Predicting Seahawks WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba's 2024 numbers under Ryan Grubb

JSN was underutilized in Shane Waldron's offense. This is what Smith-Njigba will do under new offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba of the Seattle Seahawks
Jaxon Smith-Njigba of the Seattle Seahawks / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

On the surface, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba's numbers looked pretty good for a rookie. When you realize he was the third option on a team with two other great receivers, these numbers actually look a lot better.

But when you go back and watch the tape and conclude this wide receiver was not used correctly and was being held back by the offensive coordinator, you will probably feel frustrated. JSN was frustrated with Waldron too.

"Frustrating" is a good word for Jaxon Smith-Njigba's rookie season in Seattle. As the first receiver selected in the 2023 NFL Draft, one would expect he would be prominently featured in Seattle's offense. Or at the very least, the attention wide receivers DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett attract would free up JSN, allowing for consistent production. That was the rationale for selecting the receiver with the second of Seattle's two first-round picks.

What should Seattle Seahawks expect from Jaxon Smith-Njigba in 2024?

However, for whatever reason, former offensive coordinator Shane Waldron had other plans. In fact, his plans for JSN weren't actually plans at all. He inexplicably had no plans for the slot specialist, a highly-touted prospect from (THE) Ohio State University. It got to the point where it was painfully obvious that Smith-Njigba was simply running routes to clear space for the two other receivers.

Waldron was not only wasting away the rookie season of a wide receiver who is talented enough to be extremely productive on most other teams but was just being reckless with the Seattle offense.

When Seattle let Shane Waldron leave for the same job with the Chicago Bears, it allowed the Seahawks to make the best possible move for JSN. They snatched away offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb, who was set to follow University of Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer to the University of Alabama.

Grubb, the play caller for the Washington Huskies as they made their College Football Playoff run with QB Michael Penix and a three-headed monster at wide receiver, is a perfect fit for the Seahawks, who have been desperate for a creative mind on offense.

The most exciting part about hiring Grubb is the way he used Jalen McMillan in 2023. McMillan, a slot receiver with striking similarities to JSN, played alongside two great outside wide receivers in Rome Odunze and Ja'Lynn Polk -- very similar to how JSN plays the slot next to Metcalf and Lockett. The difference in how McMillan was used at UW and how JSN was used in Seattle is miles apart. Ryan Grubb gave McMillan the perfect opportunity to succeed, while Shane Waldron set JSN up for failure.

In his two seasons under Ryan Grubb at Washington, Jalen McMillan played in 24 games. In those two seasons, McMillan put up over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns in an offense that featured two other fantastic receivers outside of him. It worked because Grubb didn't just call plays that featured only two reads for his two outside receivers -- he used the slot as a weapon, not a decoy.

For comparison, the last two seasons of Waldron's tenure in Seattle saw his slot receivers, JSN and Marquise Goodwin, only combine for 1,035 yards and 8 touchdowns in 34 games. That's a 600-yard and 6-touchdown drop-off from Grubb and McMillan, who played 10 fewer games.

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I'm cautiously excited for JSN in 2024, and I believe his production will see a huge jump. Coming into this season fully healthy with a year of pro football under his belt and a new offensive coordinator who values the slot receiver, JSN is poised to have a breakout season. Barring any injuries, I believe his targets, receptions, and yardage will all see significant improvements under a new system that is designed to play toward his strengths.

2023 stats: 63 receptions, 648 yards, and 4 touchdowns
2024 stat predictions: 84 receptions, 1,095 yards, and 6 touchdowns

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