From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about taking sides in head-to-head debates. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”This or That” articles here.
Recently, Ohio State has produced some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Michael Thomas was taken in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, Terry McLaurin was selected by Washington in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and over the last two years, there have been three Buckeye receivers taken in the first round. With Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, and a number of other talented receivers that have either just arrived in Columbus, or are headed to Ohio State in the near future, it looks like that trend will continue.
Today, we are going to focus on the first Ohio State wide receivers selected in the NFL Draft over the last two years, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Wilson was chosen by the New York Jets with the 10th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, while Smith-Njigba was picked 20th overall by the Seattle Seahawks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Chris Olave was chosen by the New Orleans Saints one pick after Wilson last year, but for the “This or That” portion of our discussion, we are going to keep it to two options, with those being the first Ohio State wide receiver chosen in the last two drafts.
Not like there’s a wrong choice when it comes to this question, but we want to know which first Ohio State wide receiver taken in the last two NFL Drafts are you riding with? Even though Wilson has a year under his belt in the NFL, Smith-Njigba is headed to a great situation in Seattle where he will be teaming with D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett at receiver. These two will definitely set the bar high when it comes to future Buckeye receivers headed to the NFL.
Today’s question: Which Ohio State receiver who was taken first in the 2022, 2023 NFL Drafts are you picking?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Garrett Wilson
I’m not going to lie, as a Buffalo Bills fan, I’m not thrilled to see Buffalo try and slow down Wilson twice a year. After three years of watching Wilson at Ohio State, I know just how dangerous the wide receiver is. Wilson caught pretty much every ball that was thrown his way during his time in the scarlet and gray and didn’t lose a beat last year in his rookie season, earning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Even more impressive about Wilson’s rookie season where he caught 83 passes for over 1,100 yards and four touchdowns was he amassed those numbers with guys like Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, and Mike White throwing him the football. Imagine what Wilson would have been able to do with somebody competent throwing him the football. We’ll be able to find out what that looks like this year, as the Jets acquired future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers.
When it comes to Wilson or Smith-Njigba, I give the edge to Wilson because he has been able to stay healthier, but don’t get me wrong, I’d be more than happy with Smith-Njigba if I couldn’t get Wilson. I feel like there were multiple games last year where I saw Wilson get destroyed by a defender or take an awkward fall while trying to make a catch and he was back on the field a short time later. Not that I think JSN is soft since I totally understand that I know how tough dealing with a hamstring/groin injury can be, especially when speed and cutting is so important at the receiver position. Smith-Njigba might be able to have huge games like we saw from him in the Rose Bowl, while to me Wilson seems like he has a little more consistency in his game.
Really though, there isn’t a loser when it comes to Wilson or Smith-Njigba, since they are both tremendous talents and look like they’ll be near the top of the receiver rankings in the NFL for years to come.
Matt’s answer: Jaxon Smith-Njigba
Obviously, given the nature of this debate, I am taking Jaxon Smith-Njibga, but even if I wasn’t confined by the “This or That” format, I very well might have anyway. There are two ways that you can look at this type of question, does it mean for their entire careers, or just for this season? I’m going to go with the latter because we know that situations can change quickly in the NFL.
It is always difficult to argue taking an unproven rookie over a guy who has proven that he can compete at the NFL level, especially one who is the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, remember when Garrett Wilson and JSN were on the same team in 2021? I do. Smith-Njigba notched 95 receptions for 1,606 yards (16.9 ypc) while Wilson had 70 catches for 1,058 yards (15.1). The current Jet receiver did hold the touchdown catch advantage over the Seahawk 12-9.
Of course, Chris Olave was also on that team (65, 936, 13), and putting all of those guys on the field together obviously impacts how their production is distributed. However, my point is that when JSN is under-estimated and under-appreciated, he has the ability to make defenses pay.
Wilson will undoubtedly be a major focus for defensive coordinators this season coming off his impressive rookie campaign. Smith-Njigba on the other hand is coming off of a year in which he barely played, his commitment and character were questioned, and injury concerns continuously popped up.
The rookie is once again slotted in as WR3 behind D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, meaning that he won’t have the pressure — or attention — that Wilson does as the J-E-T-S WR1. Metcalf had a relatively down year, by his standards. He amassed 1,048 receiving yards, but only six TD catches, the fewest in a season of his career. Lockett had also had a solid year, more or less in line with the rest of his career, coming in at 1,033 yards and nine touchdowns.
Now in the Seahawks’ second year with Geno Smith as the starter, the hope is that those numbers will improve. If they do, obviously defensive coordinators will have to sell out even more to stop Seattle’s veteran receivers. Doing so will leave a hungry JSN open for more targets.
I also don’t think that you can underestimate the importance of Jaxson’s mentality coming into his rookie campaign. He didn’t talk much about his injury or how people responded to him last year, but his dad did, and it’s pretty clear that the former Buckeye feels like he has a lot to prove. Certain “NFL insiders” questioned his commitment to football and even claimed that he quit on his team. Based on the whispers we’ve heard from Buckeye beat reporters, JSN is likely to use that as motivation this season.
So, give me an angry, under-the-rader-ish, rookie in a good situation any day. Besides, Ohio State has a pretty good track record of producing Rookies of the Year, so might as well bet on having another one this season.