New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari pick called smartest move this offseason

Leading up to the NFL Draft, some mock drafts had the New York Giants taking Azeez Ojulari at eleven. After all, the Giants have been trying to work out their pass rush for the past few years and Ojulari entered the draft as one of the top prospects at that impact position. So it was quite surprising for most, then, when the Giants were able to pick up Ojulari outside the first round entirely.

They selected him with their second round pick after a surprising fall, but many analysts are still high on Ojulari’s prospects and believe the Giants gained a major steal.

On a list of every team’s smartest offseason move from Bleacher Report, selecting Ojulari was named the smartest move for the Giants.

The Giants will benefit from this gamble. If Ojulari goes through the 2021 campaign without any issues, he’s a candidate to log double-digit sacks. The 6’2″, 249-pounder can beat tackles with speed and great use of his hands on the edge. The rookie’s short-area quickness, coupled with his balance, allows him to stay in position for a sack on stunts.

With Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence on the interior of the defensive line, they’ll open lanes for Ojulari to squeeze through and collapse the pocket. He’s a Day 2 pick who should make an immediate impact in Year 1.

What makes the Ojulari pick a gamble?

The thing that caused Ojulari to fall out of the first round and muddied the waters around his draft stock is an injury rumor. Word came out about Ojulari’s knee not long before the draft, and teams seemed to take this seriously as the alleged knee problem was said to be serious.

Ojulari does have a history of knee injury from high school, but was otherwise healthy during his time at Georgia and initially appeared to be all clear entering the draft.

Giants GM Dave Gettleman, after drafting the player, claimed that the Giants don’t know where the rumors about Ojulari’s knee came from.

If this is the case, and those rumors were simply draft week smoke and mirrors that don’t amount to anything substantial, it looks like many of these predictions are right and the Giants did come away with a steal.

After all, not many other teams can say they were able to secure a potential top 10 prospect in the second round.

New York Giants forming a dangerous Georgia EDGE duo

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The New York Giants‘ defense endured a plethora of injuries in 2020. In particular, many of the injuries occurred at the edge rusher position. Both starting edge rushers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, suffered season-ending injuries.

Lorenzo Carter will return to the starting lineup this season. He has participated in OTA’s this week and looks sharp. Many were surprised to see him on the practice field. Carter has returned and he is joined by a new arrival on the practice field. Rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari was an exciting draft pick for the Giants in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft. The Georgia edge rusher will be a huge addition to the Giants’ defense.

Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari stats and highlights

The New York Giants’ edge rusher position seems to be improving steadily. They have added mid-round draft picks, like Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, over the years, but the investment in a first-round talent like Azeez Ojulari is telling. The Giants recognize a weakness on the edge and have now fully addressed it.

Azeez Ojulari had been mocked to the Giants with the 11th overall pick pre-draft. He ended up in New York, but not until pick 50. That is incredible value for the Giants. Ojulari recorded an impressive 9.5 sacks in his breakout 2020 season. He also totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and an incredible 4 forced fumbles. Ojulari was credited with 35 pressures by PFF in 2020. He’s a bendy speed-rusher with a sick pass-rush move that beats down left tackles

Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari have more in common than playing for the Giants. Both of these players are speedy pass-rushers that played for the Georgia Bulldogs. The Giants’ new Georgia edge-rushing duo could be an imposing force for offenses to gameplan around.

Lorenzo Carter played in only five games in 2020. However, Carter’s play during those five games was impressive. The Giants finally felt confident in their edge-rushing with Carter. He racked up a sack and 7 pressures in those five games and looked faster and stronger than he had in the past.

Unfortunately, the duo of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines was not keeping opposing offensive linemen up at night. The Giants recognized this and made it a priority to upgrade the position. They feel they have done that by adding Azeez Ojulari to the mix. Lorenzo Carter and Azeez Ojulari could be a dangerous tandem in 2021 as the Giants hope to improve their pass-rush.

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

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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.

New York Giants: Rookie EDGE Azeez Ojulari should have day-one impact

The New York Giants landed one of the biggest steals of the 2021 NFL Draft when they selected Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari in the second round. The Giants traded down from 42 overall to 50 overall and were still able to select Azeez despite his first-round draft projection. Some analysts even mocked him to the Giants at eleven overall.

Giants fans were ecstatic when Ojulari’s name was called with the 50th pick in the draft. Azeez Ojulari was a prospect with legitimate first-round talent. For the Giants, to land Ojulari and an extra third-round 2022 draft pick, made their day-two trade down one of incredible value.

Making the trade-down and second-round selection even more valuable, Azeez Ojulari is expected to be an instant-impact rookie for the Giants’ defense.

