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Mel Kiper’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft sends Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State to the Jets

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl Game - Ohio State v Utah Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Senior Bowl approaching, mock draft season is upon us. ESPN’s Mel Kiper has his firs mock of the year, and he has the Jets making a somewhat surprising pick at 13th overall.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

I thought about an offensive lineman here, but let’s instead reunite my top-ranked receiver in this class with my top-ranked receiver in the 2022 class. The Jets picked Garrett Wilson at No. 10 last April, and he had 83 catches for 1,103 yards as a rookie. But for the Buckeyes in 2021, it was his teammate Smith-Njigba who was their top wideout, as he put up 1,606 yards, doing damage mostly out of the slot. After an injury-plagued 2022 in which he caught just five passes, however, there are big questions about his health — he had a nagging hamstring injury — headed into the draft. I’m a big fan of Smith-Njigba, and I think he could be a star in the right situation. New York likely will have a new starting quarterback in 2023, and that passer will have to get support around him. This offense has a chance to be much improved. The Jets had a stellar draft last year; Smith-Njigba would be a great start for this one. And yes, I know, this makes back-to-back top-15 picks on receivers for the Jets, but Smith-Njigba is worth it because of what he and Wilson can do together.

The reason I say this is surprising is few would place wide receiver as one of the team’s core needs after Garrett Wilson’s stellar rookie season.

I personally would have no issues with the Jets drafting a receiver in the first round, however. Behind Wilson, the picture is unclear. Elijah Moore had a disastrous second season. Corey Davis is...well Corey Davis. Denzel Mims doesn’t look like he’ll ever be much more than a part-time player and backup.

You build great offenses by loading them with playmakers. Smith-Njigba does come with some significant question marks given the season he just had, but I could not object to a focus on receiver.