Seattle Seahawks may have made a mistake with 2023 first-round pick

Will JSN consistently take a backseat in the Seahawks offense?

Jane Gershovich/GettyImages
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Having two first-round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft allowed the Seahawks to address areas of need early and fill them with some of the best talent of the class. They chose to go with the defensive side of the team with the fifth overall selection and took top cornerback out of Illinois, Devon Witherspoon.

Considering it was a tough competition between him and Christian Gonzalez, who was considered the best of the draft, it was a wise decision that certainly paid off throughout the 2023 season.

Seattle followed up that pick by switching to the offense for the 20th pick in the first round and selected the first wide receiver off the board when they chose Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State. Because the wide receiver class was not considered the most exciting, it was hard to decipher who would be the most promising player transitioning from college to the pros. But JSN was at the top of the list and, to some, the best prospect in the group.

The decision wasn't scrutinized at the time since they had already addressed the defense, and there were so many question marks surrounding the receivers. And it's not like Seattle was in dire need of a WR1, as they still had D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who have been more than satisfactory in leading the offense.

But the decision to take Smith-Njigba over Jordan Addison, who was taken by the Vikings three picks later, or Zay Flowers, who was taken by the Ravens at 22, may come into question now after seeing how they all fared in their rookie seasons.

Did the Seahawks make a mistake in drafting Jaxon Smith-Njigba?

Because they were the first team to snag a wide receiver, the Seahawks had every option available to them to draft. In the months leading up to the draft, Smith-Njigba gained momentum and became considered atop the class, mainly for his standout performance during the 2021 season.

It was his only productive year at Ohio State, where he recorded 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and 9 touchdowns, breaking multiple records because of it. But it brought on many questions regarding how well he would play in the NFL, as one great season in college doesn't mean much in today's league.

Throughout his rookie year, Smith-Njigba was productive and was an asset for the offense even while playing alongside leading receiver Metcalf, who continued to be Geno Smith's go-to guy. He put up solid numbers, totaling 63 receptions for 628 yards and four touchdowns, and had some flashy moments that made his first year memorable.

However, now that the season is over, comparing how his season went with other receivers that were available to draft at the time makes it look like Seattle may have picked the wrong guy.

Jordan Addison went to the Vikings and joined forces with Justin Jefferson and ended up playing for multiple quarterbacks after Kirk Cousins went down with a season-ending injury. Despite it all, he recorded the best numbers by all rookie receivers this season and looked like the team got themselves a Jefferson 2.0.

Zay Flowers went to the Ravens and also had a memorable year. He joined an uninspiring group of pass catchers, outside of Odell Beckham Jr. and Mark Andrews, and became a fireball addition to the offense for Lamar Jackson to work with.

Player

Games Played

Targets/Rec

Yards

Touchdowns

Jordan Addison

17

70/108

911

10

Zay Flowers

16

77/108

858

5

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

17

63/93 (67.7%)

628

4

Although Smith-Njigba didn't have a lousy season, stacking it against his rookie receiver counterparts makes it look less impressive. On top of that, he ranked 10th among all receivers for the year, which means something, yet also proves he could be better.

There's an argument to be made that he won't ever be able to fully thrive as long as Lockett and Metcalf especially are on the roster. Metcalf will continue to dominate snaps because of his size and how he plays the game, while Lockett will remain Mr. Reliable, which any quarterback can use when they need to move the ball down the field and do it fast.

That means Smith-Njigba will consistently take a backseat. That's not necessarily bad, but it may hold him back from truly breaking out, creating more opportunities for his production to be compared and scrutinized to those in his draft class.


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