It’s still way too early to determine what the New York Giants truly have in rookie Azeez Ojulari. With that said, the initial reviews have been promising to say the least. Defensive captain Blake Martinez came away from OTAs highly impressed by Ojulari’s athleticism and knack for making plays, dubbing the Georgia product a “freaky-looking player.”
Martinez’s take shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Ojulari spent much of the past two years dominating SEC competition, flaunting the type of high-end traits and production (9.5 sacks & 12.5 tackles for loss in 2020) to firmly cement himself as a first-round prospect — or so one would think.
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Patrick Graham ‘Excited’ to Get His Hands on Ojulari
As The Athletic’s Dan Duggan noted leading up to the draft, questions regarding a knee injury stemming from his high school days apparently drew some red flags in NFL circles. In return, Ojulari, perceived by many as a top-20 pick and arguably the top edge rusher in the class, slipped out of the first-round and directly into the Giants’ arms in the middle part of round two.
“Trader Dave” worked his magic, as Gettleman traded down from No. 42 overall to No. 50 overall, where the team would eventually settle in and snag Ojulari. Simply put, that type of value doesn’t come around in every draft. As Ourlads Scouting’s Dan Shonka put it, Ojulari lasting until No. 50 was “a freaking steal” for the G-Men, via the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz.
By the sound of it, Shonka isn’t the only one who feels as if the Giants may have gotten away with highway robbery. The team’s defensive coordinator Patrick Graham admitted “I was excited to see him there, to be honest with you,” in regards to Ojulari lasting to the second round. Giants’ director of college scouting Chris Pettit is equally excited about the reigning SEC sack-leader, claiming Ojulari possesses “pro-ready” hands as a pass rusher.
“The thing that separated Azeez from others was he’s pro-ready with his hands,’’ said Pettit. “He’s instinctive. The guy has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He’s ultra-competitive. He has good instincts.”
Will Ojulari Start?
Take this as you may, but Kyler Fackrell, Jabaal Sheard and Markus Golden are not walking through that door this season for the Giants. This means that the team returns a total of just 2.5 sacks from the edge position from last year. With that said, the team did add Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson and fourth-rounder Elerson Smith to the mix this offseason. They’ll also be regaining the services of both Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter after spending the majority of 2020 on injured reserve.
Of the names listed above, Carter is likely the lone player you can pencil in as a starter — barring any ill effects from his torn Achilles. Prior to his injury, the 25-year-old was a crucial piece in Graham’s multi-front scheme. Carter played 98% of the team’s defensive snaps over each of the first two weeks of the year and 81%-plus in three of the first four games.
However, that still leaves a vacancy opposite of Carter in the Giants’ starting lineup. Ximines, Odenigbo and even Anderson, each have their selling points. Yet, Ojulari far surpasses them from a sheer talent level. While the 20-year-old may not be handed the starting gig in training camp, expect Ojulari to carve out a sizeable role early on in the season. And when it’s all said and done, don’t be surprised if the rookie is leading the charge for Giants’ edge rushers in the pass-rushing department.
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