New York Giants: Will Azeez Ojulari be an immediate starter at OLB?

new york giants, azeez ojulari
Jan 1, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Azeez Ojulari (13) celebrates after a sack against the Cincinnati Bearcats in the second half of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants made a tremendous effort to improve their pass rush this off-season, retaining Leonard Williams, signing Ifeadi Odenigbo, and drafting Azeez Ojulari. They did add a few supplemental pieces, like former Washington OLB Ryan Anderson, but the expectation is that their 50th overall pick could be an impact player on day one.

Ojulari was being considered one of the best pass rushers in the draft class and a potential first-round pick just a few days before the draft commenced. However, he ended up slipping all the way to 50th overall. The Giants simply couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to acquire him. His supposed knee injury was the reasoning behind his falling, but the Giants didn’t seem to have any concerns.

“I don’t know where the knee thing came from,” Gettleman said in a WFAN interview. “We had no concerns with that.”

An interesting reality for the Giants, as they ended up getting one of the best pass rushers in the draft class late in the second round. This was a perfect scenario for the Giants, who needed to upgrade the OLB unit after starting Carter Coughlin and Jabaal Sheard, a seventh-round pick from 2020 and practice squad player for the majority of the season.

Nobody expected Ojulari to be available at 50, but the Giants got better after selecting Andrew Thomas’s roommate during his time at Georgia.

“We didn’t expect him to be there that late, we had a lot of calls trying to move up to that spot as we were getting ready to pick him,” head coach Joe Judge said on the latest epsiode of Giants Life. “He plays stout against the run and he had a lot of production in pass rush to have the number of sacks he had and was very, very impressive.”

Ojulari is a fantastic player that ranked first in the SEC in sacks and forced fumbles. He tallies 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles last season, utilizing a variety of pass rush moves and solid run defense.

He’s expected to be a day one starter for Patrick Graham on defense, and while some might believe he is undersized, at 6’3″ and 249 pounds, he has a similar frame to Von Miller back in 2011 when he was drafted to the NFL. Ojulari is only 20 years old, so he has plenty of time to refine his talents and make an impact in the NFL over the long term. He has solid bend around the edge, underrated flexibility, and is quite powerful with his hands at the point of attack. They desperately needed a pass rusher to upgrade the OLB unit, and they did that with flying colors drafting Azeez.

While he still needs a bit of refinement in the run-stopping category, experience well only assist him. He occasionally lacks the functional strength to disengage against combo blocks and is a tad over-aggressive in his pursuit angles. Having live training sessions and a preseason to utilize will be extremely beneficial in his growth before the start of the regular season. The Giants are now being regularly considered a playoff caliber team, and Joe Judge remains a catalyst behind this incredible turnaround.