The New York Giants added help on defense in the second half of this year’s draft. Four of the Giants’ six draft picks were spent on the defensive side of the ball in 2021. Two of those picks were invested into edge rushers. The Giants had a clear need on the edge entering the draft and addressed it with two solid, high-value draft picks.
The first edge rusher that the Giants landed was Azeez Ojulari in round two. Many expect Azeez to be an instant-impact starter on New York’s defense and a huge boost to the team’s pass-rush. The second edge rusher that the Giants drafted was Elerson Smith in the fourth round.
Elerson Smith is a player that stood out at the Senior Bowl and fans are excited by his potential. However, the Giants have a bunch of edge rushers on their roster currently, so it is hard to see Smith getting extended playing time in the regular season on the defensive side of the ball. Smith might be utilized in a couple of other niche roles, though, giving him a chance to make an impact as a rookie.
How Elerson Smith could be utilized as a rookie
Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will return from injuries this season. Those two will likely see the lion’s share of snaps as the Giants’ starting edge rushers. That is until Azeez Ojulari comes into his own and starts to steal playing time. That trio of Ximines, Carter, and Ojulari will be the Giants’ main pass rushers on the edge.
Behind that trio is a slew of rushers like Ifeadi Odenigbo, Carter Coughlin, Ryan Anderson, Cam Brown, and, of course, Elerson Smith. It appears that Elerson Smith might be buried on the Giants’ depth chart this season. But that might not be the case.
Elerson Smith might see playing time as a rotational pass-rusher on the Giants’ defense. The Northern Iowa product has an uphill battle for playing time, but he has the tools to be a solid player. Smith is a lanky 6-foot 6-inch edge with 34-inch arms. He is a developmental pass-rusher who had 14 sacks in 2019. He might not be present much on the Giants’ defense in 2021, but Smith might see starter-level playing time in the game’s third phase: special teams.
Having a ridiculous wingspan like that will benefit Elerson Smith right off the bat. His long arms will make him a contributor right away on special teams. In 2019 at Northern Iowa, Elerson Smith blocked 2 field goal attempts. The Giants’ special teams was very inconsistent in 2020. Smith’s special teams background must have been considered when the Giants chose him in the fourth round. With his long arms and field goal-blocking skills, Elerson Smith will be able to contribute right away on the Giants’ special teams as he develops into a pass-rusher on the team’s defense.