Why Azeez Ojulari will have an instant impact

The selection of Azeez Ojulari was one of those special cases where a top-talent filled a top-need for the Giants. New York has been looking for a top-tier pass-rusher off the edge over the last few years. They have invested plenty into the position, finding solid depth in later rounds and on the free agency market. However, the Giants have also dealt with injuries to their starting edge rushers, Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines.

Carter and Ximines are solid edge rushers but neither one has established themselves as premium rushers just yet. But Azeez Ojulari has the potential to be a premium pass-rusher very early on in his career. Azeez was the top edge rusher on Pro Football Focus’s pre-draft rankings. The Giants hit a home run when they landed the redshirt sophomore in round two.

Azeez Ojulari recorded an impressive 9.5 sacks in his breakout 2020 season. He also totaled 12.5 tackles for loss and an incredible 4 forced fumbles. Ojulari was credited with 35 pressures by PFF in 2020. He’s a bendy speed-rusher with a sick pass-rush move that beats down left tackles.

Azeez Ojulari has all the talent to become a top edge rusher in the NFL. But he is also a perfect scheme fit with the New York Giants, which will allow him to have an impact on day one. When discussing his transition into Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme, Azeez had this to say:

Yeah, it’s nice. They had some similarities between what I been doing at Georgia, so really it’s perfect. It’s great. It’s a great scheme for sure. – Azeez Ojulari on his first impressions of Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme

The New York Giants were in need of a consistent edge rusher in their starting defensive lineup. It appears they have found it with Azeez Ojulari.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari could have field day week 1 if he plays his cards right

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The New York Giants will take on the Denver Broncos in week one of the 2021 regular season after the schedule dropped on Wednesday evening. While Denver represents a surprise opponent compared to their usual suspects, the Dallas Cowboys, and Philadelphia Eagles, it should be a competitive game. We shouldn’t underestimate the talent that Denver contains, despite their issues at the quarterback position. They have an extremely deep defense with a stellar secondary and adequate pass rushers in Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

This game will be no pushover, but the Giants have an opportunity to expose a few weaknesses that the Broncos do have, specifically on the offensive line. As they try to piece together their right tackle position, Denver signed former Giant Cam Fleming to a one-year, $3.67 million deal.

According to Mike Klis of 9News, the Denver Broncos signed former Giants OT Cam Fleming to compete at right tackle, which opens up the door for a slaughterhouse if rookie OLB Azeez Ojulari plays his cards right.

The New York Giants have already experienced the Fleming experiment:

When the Giants signed Fleming last year, they believed he could be a solid stopgap as they developed some of their other talents. Having spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, Fleming had experience with Jason Garrett and head coach Joe Judge in New England years ago. He started all 16 games for the Giants last year but struggled considerably in a majority of his appearances. He allowed six sacks and 35 total pressures, also giving up seven penalties, three of them coming against Cincinnati in a single game.

Ultimately, Fleming is a liability, which is why the Giants let him walk without hesitation. They managed to lower the price tag of Nate Solder and still hMatt Peart coming back for a second season of the NFL after showing promise as a run blocker in 2020.

However, the hope is that Fleming will be starting at RT for Denver in week one, which could open the door for rookie Azeez Ojulari and his abilities.

Ojulari ranked first in the SEC last season in sacks with 9.5 and forced fumbles with four. He is a stellar pass rusher that already contains a few premier pass rush moves: a deadly extension-chop that uses his arm to create space between himself and his assignment and then utilizing a nasty chop to smack away the inside hands.

He will undoubtedly translate that move to the NFL, and with sufficient speed, he should overwhelm a player like Fleming, especially with Leonard Williams/Dexter Lawrence by his side.

If the Giants’ defensive line can get off to a hot start in week one, it will set the tone for the rest of the season. Ojulari is expected to make an impact on day one as a starter, so offering him an easier opponent to work with is exactly what the Giants need to help develop their rookie 2nd round pick.

New York Giants landed an instant-impact pass rusher in Azeez Ojulari, what does he offer?

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After a season where the outside linebacker position struggled for the New York Giants, they made it a priority to bolster the unit with further talent. Drafting Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia and Elerson Smith out of Northern Iowa, the Giants now have a few more options to work with on the defensive line.

Despite watching Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines fall to injury in 2020, the Giants still managed 40 sacks, which ranked 12th in the NFL. Thanks to phenomenal performances by Leonard Williams and the interior pass rush, the Giants walked away content with their defense.

However, it is necessary to have a dominant edge rusher to build around, and Ojulari represents a player with immense upside at just 20 years old. The fact that the Georgia stand-out dropped to 50th overall is astounding, and the Giants might’ve walked away with a steal of the draft after Ojulari was being mocked to them at 11 just a few weeks ago.

