Giants’ Azeez Ojulari could take the defense to another level in 2021

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When the New York Giants officially landed Georgia standout pass rusher Azeez Ojulari with a 50th overall pick, management couldn’t believe their luck. Ojulari ranked first in the SEC last season with 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles, presenting a fantastic addition to the defensive front for Big Blue.

Having collected 14.0 total sacks over the past two seasons, Ojulari hosted the highest PFP pass-rush grade of the 2020 season among his fellow class members at 91.7.

With a few above-average pass rush moves, including a nasty double club, Ojulari is entering his rookie season as a refined player with plenty of qualities to translate to the NFL. At 21 years old, adjusting to the physicality and strength of the NFL will be difficult, but his speed around the edge and bend gives him an advantage around heavy-footed offensive tackles.

The Giants will likely have a starting job for the taking at OLB, and if Ojulari performs well during training camp and preseason, he could start the year lined up next to Leonard Williams or Dexter Lawrence. Former Giants linebacker Carl Banks stated that the Georgia product should “pay immediate dividends” as a situational pass rusher, but he could have an even greater impact.

“The thing that separated Azeez from others was he’s pro-ready with his hands,’’ said Chris Pettit, the Giants’ director of college scouting. “He’s instinctive. The guy has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He’s ultra-competitive. He has good instincts.’’

There were rumors that the Giants could end up taking Ojulari with the 11th overall pick, so getting him 39 spots later was a home run selection. In addition, they managed to trade back and acquire an extra third-round pick for next year’s draft, increasing his value further.

Some believed Azeez was the best natural pass rusher in the draft, with only Jaelan Phillips out of Miami presenting a close competitor. Adding to Ojulari’s strengths on the field, he’s also a high character player off the field, which is something the Giants have begun prioritizing — a great locker room guy.

Ultimately, with the further bolstering of the secondary, all the Giants truly lack is a dominant pass rusher at the outside linebacker position. They added four new faces, including Elerson Smith, Ifeadi Odenigbo, and Ryan Anderson. Based on the talent they had at their disposal last year, we should expect vastly different statistical outputs on a weekly basis, and Ojulari could be a catalyst in the defensive line’s future dominance.

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