2023 NFL Draft First Wide Receiver to Be Selected: Who Needs Jaxon Smith-Njigba the Most?

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State participates in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 04, 2023 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Stacy Revere/Getty Images/AFP

NFL Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba to Be First Wide Receiver Selected (-115) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Jaxon Smith-Njigba to Be First Wide Receiver Selected (-115)
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Wide receiver has become a premium position in the NFL with high-quality players commanding big trade value and expensive new contracts. This makes nailing the draft picks at this position even more important, but it notoriously has been a hard one for most teams to scout since they have to break down the receiver from their quarterback, system, other receiver teammates, and opportunities.

But only one wide receiver can go first in the 2023 NFL Draft. At a top-rated sportsbook like BetOnline, you can find that four wideouts have odds better than +1000 to go first in the draft. The following NFL futures odds are as of March 25.

2023 NFL Draft First Wide Receiver Odds

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (-115)
  • Quentin Johnston, TCU (+225)
  • Jordan Addison, USC (+385)
  • Zay Flowers, Boston College (+800)

Which one goes first in the draft? Let’s try to reason it out.

Which Teams Are Looking for a Wide Receiver?

An underrated aspect of figuring this out is understanding which pick in the draft is most likely to take the first wide receiver. Last year, it was Drake London going No. 8 to the Falcons, which kicked off a run of four wideouts taken in picks 8-to-12.

In 2021, Ja’Marr Chase was the heavy favorite to go first at his position and he was the No. 5 pick to Cincinnati. But it can often take longer as 2020 (No. 12 Henry Ruggs) and 2019 (No. 25 Marquise Brown) both showed.

This class does not figure to have a slam-dunk prospect like Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or A.J. Green, so let’s look at the current draft order to find the most likely wide receiver landing spots:

  1. Carolina Panthers (from Chicago): 100% quarterback
  2. Houston Texans: 100% quarterback
  3. Arizona Cardinals: WR is possible
  4. Indianapolis Colts: Likely quarterback
  5. Seattle Seahawks (from Denver): WR is not a big need
  6. Detroit Lions (from L.A. Rams): Too much invested in WR
  7. Las Vegas Raiders: Already have a No. 1 WR (Davante Adams)
  8. Atlanta Falcons: Drafted tight end and wide receiver last two first rounds
  9. Chicago Bears (from Carolina): WR is a need but lessened by D.J. Moore trade
  10. Philadelphia Eagles (from New Orleans): Already have two stellar wideouts
  11. Tennessee Titans: Could definitely use a WR after passing game decline
  12. Houston Texans (from Cleveland): Could give new QB a weapon
  13. New York Jets: Does this pick get moved for Aaron Rodgers?
  14. New England Patriots: Would be uncharacteristic but they could use a weapon

It would seem unlikely we go more than 14 picks without a wide receiver drafted, and the top choices to do it are Arizona (possible DeAndre Hopkins trade coming), Chicago, Tennessee, Houston, and New England.

We will largely focus on the fit for Chicago and Tennessee when it comes to the top four prospects.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (-115)

The 6’0” wide receiver from Ohio State had that one monster season in 2021 with over 1,600 yards. He only had 5 catches for 43 yards in 3 games in 2022 thanks to a hamstring injury.

Ohio State has been pumping out quality wideouts lately with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson being former teammates of Smith-Njigba. In fact, that might be the best argument for how good of a prospect Smith-Njigba is. In a 2021 offense with Smith-Njigba, Olave, and 2022 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Wilson, this is what the production was at Ohio State:

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba: 95 catches, 1,606 yards, 9 touchdowns
  • Garrett Wilson: 70 catches, 1,058 yards, 12 touchdowns
  • Chris Olave: 65 catches, 936 yards, 13 touchdowns

That is mighty impressive, and with a high catch rate, Smith-Njigba could be a good pick for work in the slot, making him a candidate for both the Bears and Titans. The Bears have D.J. Moore to make as their No. 1 wide receiver, and the Titans drafted more of a 6’3” big-play threat in Treylon Burks last year.

But one thing that should not be that heavily in Smith-Njigba’s favor for getting drafted at No. 9 to Chicago is playing at Ohio State with quarterback Justin Fields. It was C.J. Stroud at quarterback in 2021 when Smith-Njigba had his huge season.

But he is a logical choice for these teams needing a top wideout to add to their offense so let’s roll with him for our NFL picks.

Quentin Johnston, TCU (+225)

Call him the dark horse from TCU, but Quentin Johnston is a 6’4” receiver who averaged 19.0 yards per catch in college. He had his finest year in 2022 as a junior when he had:

  • 60 catches
  • 1,069 yards
  • 6 touchdowns

Lesser numbers than some of his peers, but TCU threw the ball less than a lot of teams, and he was still his team’s leading receiver. Unfortunately, he was held to 1 catch for 3 yards against Georgia in the National Championship Game blowout loss.

Without huge college production and some questions about his hands, it is hard to see Johnston going No. 9 to Chicago, especially over Smith-Njigba. He also may be too similar to Burks in Tennessee to double-dip there in back-to-back drafts. But anything is on the table from New England down to even Baltimore at No. 22 and the Giants at No. 25.

Jordan Addison, USC (+385)

The right offense with a good quarterback is likely going to get a quality player in Jordan Addison. He was absolutely dominant at Pittsburgh in 2021 with:

  • 100 catches
  • 1,593 yards
  • 17 touchdowns

He transferred to USC last year and had 875 yards and 8 touchdowns to lead the team in receiving despite missing 3 games.

He is a smaller target at 6’0” and 175 pounds, but he has enough athleticism to be a threat in the NFL. He just may not be a prototypical No. 1 or a receiver who can make a mediocre quarterback look better. In other words, probably not a great fit for Chicago and another one who is a better option for the Ravens and Giants, playoff teams from last year, later in the draft.

Zay Flowers, Boston College (+800)

At NFL.com, Zay Flowers (6.45) actually grades out as a better prospect than Smith-Njigba (6.41), Johnston (6.40), and Addison (6.36).

Flowers is 5’9” but can make athletic plays and averaged 15.3 yards per catch in four years with Boston College. His senior season was his best with:

  • 78 catches
  • 1,077 yards
  • 12 touchdowns

It would not be surprising to see the Patriots take him, but at +800, this looks like a big stretch for him to jump over the three prospects ahead of him.

The Pick

At the end of the day, it feels like the chalk will prevail on this one (unlike last year) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will end up with the Bears, Titans, or Patriots as the first wide receiver chosen in this 2023 draft. But the overall class is lacking in big-time talent, so do not be surprised if there is a longer wait on draft night for these players.

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NFL Pick: Jaxon Smith-Njigba to Be First Wide Receiver Selected (-115) at BetOnline

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.