Should the New York Giants draft an EDGE in round one?

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 2021 NFL Draft is less than a week away and the New York Giants are one of the biggest question marks in round one. Analysts are struggling to predict the Giants’ pick at eleven overall. New York can go a multitude of different directions; edge rusher, cornerback, wide receiver, offensive tackle, etc. Everything is on the board for New York.

But the Giants have done extensive research on one position in particular: edge rusher. The Giants are in need of a top-tier pass-rusher off of the edge to upgrade over the rotational guys like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. Many believe that New York will address this need in round one of the 2021 NFL Draft. But should they?

First-round EDGE prospects

There are potentially four edge rushers that could be drafted in the first round of this year’s draft. The consensus top EDGE prospect is Jaelan Phillips out of Miami. Analysts explain that Phillips would be a top-ten pick in the draft if it weren’t for some medical red flags.

Jaelan Phillips has an extensive concussion history that caused him to retire for a year (2019) before returning to the field for Miami in 2020. Phillips recorded 8 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in his breakout 2020 season. He is projected to be drafted in the second half of the first round, but considering the Giants’ need for an EDGE, Phillips makes sense for them at eleven if they disregard the concussion history.

Kwity Paye and Azeez Ojulari are two more EDGE prospects that are expected to be drafted in the first round. Many believe that Paye is the best edge rusher in this year’s draft class. However, Paye is a much better run defender than edge rusher, making his fit with the Giants questionable. It is the speedy, bendy Azeez Ojulari that makes sense for the Giants.

The Giants are looking for a dominant pass-rusher, not a run-defender. Ojulari has the potential to be a top pass-rusher with his combination of speed and bend off the edge. Azeez is another player, though, that is projected to be drafted in the second half of the first round, like Paye and Phillips. Would it be too much of a reach for the Giants to select one of these edge rushers at eleven?

Is an EDGE at eleven a reach for the Giants?

Nearly all of the first-round edge rushers in this year’s class are projected to be late first-round picks. Some consider Jaelan Phillips to be the best defender in this year’s draft class, but his concussion history is bound to push him down the board. If all of these prospects are projected to go within the last fifteen picks of the first round, would the Giants be making a mistake selecting one of these prospects in the first fifteen picks of the round?

The Giants own the eleventh overall pick in this year’s draft. Technically, drafting an EDGE at eleven that is projected to be picked between picks twenty and thirty would be a reach. But this would be a case of the Giants drafting a talented player to fill a need, rather than going with the best player available.

If the New York Giants want to draft an edge rusher and maximize their value, they should trade down to the second half of the first round. This would allow the Giants to take one of these pass rushers in their projected draft range while also adding additional draft capital via trade. New York would walk away with its new every-down pass-rusher, addressing the biggest need the Giants have on defense. They would also acquire additional draft picks to add depth and address other positional needs later on in the draft.

Trading down is the best option for the Giants if they are dead set on taking an edge rusher. However, drafting one at eleven overall would not be the end of the world. The Giants would still be walking away from the first round as a better football team by upgrading a weak position with a young player possessing a ton of potential. Overall, many fans might want the Giants to avoid EDGE at eleven, but it might be the pick that brings New York the most impact in 2021.