A case could be made that the New York Giants came away with the top pass rusher in the entire 2021 Draft Class when they selected Azeez Ojulari in the second round. However, despite being lauded as a draft-day steal and a Rookie of the Year favorite, he’s not the Giants rookie drawing comparisons to Hall of Fame pass rushers.
Instead, that honor falls upon the shoulders of Elerson Smith — a player who the team hopes will eventually bookend Ojulari on the edge for years to come in East Rutherford.
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More Upside Than Ojulari?
That’s what Ourlads scout David Syvertsen believes. Clearly giddy over the potential the 6-foot-7-inch, 255-pound Smith possesses, the Draft expert isn’t shy about sharing his glowing opinions on the fourth-round pick.
“Best Day 3 Pick: Giants: Elerson Smith – EDGE/Northern Iowa A Jason Taylor clone,” Syvertsen tweeted. “Overlooked because of [the] program and canceled 2020 season. Unique physical tool set to go along with grit, hustle, and intelligence. More upside than round 2 pick Ojulari.”
Talk about lofty takes. To claim Smith — a 15-game starter at UNI — has more upside than Ojulari, the SEC’s reigning sack leader is one thing. Yet, to compare him to one of the most dominant pass rushers in NFL history is a whole other animal. Still, as Giants fans, we’re here for it — and frankly, we kind of get it.
A Jason Taylor ‘Clone’?
From a pure eye test, the lanky Smith certainly resembles the 6-foot-6-inch, 244-pound Taylor. On top of that, their collegiate production is eerily identical. Smith played in 38 games (15 starts) over three seasons at Northern Iowa, recording 22.0 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss. Taylor stared at Akron from 1993-96, collecting 21 sacks and 41 tackles for loss.
Now of course, if Smith could do even a quarter of the damage that Taylor did in the pros, then the Giants ultimately struck gold on Day 3. Taylor, a former 15-year veteran, spent a season apiece with the Giants’ intra-city rivals, the Jets, as well as their divisional rivals, Washington, during his playing days. With that said, he did the majority of his damage with the Miami Dolphins over his career. In total, he collected 139.5 career sacks and 46 forced fumbles, ranking seventh and fifth in NFL history, respectively.
As for Smith, he remains a tad raw as he did not play a single snap in either of his first two seasons at UNI. The good news is that with the selection of Ojulari, the free-agent additions of Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson, and the returns of Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines, Smith likely won’t be tasked with more than he can handle as a rookie. While he may take some time to come around, there’s no denying that the tools and upside are there for the 22-year-old.
For more details on Smith, here’s a scouting report by Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline:
Athletic pass rusher with terrific size and upside. Fires off the snap, shows flexibility, and plays with excellent pad level. Quickly changes direction, immediately alters his angle of attack, and chases the action in pursuit. Effectively uses his hands and slices inside blocks. Fluid when asked to twist or stunt, rushes the edge with speed, and keeps his feet moving…
Smith is an athletic pass rusher who came to the Senior Bowl bigger as well as stronger and had three good days of practice. He’s developing into a defensive end in a four-man line and comes with both growth potential and upside. Smith could be a pass-rush specialist early in his NFL career and eventually develop into a starter.
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