NFL Draft: Smith-Njigba hopes to hit NFL ground running after lost season at Ohio State

Ohio State’s first two players picked in the 2023 NFL Draft are joining teams with lots of work to do to get to the playoffs next season.

That is not the case for Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

The Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs last season, as they did in eight of the 10 seasons before that.

They have a Super Bowl winning coach in Pete Carroll, and their quarterback is in place (at least for the short term) after late-blooming Geno Smith three-year deal in the offseason.

Seattle also has a pair of stud receivers in D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

That means Smith-Njigba can ease himself into the offense — or take advantage of the attention Metcalf and Lockett have already earned from NFL defenses.

“I think it will be a good fit to have three dangerous weapons for Geno,” Smith-Njigba told reporters at the draft in Kansas City on Thursday night. “That will be awesome. I’m ready to get into the offense. It’s electric. I’m an electric player.

“I’m about work and putting in the work in the off-season. I think my overall game can improve. I think it will. There is no ceiling as far as I know. I just like putting the work in.”

Carroll, who was an Ohio State assistant for a season in 1979, did not hold back as far as setting expectations for Smith-Njigba, who was the No. 20 pick in the draft.

“We’ve got two guys that we love the way they play of course in Tyler and D.K., and we need another guy to fit in with them,” Carroll told reporters covering the Seahawks on Thursday night. “The competition with the guys we have here will be wide open, but we see Jaxon fitting in as that third guy with those guys who will complement them and make them better.”

Carroll and Seahawks GM John Schneider agreed Smith-Njigba allayed any fears of the hamstring injury that wrecked his junior season lingering into this year by doing everything they needed to see in workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine and Ohio State’s Pro Day in March.

“He could play right now,” Carroll said. “He’ll be able to do everything that we want him to do. He had a marvelous workout at the school when we were there, showed us the type of physical stuff that we needed to see for his style — because he’s got a unique way that he plays the game.”

Carroll praised Smith-Njigba’s catch radius and feel for making plays while Schneider admitted they would have never anticipated a player of his ability being available in the second half of the draft if not for his injury.

“If we would have sat here last year at this time when we’re looking at the 2023 draft, we would have said that guy is easily a Top 5, 10 player,” Scheider said.

Smith-Njigba was chosen 18 picks after the Houston Texans grabbed quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick and offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. went to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 6.

The draft continues with the second round on Friday night and rounds 4-7 on Saturday.

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