In fact, Ojulari ranked first in the SEC last year with 9.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He also tallied 12.5 tackles for a loss and 31 total tackles. He has incredible bend around the edge and very solid speed-to-power moves — he has a refined chop move that he uses with violence. Entering the NFL with a perfect pass-rush move will prove to be huge for his development, but refinement is still on the horizon.

CBS believes the Giants landed a steal at 50th overall, and I would tend to agree:

Ojulari did not deserve to have to wait until the 50th pick in the 2021 draft to hear his name called. He was a consistent pressure-creator as a 20-year-old rusher in the SEC at Georgia. And, I get it — the safe assumption with a 6-2, 249-pound edge defender is that he gets worked against the run.

That’s not the case with Ojulari. He sets a mean edge and can rip through blockers to make impact plays in the backfield against the run. But of course the main reason he was selected by the Giants was to get after the quarterback, and the former Bulldogs star has the first-step burst, bend around the corner, speed-to-power conversion, and just enough pass-rushing moves to be a high-caliber pressure-generator in the NFL.

Overall, adding competition to a unit that was considered weak before the draft was a great move for the Giants. General manager Dave Gettleman elected to take a BPA approach toward the draft, adding draft capital while also injecting instant impact players on both sides of the ball. Wide receiver Kadarius Toney and Ojulari represent two playmakers who can contribute immediately, which is exactly what the Giants needed at positions of weakness.

Big Blue now has a respectable wide receiver corps and optimistic OLB unit, two positions that were devastated by inadequacy and injury last year.

New York Giants defensive duo of Azeez Ojulari and Leonard Williams could be special

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The simple fact that the New York Giants finished the 2020 season with 40 sacks is mesmerizing. After losing starters Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, the Giants were forced to utilize options like Carter Coughlin, a seventh-round pick last year, and Jabaal Sheard, who was plucked off the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.

Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had very little to work with, but the Giants made it a priority to give him another weapon on defense in Georgia stand-out edge rusher Azeez Ojulari.

Ojulari was drafted 50th overall, as the Giants moved back to acquire an additional third-round pack and also managed to land arguably the best pass rusher in this year’s draft class. Last season, he finished with 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for a loss, and four forced fumbles. At just 20 years old, he has incredible potential, ranking first in the SEC in sacks and fumbles forced.

What does Azeez Ojulari bring to the New York Giants?

Ojulari has sufficient bend around the edge and great speed off the line of scrimmage, making him the Giants’ best outside pass rusher instantly. While Lorenzo Carter did show signs of progression last season before tearing his Achilles, returning from an injury like that can be problematic, especially for a player who was never considered above average.

The dynamic duo the Giants can create with interior pass rusher Leonard Williams and Ojulari could be special. As we know, Williams was the Giants’ best defender in 2020, finishing the season with 11.5 sacks, 57 combined tackles, 30 quarterback hits, and 14 tackles for a loss. He was incredible in nearly every facet of the game, dominating the trenches and earning a massive payday because of it.

The Giants dished out a three-year, $63 million deal for one of the league’s best interior defenders, and applying a great outside presence next to him will only increase the efficiency of the defense. Having ranked 12th in total sacks last season, the Giants are looking to take a step forward, but how will the duo of Williams and Ojulari work?

While Williams dominates the interior and draws double teams, he will give Azeez the ability to attack tackles 1V1. Considering the NFL has a massive lack of talent at OT, the Giants can get creative with how they utilize their blitzers. For example, if they line up Leonard Williams in the 3-tech on the right side of the line of scrimmage and Azeez at outside linebacker, they can utilize additional pass rushers like Jabrill Peppers or Logan Ryan off the edge to pressure quarterbacks into making premature decisions.

I expect Graham to get extremely creative and progressive with his play-calling this upcoming season, especially with the addition of cornerback Adoree Jackson, who should allow Graham to return to his man coverage roots. This will allow him to send more blitzers and attack the quarterback more efficiently.

Expect to see a healthy dosage of 3-4 and 3-3-5 five formations in 2021, as the Giants have a strong combination of speed, power, and coverage abilities to help stop passing attacks. Since the NFL is becoming a passing league, defenses must prioritize skilled players in the secondary with big interior lineman up front. This 3-3-5 coverage indicates three down lineman and five defensive backs, providing three linebackers — sam, will, mic. While the Giants don’t have a plethora of linebackers for this specific formation, settling into the 3-4 with OLBs primarily makes the most sense.

Since the Giants have strong secondary players, they can utilize their OLB is to rush the passer frequently. That is where I see Ojulari making his impact, and standing him up alongside Leonard Williams should be devastating for opposing offenses.

