Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: Favorite landing spot for Ohio State’s NFL Draftees
The 2023 NFL Draft concluded this past Saturday, putting an end to relevant football activities for quite some time. And bringing a tear to the eye(s) of yours truly, because we are in for some truly lean months ahead. But at least we get to hand out irrelevant grades and banter about our professional teams, which is really what the draft is all about.
Said event was certainly a mixed bag of results for draft-eligible Buckeyes, as the trio of C.J. Stroud, Paris Johnson Jr., and Jaxon Smith-Njigba heard their names called within the first 20 picks, while others like Dawand Jones and Luke Wypler experienced a significant fall. But all will now begin their NFL careers with a clean slate, hoping to earn a role immediately and make significant contributions.
Gene and I decided to look at our favorite landing spots, and debate which former Buckeye is best set up for success... Which essentially means we are choosing one of two. I think the options are limited here, Gene, because I simply cannot sell you on Jones or Wypler falling to Day 3 and becoming a contributor for the Cleveland Browns. At least not right away. Nor can I state with any conviction that PJJ should expect to enjoy any sort of fun or team success early in his career, because the Arizona Cardinals stink out loud. This is all about Stroud and JSN, is it not?
For me, the answer (as to to which player landed in the best spot/situation) is fairly easy. It is JSN all day, every day, and especially on Sunday. That’s an NFL pun, baby! But in all seriousness, I believe the record-breaking wide receiver landed in a PERFECT situation.
Because first and foremost, he is joining a team that made the playoffs last season and only got better via free agency and the draft. The Seattle Seahawks have a winning culture; one which has developed and gotten stronger under coach Pete Carroll, and does not appear to be changing anytime soon. Despite the fact that Carroll is 71 years old! Seattle is a consistent franchise with an enthusiastic fanbase and an electric environment in which they play home games. It does not get much better than that.
Not only that, but the Seahawks also have a bunch of talented skill players who will take pressure off of JSN and allow him to grow into a role — as opposed to being forced into one. While I certainly understand and acknowledge that an argument can be made for the ‘Hawks having too many weapons – or too many mouths for Geno Smith to feed – I believe that their total number and variety of playmakers will allow JSN to integrate himself into the offense organically. Then, ultimately, I think he replaces Tyler Lockett as the team’s No. 2 pass-catching option by the end of his rookie season. The former Buckeye is that good, and Lockett is soon to be 31 years old. Sounds like a succession plan in the making.
Quarterback play and the presence of other viable options in Seattle will likely not be conducive to JSN racking up 100 catches as a rookie, but his long-term outlook is very positive. And I guess I would not be shocked if JSN puts up Garrett Wilson-esque stats right away, because I firmly believe that the former is already more well-rounded than DK Metcalf, the Seahawks’ leading receiver.
Regardless of the stats he will eventually put up as a rookie, JSN is in a more stable NFL environment than that of his peers. And that is what this conversation really comes down to. Which player is set up for both short-term and long-term success? To me, it is JSN, and I cannot wait to see what he does once back on the field.
Well, Josh. You definitely got the more favorable position on this one, as I too think Jaxon Smith-Njigba landed in an absolutely perfect spot. While its crazy he was still available at the 20th overall pick — and I’ll be salty that my New York Giants selected a Maryland cornerback over him — JSN was still the No. 1 receiver in the draft, as expected. In addition, he lands on a team that is capable of competing right away. I think Smith-Njigba is the perfect fit on a team that already has DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, and I could see him putting up huge numbers out of the slot in year one.
However, my counterpart has already laid claim to JSN, so I will have to pivot elsewhere. While Josh thinks this is a two-horse race, I’m going to go off the beaten path, as I don’t really love C.J. Stroud on the Texans with their lack of wide receivers and the rest of their overall roster construction. It’s great that he was taken at No. 2, but the team he is on is going to stink for the foreseeable future, regardless of how well Stroud plays. Instead, I think the next-best fit outside of JSN is none other than Zach Harrison.
A former five-star recruit, Harrison wasn’t exactly what Ohio State fans expected at defensive end. Coming off the heels of a guy like Chase Young, Harrison’s 11 career sacks over four seasons don’t exactly jump off the page, but he did so much more than just rush the quarterback. Harrison was an elite player up front when it came to stopping the run, and his 24 tackles for loss and 97 total tackles will back that up. What Harrison did in Columbus wasn’t necessarily flashy, but he was a productive player that improved year over year.
Harrison was selected by the Atlanta Falcons with the No. 75 overall pick in the third round, where he will get a chance to play under defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. Nielsen, who was previously with the Saints since 2017, spent a bunch of time with Cam Jordan — another large defensive end with a similar build to that of Harrison. If anyone can get the most out of Harrison it would potentially be Nielsen, and as a third-round pick, there is less pressure on the former Buckeye to produce right away.
The Falcons were in the bottom third of the league last season when it came to total defense, and Harrison isn’t going to change that right away. Atlanta’s overall draft doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence either, as they selected a running back at No. 8 overall (even though Bijan Robinson is very, very good). I do really like the Clark Phillips III pick in the fourth round, but I’m not expecting big things from this Falcons team. Still, I think Harrison has a good chance to carve out a niche for himself as a rotational edge player at the next level with his current squad.