Becton, going from left to right.
Although they have made some nice depth signings, the Jets are really in need of a tackle to start either on the left or right side and a center to take over for McGovern or start right away.
If the Jets take Smith-Njigba at pick 15, they lose out on the ability to draft a lineman with a premium pick. At best, they could maybe take a center at pick 43, but none of the starting-caliber tackles will still be around by that point.
The other slightly overlooked part of this is that even though Rodgers is one of the lone true gunslinging quarterbacks in the league, he can only distribute the ball so much.
Garrett Wilson will end up with over 100 catches this year. Allen Lazard is his close friend from Green Bay. Mecole Hardman is a really good slot guy. Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah will get targets at tight end, as will Breece Hall and Michael Carter at running back. How many targets and catches are left for a guy like Smith-Njigba?
Although I think Smith-Njigba is a really good player and would make the Jets' skill group one of the best in the league, there are many other holes that need to be addressed on this roster.
I cannot see Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh passing up on a chance to add linemen for a skill guy. Now if all of the top tackles are off the board...that's a different story.