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NFL Draft Rewind: No. 12 Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (© Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL Draft kicks off with its opening round on April 27 in Kansas City, so Rivals is taking a look back at its projected first-round picks when they were high school prospects. We move on to our projected No. 12 – Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njibga, who was a five-star in the 2020 class.

Smith-Njibga is yet another alum of the Rivals Camp Series – making it nine of our top 12 NFL Draft projections that competed in and helped make their name at Rivals camps.

NFL DRAFT REWIND: No. 1 Bryce Young | No. 2 CJ Stroud | No. 3 Will Anderson | No. 4 Will Levis | No. 5 Tyree Wilson | No. 6 Jalen Carter | No. 7 Anthony Richardson | No. 8 Nolan Smith | No. 9 Peter Skoronski | No. 10 Christian Gonzalez | No. 11 Darnell Wright



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No. 12: WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Where they were ranked: After an outstanding performance at the All-American Bowl, Smith-Njigba ended up as the fourth-best receiver in the 2020 class behind Julian Fleming, Demond Demas and Rakim Jarrett. He clearly could have made the case for No. 1 in hindsight. He was No. 20 overall and third in the Texas state rankings behind RB Zachary Evans and Demas.

Recruitment: The Rockwall, Texas, receiver committed to Ohio State late in his junior season and at that point it was a big pledge but he wasn’t yet a five-star prospect nor a national name at that level yet. A month later, then-coach Urban Meyer stepped down but the Buckeyes kept his commitment as neither Texas nor Texas A&M offered.

Biggest question: Smith-Njigba had an unbelievable sophomore season with 95 catches for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. That was nearly his entire college production, though, as he battled injuries this past season. Can Smith-Njigba put up numbers consistently or was he a one-hit wonder?

Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Nick Lucero/

Memories: Smith-Njigba was prolific in high school becoming one of only a few receivers to eclipse 5,000 receiving yards in his career. He had 15 catches for 252 yards and six total touchdowns in a playoff game against Allen. His reputation, especially in his senior season, started to build not only as one of the best players regionally but also in the country.

We saw him at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta and he ended up ninth on our list of wide receivers from that loaded event. He was very good, very smooth, caught everything, but it wasn’t like he completely dominated at the Five-Star Challenge.

Then I saw him in pads at the All-American Bowl and anyone pushing for a five-star ranking, it was easy to see why.

Smith-Njigba was never a physical freak but he was just so smooth in everything he did and he had that uncanny knack to get open against anyone on the field.

From his incredible production in high school to his solid performance at the Rivals Five-Star Challenge and then especially his showing against the best of the best in San Antonio, a five-star ranking was in order. I’m happy we pulled the trigger on it and in hindsight he should have been even higher.