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Rotoworld Draft Notebook: Jaxon Smith-Njigba a tier above?

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Pro Day season. The time of year where NFL coaching staffs are catching up on prospect film, executives are on the road and rumors are flying around the draft world.

Every week in this series I’ll take you through what I’m hearing in the scouting community, movement in rankings and various draft week scenarios. Whether it’s the excitement of your favorite franchise turning the corner or simply preparation for your dynasty fantasy football draft, the Rotoworld Draft Notebook has you covered.

WR1 Solidified

Jaxon Smith-Njigba missed much of the 2022 season after a dominant effort in 2021, but he’s had a big two months to kick off the draft process.

Starting in Indy where he posted a 6.57 three-cone (96th percentile) and 3.93 shuttle (97th percentile), elite agility testing numbers. He then ran his forty at Ohio State’s Pro Day this week, timing in the range of 4.48-4.52. No one in the scouting circles expected him to be a burner on the track, but Smith-Njigba surpassed a key threshold for receivers in the forty time with the range of times he posted.

On top of that, he’s interviewed extremely well throughout this process much like his former Buckeyes teammates Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave did last year.

With his route polish, ability to make catches in traffic, high IQ and pro ready skill set, he’s expected to be the first wide receiver off the board in April. That could be as early as the first 15 picks, despite the position group lacking prototypical hype this year.

How Many QBs Go In Round 1?

You’ve heard the locks already: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson and Will Levis. Those four are projected to go in the top 10 of the draft, but could a fifth signal caller sneak into the backend of Round 1?

Despite already turning 25 years old in January, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker looks like one of the biggest risers in this year’s draft after being somewhat of a forgotten man due to tearing his ACL in November.

When healthy, Hooker has shown the ability to put up some monster numbers, including 58 passing touchdowns to just five interceptions, while adding over 1,000 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns over his final two seasons.

There’s a ton to love about his game: the efficiency in which he ran Tennessee’s offense, his ability to take care of the football, a calm nature operating from the pocket and the build-up speed he has as a runner.

Hooker started his draft process early by meeting with teams at the Senior Bowl, which, as a reminder, is important because NFL coaching are normally late to the part on prospect tape. Plus, the fact Hooker is working his way back from an ACL tear could actually motivate a team to get back into Round 1 and draft him.

Why would that motivate an NFL team?

This way they’d have the fifth-year option as an extra layer of team control, which also mitigates the knock on Hooker that he won’t be ready to roll right away in his rookie season.

That’s why the Over/Under of 4.5 quarterbacks in this year’s first round will be one of the most fascinating markets out there.

The Corner Run

It’s no secret the cornerback class is loaded this year, but at what point in Round 1 the run begins and who will be the first one drafted are being debated in NFL front offices right now.

The latter has basically been narrowed down to Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez vs. Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon.

Gonzalez has the build-a-corner measurables in his favor. He’s 6'1 3/8 with 32” arms, runs a 4.38 forty and exploded in the jumps (41 1/2” vertical and 133” broad, 96th and 95th percentile metrics).

Witherspoon, on the other hand, is a marvel of the scouting community. Despite being undersized at 5'11 1/2 and 181 pounds, he plays much bigger and louder. His film from both a skill set and energy standpoint reminds me of Jaire Alexander.

Gonzalez should be the first one off the board and is nearly guaranteed to be a top-10 selection with the Falcons very much in play at No. 8. However, Gonzalez vs. Witherspoon remains one of the top, non-QB debates I hear coming out of draft meetings.

Then there’s Joey Porter Jr., who will be a big ticket prospect for teams in love with long corners. The Ravens (pick No. 22) and the Giants (pick No. 25) have done a ton of work scouting this position, but they’d likely have to move up in the draft to land one of the three. Maryland’s Deonte Banks is an interesting fallback option as well. He’s one of the most athletic players in the draft and battle tested on tape.

Quarterbacks will always dictate movement at the top of the draft, but this year it’s the corners that should lead to trade scenarios in the middle of Round 1.

While the order of the blue-chip prospects at the top doesn’t have a ton of variance, the amount of corners to be drafted in the first round does. In addition to Gonzalez, Witherspoon, Porter Jr. and Banks (who are basically locks to go in Round 1), Cam Smith, Kelee Ringo, D.J. Turner and Emmanuel Forbes are just on the outside, looking in.

The Over/Under for cornerbacks to be selected in the first round will most likely be set at 4.5 and I’m already leaning to the Over.

Dynasty Outlook: Three Up

Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee

An ankle injury limited Tillman throughout 2022, but his 2021 tape is reminding teams of the caliber of player he is.

In a class full of smaller slot receivers, Tillman stands out at 6'3, 213 pounds with massive 10” hands. He posted a 128” broad jump (86th percentile) with a relative athletic score of 9.22 out of 10.

Throughout that 2021 season he had huge performances against Alabama (7 receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown) and Georgia (10 receptions for 200 yards and one touchdown).

He’s locked in as WR4 in my rankings, ahead of his teammate Jalin Hyatt.

Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas

Yes, the other running back from Texas. Playing behind superstar Bijan Robinson limited his production, but Johnson made the most of his touches.

On just 189 carries in the last two seasons, he forced 86 missed tackles (per PFF) while averaging nearly 6.0 yards per carry.

He came into the combine at 6 1/4”, 219 pounds and posted an extremely impressive 1.52 ten-yard split (83rd percentile). That’s excellent acceleration for a big, physical downhill runner.

With his ability to grind out yards and willingness in pass protection, Johnson will get on the field early for an NFL team. He’s currently my RB6 in this class.

Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma

He’s caught 20 touchdowns over the last three seasons, ran a 4.38 forty at the combine and just turned 21 years old this month, yet you hear zero buzz on Marvin Mims.

What makes his college production even more impressive is that he played less than half his snaps in the slot, despite being just 5'11 1/4”, 183 pounds.

On top of that, Mims only dropped seven passes in college on 177 targets (per PFF). He also led his team with 26 catches of 15-plus yards this season and tallied 57 total while at Oklahoma.

He’s a top-10 wide receiver in this class and his testing numbers could have him come off the board as early as Round 3.