When the New York Giants selected Northern Iowa standout defender Elerson Smith, most were surprised, even flabbergasted at the selection. The Giants desperately needed offensive line support after ranking 31st in pass-blocking efficiency in 2020. However, the Giants took a different approach this year, focusing on value and best player available. They ended up with Elerson, who entered college as a 190-pound pass rusher in desperate need of size and strength.
Smith went on a physical journey to transform his body, adding 75 pounds of healthy weight to his frame, increasing his power and speed up the process. As a 6’7″, 255-pound defensive end, Smith projects as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 base scheme. He has the length to seal the edge but also the underrated speed and power to get after the quarterback. The Giants perilously needed more depth and starting level talent at the position, especially with Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines going down last year and not having a healthy sample size to prove their production.
Thereâ€™s reason to believe that Smith could be one of their bigger steals from this year’ss draft, as he posted a 4.71 40-yard dash and put up 26 reps on the bench press at his Pro Day. He is fast and strong, earning 14 sacks last year for Northern Iowa.
According to Bryce Paup (Elersonâ€™s DL coach at Northern Iowa), who was interviewed by Patricia Traina of Giants Country:
â€œWe knew he had potential, but there’s a lot of people that have potential, but never reached their full potential,â€ Paup said.
â€œWhy? Because they can’t put it all together. This game is more than just athleticism. It’s the ability to work hard to study, to do the right things at the right time to treat people right, to keep your nose clean all the time, and to be able to handle the mental stress that comes with it.â€
Of course, Smith was the 116th pick, so he is a developmental prospect who needs some time to get his feet wet at the NFL level. With stronger and bigger players to beat in the trenches, Smith is going to have a rough time adjusting his game, as these experience players have seen it all, ranging from speed to power. They know how to control and react underdeveloped players, so while I imagine Smith well be viewed as a rotational piece to start his career, he has the upside to make an impact as a potential starter down the line.
Nonetheless, the Giants had serious issues with injury last season at OLB, so Elerson will have an opportunity to earn reps at some point in the season, especially since the Giants scheme for opponent and offensive systems.