The Fantasy Football Impact of Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the Seattle Seahawks

Apr 28, 2023
The Fantasy Football Impact of Jaxon Smith-Njigba to the Seattle Seahawks

On Day 1 of the NFL Draft, the Seattle Seahawks used the 20th pick on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, making the rookie out of Ohio State the first wide receiver off the board. Smith-Njigba joins a receiver room that already has one of the best duos in the league in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. The hope for the Seahawks is that JSN takes this passing game to the next level after giving Geno Smith a $75 million contract following his fantasy QB5 finish in 2022.

Click Here for more 2023 Player Profiles!

Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s Prospect Profile

At six feet tall and 196 pounds, Smith-Njigba is a prototypical slot man built in the mold of Doug Baldwin. Although hampered by injuries in 2022, Smith-Njigba showed how dominant he could be in 2021, catching 95 balls for 1,606 yards and 9 touchdowns while playing alongside other first-round talents Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave.

While not a burner by any means (Smith-Njigba’s 4.57 40-yard dash at his Pro Day put him in the 41st percentile), he is a tremendous route-runner that has shown the ability to consistently beat both zone and man coverages. His usage and success compel Reception Perception’s Matt Harmon to comp Smith-Njigba to Keenan Allen, another slot man that can still succeed on the outside when asked to.

How Jaxon Smith-Njigba Fits in the Seahawks’ Passing Game

The Geno Smith-led Seahawks was one of the best passing attacks in the NFL in 2022, throwing at the eighth-highest rate over expectation while finishing 12th in pass EPA per play. As has been the case for years, Seattle had one of the most concentrated passing offenses with Lockett and Metcalf combining for 48% of team targets.

While Lockett and Metcalf certainly have the skills to deserve such a heavy concentration of targets, the Seahawks did suffer from a lack of pass-catching options beyond their big two last season. That resulted in Seattle using three wide receivers on just 63% of dropbacks, the seventh-lowest rate in the league. Adding Smith-Njigba should skyrocket this offense’s usage of three-wide sets but as a primary slot man, JSN will likely push Lockett to the outside more than Lockett is used to.

In 2022, 61% of Lockett’s routes were run from the slot but playing outside will hardly hamper Lockett’s value. When lined up on the perimeter last season, Lockett averaged 2.1 yards per route run, tied for 13th among 51 wide receivers with at least 30 perimeter targets (SportsInfoSolutions). As Harmon noted in Smith-Njigba’s profile, the rookie’s ability to beat man coverage will allow him to line up as an off-ball flanker just as much as he lines up in the slot, meaning he and Lockett should share a lot of the high-floor slot looks.

With DK Metcalf holding down the X role, the question comes down to target share. Other than Lockett and Metcalf, Noah Fant was the only other Seahawk with a target share above 10% (11.4%) last season, leaving plenty of opportunity for all three receivers to thrive, assuming Seattle maintains their relatively high passing rate.

All three receivers hitting the 20% target share mark is unlikely—since 2002, three players on the same team have hit a 20% target share just once. However, 14 teammate trios have all exceeded the 17% mark, the rough range that puts a receiver in the top 36 in target share at his position. That is definitely within reach for this group and if we assume the 575-attempt range that they were in last season, all three players could conceivably reach 100 targets.

It’s also notable that Lockett is entering his age-31 season. After Lockett saw 21.8% of targets to Metcalf’s 26.3% in 2022, Smith-Njigba could very well leapfrog Lockett for number two in the pecking order by the season’s end.

Projecting the Seahawks’ Offense in Fantasy Football

The big winner of the Smith-Njigba selection is Geno Smith. After a season where he finished as fantasy football’s QB5, Smith’s stock had fallen in the offseason and he was being drafted as the QB16 in best ball draft prior to the NFL Draft. Adding Smith-Njigba will spread out the passing attack and give Smith a third viable option that he lacked in 2022. This should result in the Seahawks maintaining their passing rate from last season, if not increasing it, and help Smith sustain the efficiency that catapulted him to fantasy excellence last year. Smith is squarely back in the QB1 ranks and should offer value if he’s drafted as a fringe starter.

Given Metcalf’s role as the primary X receiver in this offense, the most likely scenario is that he maintains his dominant target share while JSN and Locket rotate between flanker and slot and jockey for position as the number two. For both to hit a 20% target share would be an outlier season but 100 targets for both players are within their range of outcomes, and that is hardly on the high end of the projection.

Going into Draft weekend, Metcalf was being drafted as the WR15 with Smith-Njigba as the WR28 and Lockett going off as WR30. Because of the three-way target competition, it’s possible that JSN and Lockett see a moderate dip in ADP but they are all buys at those prices in this offense.

If Smith-Njigba and Lockett remain tethered to each other in ADP, consider targeting JSN more heavily than Lockett as rookies tend to improve as their first season continues while Lockett was already the clear number two last year and is on the wrong side of 30.

An underrated winner of the Smith-Njigba draft pick is Ken Walker, who finished as the RB16 in half-PPR leagues last year but was the RB9 in fantasy points per game from Week 5 on. In 2022, Seattle ranked 19th in rush EPA per play but when they ran out of three-wide sets, that ranking jumped to seventh. However, the Seahawks had the sixth-fewest rush attempts with three wide receivers on the field. Smith-Njigba will spread defenses out and could help Walker out-pace his current RB6 ADP.

The Bottom Line

  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba will start immediately for the Seahawks and should take over as the primary slot receiver in Seattle.
  • While Smith-Njigba should mostly push Tyler Lockett to the outside, JSN profiles as a player that can play some flanker. He and Lockett may rotate roles while DK Metcalf maintains his status as the X and Seattle’s WR1 in 2023.
  • The addition of Smith-Njigba means that Seattle should use three-wide receiver sets often in 2023 after using three wide at the seventh-lowest rate in 2022.
  • It’s unlikely that Metcalf, Lockett, and Smith-Njigba all reach a 20% target share but history shows that 17%-plus for all three is within reason. Given Seattle’s passing attack in 2022, 100+ targets are within the range of outcomes for all three.
  • Prior to the NFL Draft, Metcalf was fairly priced as the WR15 in Underdog best ball leagues while Smith-Njigba and Lockett were both being drafted as WR3s. If those ADPs hold, consider targeting JSN more than Lockett with Lockett entering his age-31 season.
  • Geno Smith is the obvious winner of the Smith-Njigba selection. Following a QB5 finish in 2022, Smith was being selected as fantasy’s QB16 before the NFL Draft but his ADP should ascend back toward the QB1 range. As long as Smith is being drafted around the QB10 range, this wide receiver trio should help him maintain his efficiency from last year and exceed his ADP value.
  • Ken Walker is an underrated beneficiary of the Smith-Njigba pick. Already fantasy’s RB9 from Week 5 on last season, Walker should benefit from a base three-wide formation. Seattle ranked seventh in rush EPA per play last season with three receivers on the field.
Latest Articles
Most Popular