Current odds list Ohio State Wide Receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba as the overwhelming favorite to be the first wide receiver off the board in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Looking at BetMGM Sportsbook, Smith-Njigba is listed at -450 to be the first wide receiver selected. Behind him is Boston College’s Zay Flowers at +650, USC’s Jordan Addison at +1100, and TCU’s Quentin Johnston at +1200. No other wideouts in the class have odds shorter than +3000, so it looks like the field has been narrowed down to the top four.
Smith-Njigba played sparingly a year ago, appearing in just three games and catching five passes for 43 yards and no touchdowns while battling injury. Still, he put enough on tape during a standout sophomore campaign in 2021, in which he posted a whopping 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns for folks to consider him the top receiving prospect in the class.
A week ago, he was listed at -275 to be the first wide receiver drafted. Those odds have shifted in his favor after receiving 33% of tickets and 39.3% of the handle, according to BetMGM.
I agree with Smith-Njigba being the best wide receiver in the class, but I cannot agree with laying the juice at the current odds. He’s displayed a higher ceiling than any other college wideout, but that doesn’t mean he has the highest ceiling in the NFL. We’re not playing general manager but are hunting for value in the betting market.
He’s likely to play only in the slot, limiting his versatility, and he hasn’t played much in over a year. His talent is undeniable, but it’s fair to question whether or not teams will drop him a tad on their boards and take a swing on one of the other top wideouts in the first round. He’s small and not particularly fast compared to other prospects at the position.
With his odds at -450, I’d be inclined to look elsewhere and take a long shot on either Johnston at +1100 or Addison at +900. Of the two, I prefer the odds on Johnston, who has received the second-highest percentage of tickets (26.8%) and the second-most handle (20.0%), making him BetMGM’s largest liability in the first wide receiver selected betting market heading into the draft.
In a class of small and mostly slender prospects, Johnston literally stands out as a 6’3″ outside receiver with a vertical jump of 40.5 inches. He hasn’t pieced things together, as Smith-Njigba did in 2021, but he’s viewed as a developmental prospect with untapped potential. His measurables are tantalizing, and time after time, we see NFL decision-makers fall in love with measurables over production.
Teams looking for a true outside receiver could target Johnston in the first round. He’ll need to be selected by a team who can cater a specific route tree for him, specializing in deep-ball attempts.
This is nothing against Smith-Njigba, but I’d be more inclined to look for plus odds in a class that some scouts have described as the worst incoming wide-receiving crop in a decade.