New York Giants: No concern about Azeez Ojulari’s knee, says Gettleman

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It’s looking more and more like the New York Giants were able to get a steal in the second round of the NFL Draft. The team took Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari, who was one of the top ranked prospects at his position and definitely a first round talent. One of the main reasons for his fall into the second round is a knee problem that was reported a week before the draft. However, that problem appears to be of little concern to Dave Gettleman and the Giants.

Gettleman came out on WFAN on Monday and said that he didn’t know where the knee rumors came from. He also pointed out that the Giants had no concerns about Ojulari’s knee.

This seems in line with Ojulari’s college career. He did suffer an ACL tear in high school, but was a healthy player throughout his college career and further examination by James Andrews reportedly didn’t turn up any problems. The rumors about a degenerative knee condition came up only a week before the draft, and the exact source of where these ideas came from hasn’t been revealed.

If it’s true that there’s no real knee problems with Ojulari, it looks like the Giants came away with a massive steal due to his highly rated status before the draft. After all, some had linked Ojulari to the Giants with their first round pick in the weeks before the event. But after his slide, the Giants were able to acquire him without even spending a first round pick.

New York Giants: Azeez Ojulari might be the missing link on defense

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When the New York Giants traded back from 42 to 50th in the second round, nobody expected them to have a chance at Georgia stand out pass rusher Azeez Ojulari. However, the Giants managed to add a third-round pick in 2022 and land arguably the best pass rusher in this draft class.

It wasn’t more than two weeks ago that Ojulari was being mocked to the Giants at 11 overall, and seeing him drop to 50 was an absolute blessing from the football gods and one the Giants cashed in on immediately. Last year, Ojulari posted 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackle for a loss, and four forced fumbles, showcasing his vast array of attributes, ranging from speed to finesse on the edge.

Standing at 6’2″ and 249 pounds, Ojulari has great size for an outside linebacker, giving him bend around the edge but also agility in between the tackles. He already possesses NFL strength and explosiveness, and while he might be a bit underdeveloped against the run, Azeez is exactly what the Giants needed in terms of rushing the passer to take their defense to the next level.

Last season, the Giants defense earned 40 total tackles, which surprisingly ranked 12th in the NFL. Without Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, Big Blue deployed an outside linebacker unit composed of Carter Coughlin and Jabaal Sheard as the primary starters. The fact that those two even stood a chance against NFL-level talent was mind-blowing, as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham worked his magic.

A player like Ojulari could have a significant impact on the day, and Graham can do many different things with the Georgia stand out. Having great power with his chop moves and balance to absorb blocks and maintain his frame, the 20-year-old is just scratching the surface.

Some might even call this selection for the Giants the steal of the draft, simply based on the fact that he was projected as a first-round pick and dropped to the middle of the second round. Big Blue made some phenomenal moves to help themselves down the line in terms of adding draft capital but also provided immediate support in 2022.

One of the missing links for the Giants recently has been the presence of an established pass rusher, and Ojulari can provide that if he develops correctly.

New York Giants’ second round pick is PFF’s top rated pass rusher

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The New York Giants might have gotten the steal of the draft when they selected Azeez Ojulari. The Georgia pass rusher was one of the players linked to the Giants in some first round mock drafts, and yet he surprisingly fell out of the round altogether and the Giants were able to grab him later on.

Going into the season, a lot of people will want to know the answer to one question. Did the Giants come away with a massive steal here or was there a good reason why every team avoided Ojulari in round one?

Some signs point to the Giants finding good value. For one, a lot of experts have marked Ojulari as a player with upside and Pro Football Focus gave him the highest grade of any of the pass rushers in the draft.

Ojulari has been predicted by many to be as good as any of the others at his position. His college highlights further confirm that he’s for real. And it appears the main reason he was skipped out on in the first round was one that didn’t have to do with play.

Injury history caused teams to pass on Ojulari

A high school ACL injury appears to be part of the reason why Ojulari was passed on for so long before the Giants took him. However, this injury wouldn’t come back to affect him during his college career. He instead is the latest player to see his draft stock tumble because of something that came up late in the scouting process, near the draft itself. In fact, the health problem only came up a week before the draft was set to happen.

However, a week or so before the draft, a select group of players traveled to Indianapolis for medical checks. That’s where Ojulari was red-flagged because of a degenerative lower leg condition according to Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline. Doctors were concerned the previous injury would lead to progressive, often irreversible deterioration, and loss of function in the ligaments.

The other concern is Ojulari’s smaller size compared to other pass rushers. But based on his good performance in college, it seems unlikely that teams would wait as long as they did to take him just because of that.

It looks like the Giants are taking a gamble that his health will turn out fine and that he won’t be another player whose career is cut short by injury, but Giants fans can at least rest assured that there’s no glaring hole in Ojulari’s game that caused him to drop all the way into the second round.

And, if the Giants had reason to believe his health would be a problem, they probably wouldn’t have made the pick.