Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba is one of college football’s most polarizing players. Unfortunately for the star pass catcher, a hamstring injury has derailed his 2022 season.

In Week 1, Smith-Njigba suffered a hamstring injury. After missing some time, he returned to the field in Week 3 only to experience yet another setback. He then sat out four additional games, returning to take on the University of Iowa on October 22nd. Following this game, he is yet to return to the field.

In total, he has made appearances in three games this season. He has recorded just five receptions for 43 receiving yards on the season.

With the college football season nearing an end, there is still a chance that Jaxon Smith-Njigba makes his long-awaited return to the field for Ohio State. While they won’t be playing in the Big 10 championship, there is a chance that they make an appearance in the college football playoffs.

A potential return could be just what Jaxon Smith-Njigba needs to show that he is still among the best wide receivers in the nation.

While Smith-Njigba has dealt with his hamstring injury, many have questioned where he could now be selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. After being the consensus number-one wide receiver heading into the season, his lack of availability has pushed him down draft boards.

It now seems possible that wide receivers such as TCU’s Quentin Johnston or USC’s Jordan Addison are selected in front of Smith-Njigba in the draft. But that could prove to be a mistake as he still has all the makings of an elite-level talent. He could make his presence felt immediately in the NFL given the right opportunity.

Here is why Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s injury should not impact his draft stock

In 2021, Jaxon Smith-Njigba put together one of the more impressive seasons in college football history. He dominated while playing next to both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, who are now both quickly putting up big numbers in the NFL.

Alongside two NFL-level wide receivers, Smith-Njigba looked to be the best of the group. He finished the season leading Ohio State in both receptions and receiving yards. In total, he racked up 95 receptions for 1,606 receiving yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 16.9 yards per reception.

Smith-Njigba regularly made big plays for this Ohio State offense. In the final four games of the regular season, he recorded 45 receptions for 611 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

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Following this explosive outing, Jaxon Smith-Njigba then put on a masterclass performance in the Rose Bowl. With both Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave opting to not play, he had the opportunity to be the go-to target for Ohio State.

In maybe the most dominant outing in college football bowl game history, Smith-Njigba erupted. He recorded 347 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions. He finished the day averaging 23.1 yards per reception.

Ohio State has a history of producing elite players at the wide receiver position. While Jaxon Smith-Njigba has not been available in 2022, he could very well be the next great pass catcher to leave the school.

In terms of what he is as a player, he is everything an NFL offense can look for. He can dominate in the slot, while also making his presence felt on the outside. His blend of speed, ability to catch anything thrown in his area, and overall athleticism make him a threat no matter where he is on the field.

Passing on a player of Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be a huge mistake for any team in the NFL. He is the sort of wide receiver that can single-handedly cause a defense to change their game plan.

From day one, he will contribute in some way. Smith-Njigba could very well put together a rookie campaign similar to what Chris Olave has done in 2022.

In his first season with the New Orleans Saints, Olave has been the leading pass catcher on the team. He has recorded 56 receptions for 822 receiving yards and three touchdowns. There is no reason to believe that given the right opportunity, Smith-Njigba would also dominate in this fashion.

Albeit for different reasons, there have been several players who have not played football the season before being drafted, and then instantly arrived in the NFL and dominated. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is the most notable example.

After opting out of the 2020 season, the Bengals selected Chase with the fifth overall pick. He instantly looked like one of the NFL’s best wide receivers, recording 81 receptions for 1,455 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns over 17 games.

Any team who adds Jaxon Smith-Njigba could be adding a superstar-caliber player to their offense. His draft stock should still be sky-high at the moment. Recency bias shouldn’t keep Smith-Njigba from being one of the first players off the board in the 2023 NFL draft.