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NFL Draft results: New York Giants select Northern Iowa EDGE Elerson Smith in Round 4

Giants bypass offensive line again, add high-upside pass rusher

Reese’s Senior Bowl
Elerson Smith
Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

The New York Giants on Saturday selected Northern Iowa edge rusher Elerson Smith No. 116 overall in Round 4 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

This marked the first time in the draft the Giants actually selected from their original draft slot. In Round 1, they traded down from No. 11 to No. 20 and selected wide receiver Kadarius Toney. In Round 2, they traded down from No. 42 to No. 50 and selected Georgia edge Azeez Ojulari. In Round 3, they moved up no. 76 to No. 71 to select cornerback Aaron Robinson.

The Giants are double-dipping on edge rushers, having taken Azeez Ojulari of Georgia in Round 2, No. 50 overall. Many had expected the Giants to select a guard in this spot, but they left Trey Smith of Tennessee and Deonte Brown of Alabama on the board to choose Smith, a 6-foot-6¼, 252-pound defender.

In his Smith prospect profile, BBV’s Chris Pflum wrote:

“Elerson Smith projects best as a rotational pass rusher in a multiple defense. He has the experience and ability to line up as a classic 4-3 defensive end in nickel downs, as well as an athletic 3-4 defensive end, or as a stand-up rusher from a 2-point stance.

“That versatility should give a creative defensive coordinator plenty of options for getting Smith on the field and putting him situations to win. Smith doesn’t have the kind of athleticism shared by most elite pass rushers, but his blend of size, length, and lower-body flexibility are intriguing. He also comes out of college with an idea of what to do with his hands, which should further shorten his learning curve.

“Elerson should be a good value who can give a team depth at pass rusher early on. He has the traits to develop into a reliable rotational EDGE and could have starting upside in the right situation.”

Smith didn’t play in 2020 as Northern Iowa’s season was cancelled due to the pandemic. He had 7.5 sacks for Northern Iowa in 2018 and 14.0, to go with 5 forced fumbles and 4 passes defensed, in 2019. Like Toney and Robinson, Smith is a player who excelled in the Senior Bowl.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had this to say about Smith in his annual draft guide:

Smith is a long athlete (looks more like a tight end) with the lateral quicks to cross the face of blockers and the open-field speed to make plays in pursuit. He has physical hands and plays hard, but he struggles to stack-and-shed and can be overwhelmed by blockers. Overall, Smith is an inconsistent edge-setter and struggles to play through contact, but he is a toolsy pass rush prospect with intriguing length, explosiveness and effort. He projects as a rotational outside pass rusher (some scouts are intrigued with him at tight end).

Giants round-by-round draft selections

Round 1 (No. 20) — Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Round 2 (No. 50) — Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Round 3 (No. 71) — Aaron Robinson, CB, UCF
Round 4 (No. 116) — Elerson Smith, EDGE, Northern Iowa
Round 6 (No. 196)
Round 6 (No. 201)

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