The closer we get to the 2021 NFL draft, the more I feel the New York Giants will draft an edge rusher in the first round. While the Giants sent upper management to evaluate the top pass rushers in this year’s class, I estimated that they are targeting one with the 42nd overall pack or trading up into the first round to grab one of their preferred options.
However, there are a few players that could be in a conversation at 11, and one of them is Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari.
What do the New York Giants see in Azeez?
Ojulari is arguably the top pass-rushing prospect in the 2021 draft class, but he lacks the ideal size at 6’2” and 249 pounds. Nonetheless, he has stellar pass rush moves and great speed off the line of scrimmage. In fact, he reminds me slightly of Osi Umenyiora, who was only slightly bigger than Ojulari during his playing days. The elite speed he has from the snap of the football to getting after the quarterback is what makes Azeez such an exciting young player.
Last season, the Georgia stand-out tallied 9.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for a loss, including three sacks in the Peach Bowl — the biggest stage of his young career. While he might lack the ideal length for a 3-4 outside linebacker, I don’t believe that will be a primary issue, as his arms extend beyond 34 inches, which only Gregory Rousseau, Jason Oweh, and Joe Tryon can match from the top options this year.
Ultimately, the Giants ranked 40th in sacks last year, an exceptional number based on who they had available on game day. With Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines going down early in the season, the Giants were forced to utilize Carter Coughlin and Jabaal Sheard predominately. Getting back Carter and Ximines will be fantastic, but adding another option like Ojulari would upgrade the unit enough to feel confident about having a top-five defense.
However, selecting him with the 11th overall pick might be a bit overzealous, especially with sure-fire talent likely to be on the board. Taking a guarantee over a player with upside seems like a more efficient move. Nonetheless, the Giants don’t really seem bothered by traditional BPA strategies and prefer to take their own approach toward building a roster.