Justin Jeffersonish WR Might Be Available in Draft

The Minnesota Vikings have a few options at WR2 in 2023, including the incumbent Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, or a newcomer like Odell Beckham or JuJu Smith-Schuster from free agency next week.

Another option is using early rounds in April’s draft to select a wide receiver on an affordable four- or five-year deal. And if Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah does just that, he should keep an eye on Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

Justin Jeffersonish WR Might Be Available in Draft

ESPN draft analyst and noted Vikings fan Jordan Reid compared Smith-Njigba to Jefferson after the NFL Combine. He tweeted about Smith-Njigba’s showing, “Best on-field drills performance that I’ve seen from a WR since Justin Jefferson.”

Justin Jeffersonish WR
Sep 17, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) warms up prior to the NCAA Division I football game against the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch.

“Despite not running the 40-yard dash, Smith-Njigba looked terrific. He didn’t show any signs of the lingering hamstring injury that limited him to three games last season,” Reid added.

Smith-Njigba was a high climber during the NFL Combine, whereas some personalities like Quentin Johnston fell. Johnston was supposed to be a huge 6’4″ wideout, but when the tape came out in Indianapolis, he measured 6’2.” It was a turn-off for some.

Fans Have Spoken
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 2022. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Reid continued on Smith-Njigba, “A precise route runner, JSN just looked different than his counterparts, displaying short-area quickness and detail on his patterns. His 6.57-second three-cone and 3.93-second short shuttle times were outstanding.”

In January, Draft Wire’s Natalie Miller predicted Smith-Njigba to Vikings in a mock draft. She explained the selection, “Smith Njigba missed the majority of this season with injuries, but his 2021 campaign was astonishing and should project him well to the NFL. While he’s more of an inside receiver, he has the ability to play outside, as well, and would create a dangerous trio in Minnesota.”

Mar 3, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith‐Njigba (WO45) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Now, after the impressive combine, the question becomes whether the Buckeye will “be there” for the Vikings with the No. 23 pick — probably not. In ESPN Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft last week, Smith-Njigba landed with the New England Patriots via the 14th pick. — a team that desperately needs wideouts with Jakobi Meyers and Nelson Agholo possibly leaving in free agency.

Smith-Njigba is also the darling of Vikings fans. We polled Vikings fans last month about WR preference early in the draft, and the Ohio State alumnus was the apple of fans’ eyes.

If Smith-Njigba isn’t there for Minnesota in Round 1, other pass-catchers like Zay Flowers, Jalin Hyatt, Jordan Addison, or Josh Downs could be on the board. The draft is seven weeks away, and a lot of movement can still occur.

Reid concluded his Smith-Njigba musings this weekend, “He looked the part of a WR1 on Saturday.”

Two Ohio State 1st-Rounders flew off the board at wide receiver last year, Garrett Wilson (Jets) and Chris Olave (Saints). Neither man disappointed.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.