Azeez Ojulari

Giants Sign Second-Round DE Azeez Ojulari

The Giants have locked up their second-round pick. Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari has officially signed his rookie contract, the team announced today. They also announced they’ve signed sixth-round running back Gary Brightwell and sixth-round cornerback Rodarius Williams.

Ojulari was expected by many to be a first-rounder, but medical red flags dropped him to 50th overall. If he can stay healthy, the Giants might end up getting a total steal. His upside is sky-high, as he’s coming off a season where he led the SEC in sacks at the age of 20. The Georgia product won’t turn 21 until next month.

Some analysts thought he was the most talented edge rusher in the draft when he first declared back in January. He’s got good size and explosiveness and finished with 9.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, and four forced fumbles in only 10 games in 2020. He should get plenty of playing time as a rookie.

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Giants Leaning Toward Edge Rusher In Round 1?

Having needed an edge rusher for a few years now, the Giants may be set to address this need with their top offseason resource.

They have done a lot of work on the top edge defenders in this year’s draft, and sources informed SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano the current sense is this will be the direction the team takes with its No. 11 overall pick. The Giants have spent big to fill needs at wide receiver and cornerback, in adding Kenny Golladay and Adoree’ Jackson, but have lacked a long-term, starter-caliber edge rusher since trading Olivier Vernon in 2019.

The Giants could be faced with a major decision — not exactly uncommon for them in recent drafts — if Alabama wide receiver prospects DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle remain on the board. Five quarterbacks may well go in the top 10, pushing down this offense-heavy draft’s top non-QB talents. The Giants have Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton penciled in as their top three receivers, but it should not be considered a lock the team would pass on potential value here in one of the ex-Crimson Tide stars.

New York is believed to be high on Michigan’s Kwity Paye and Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, Vacchiano adds. The former ranks as Scouts Inc.’s top draft’s top pass-rushing prospect. With Ojulari ranked outside the top 20 overall, it may be difficult to envision the Giants going in that direction over a higher-value player at 11. Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock has the Giants taking Waddle. A trade-down maneuver seems unlikely, given that GM Dave Gettleman‘s streak of never trading down has now lasted eight drafts — five in Carolina, three with New York.

Should the Giants stay at 11, they are also high on Northwestern tackle Rashawn Slater, per Vacchiano. The Giants went tackle at No. 4 overall last year and used a third-round pick on tackle Matt Peart. Nate Solder is also in line to return.

The Giants pursued Leonard Floyd, but he re-signed with the Rams. They passed on the rest of the 2020 pass rusher lot, which was rather crowded for the big-ticket position, and only kept Markus Golden via the rarely used UFA tender last year. The Giants waited until Round 7 to draft a pass rusher in 2020 and have since traded Golden and let 2020 signing Kyler Fackrell sign with the Chargers.

Gettleman passed on edge talent Josh Allen in 2019, drafting Daniel Jones instead and lost out on Chase Young thanks to a late-season win over Washington in 2019. The Giants’ need at outside linebacker has persisted, though the emergence of Leonard Williams as a sack artist may lessen the desperation at this spot to some degree.

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Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari, TCU’s Tre’von Moehrig Declare For Draft

Several high-profile collegiate prospects declared for the 2021 NFL draft yesterday. Per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com, Georgia edge defender Azeez Ojulari is foregoing his final two years of college eligibility and will enter the draft, and TCU safety Tre’von Moehrig announced on Twitter that he is also turning pro.

Ojulari is arguably the best pass rusher in the draft, and most mocks have him going off the board in the first round. He has led the Bulldogs in sacks in each of the past two seasons, and he ended the 2020 season with 9.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, and 12.5 tackles for loss. He ended his college career on a high note, having piled up three sacks and two forced fumbles in Georgia’s Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati. He took home defensive MVP honors for the game and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player.

Ojulari is lauded for the series of pass rush moves that he has already developed, which will serve as a strong foundation for his future in the pros. His technique, along with his size and explosiveness, make him an especially intriguing prospect, and the Broncos, Browns, and Vikings profile as possible landing spots.

Moehrig, meanwhile, is a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection, and many pundits — like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. — consider him to be the best safety in the 2021 class. He is a definite playmaker, having recorded nine takeaways over the past two seasons, and is a finalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He is at his best when asked to play a single-high, “centerfielder” role.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.