INDIANAPOLIS — Justin Fields and Jaxon Smith-Njigba played just seven games together at Ohio State during the 2020 season.

But that’s all it took for the two to establish a connection that still goes on to this day. 

“Since he has been in Chicago, we have always talked about him being like a big brother to me,” Smith-Njigba said Friday at the NFL combine. “I definitely appreciate it coming from a guy like that.”

During an interview with Barstool Sports last month, Fields highlighted Smith-Njigba as a player he would want to add to the Bears’ roster. 

And for good reason. Smith-Njigba would likely help Fields develop as a passer as he heads into his third season in the NFL. 

In 2022, the Bears finished last in receiving yards and last in passing. In 2021 at Ohio State, Smith-Njigba caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns. 

Injuries limited him to just three games as a junior in 2022 and he caught only five passes for 43 yards, but Smith-Njigba still believes he should be viewed as one of the top players in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

“I just think my playmaking ability is second to none in this draft,” Smith-Njigba said. “I see myself as a top five player not just receiver. I see myself as a top five player in this draft. Just being able to make plays and given the opportunities you throw me the ball seven to nine times you know I can win you the game, and I think that speaks for itself.”

With any prospect, there will be a transition period going from college to the pros. But pairing Smith-Njigba and Fields again in the NFL could help smoothen that process and it would be something Smith-Njigba would welcome.

“It would mean a lot. I would definitely appreciate that there in Chicago,” Smith-Njigba said. “Justin Fields, you know, playing with an elite quarterback. You know I think it would just be, you know, good for both of us to be there. To have that support on and off the field would definitely mean a lot to me.”

Smith-Njigba’s appreciation for Fields is evident, but that isn’t the case for everyone. This offseason, especially, Fields’ critics have surfaced in full force. Despite running for 1,143 yards last season, his ability to run is seen by some as the only area Fields has showed progress in – which Smith-Njigba disagrees with strongly.

“I wouldn’t think they are very smart,” Smith-Njigba said. “I would think they should do some more research, more film watching, more something. Do something different.”

What the Bears also need to do differently that hasn’t happened since Fields entered the league in 2021 is surround the 23-year-old quarterback with weapons.

Look what happened when the Bengals gave Joe Burrow his college teammate at LSU in Ja’Marr Chase. Instant results and a go-to guy the quarterback can trust. 

The two Ohio State Buckeyes would like to reunite as Bears, and with Chicago being open to trading the No.1 overall pick, the team could have the draft capital to make this reunion happen. 

“Hopefully we (Field and Smith-Njigba) can, you know, maybe do it again,” Smith-Njigba said.


Nicholas Moreano is the Bears beat reporter for CHGO Bears. He has a master's degree in Communication from DePaul University and obtained his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa.