How much should the New York Giants expect from second-round pick Azeez Ojulari during his rookie season?
Let’s examine the question as we continue our play-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
Contract: Year 1 of four-year, $6.774 million rookie contract | Guaranteed: $3.255 million | 2021 cap hit: $1.231 million
Career to date
Ojulari had 14.0 sacks in two seasons with the Georgia Bulldogs, including 8.5 last season. His 91.7 Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade for the 2020 season was the highest among edge rushers in the 2021 draft class.
Ojulari was the top-rated edge rusher in the class, according to Dane Brugler of The Athletic. Yet, because of questions about the long-term ramifications of a high school knee injury the Giants were able to get him at No. 50 in the second round. They traded down from No. 42 with the Miami Dolphins, adding a 2022 third-round pick.
Brugler was among the draft analysts who thought Ojulari was the best edge rusher in the class. Yours truly thought he was the perfect choice for the Giants, and could easily have supported selecting him at No. 20 in Round 1.
Yet, in a draft where there seemed to be major question marks about all of the top edge defenders, Ojulari was chosen behind Jaelan Phillips (No. 18, Dolphins), Kwity Paye (No. 21, Indianapolis Colts), Gregory Rousseau (No. 30, Buffalo Bills), Odefe Oweh (No. 31, Baltimore Ravens) and Joe Tryon (No. 32, Tampa Bay Buccaneers).
Could Ojulari outperform them all?
It probably isn’t fair to “expect” that type of performance from the 21-year-old. Ojulari is, though, certainly in the right place to have that opportunity.
He is playing for a team that lacked edge pressure a season ago and should have snaps available for him. He is in a system that is similar to the defense he played in at Georgia, where what he will be asked to do should feel familiar. He is playing for a quality, creative defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham who last season showed an ability to find and utilize what players do best.
Former Giants linebacker and current radio analyst Carl Banks told the Giants Huddle podcast that Ojulari should “pay immediate dividends” at least as a situational pass rusher.
Lorenzo Carter, if he is fully recovered from last season’s Achilles tendon tear, figures to play full time at one edge spot in the Giants’ base 3-4 defense.
The other could be a mix-and-match with Ojulari getting as much work as the Giants believe he is capable of handling. Oshane Ximines, Cam Brown, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson and fourth-round pick Elerson Smith could all be in the running for situational playing time at that spot.
Earlier this offseason, I asked BBV’s Nick Falato to come up with stat predictions for Giants rookies. It’s not scientific, but here is what Falato came up with for Ojulari:
- 16 games, 14 starts
- 45 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss
- 6 sacks, 31 pressures, 2 PBUs, 2 forced fumbles
Here are a few comparisons:
In 2017, T.J. Watt (30th, Pittsburgh Steelers) had 7.0 sacks, 54 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits. Anderson, drafted 49th, had 0 sacks, 15 tackles and 2 quarterback hits.
In 2018, Uchenna Nwosu (48th, Los Angeles Chargers) had 3.5 sacks, 28 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits.
In 2019, Ben Banogu (49th, Indianapolis Colts) had 2.5 sacks and 5 quarterback hits. Josh Allen, selectd one pick after Daniel Jones by the Jacksonville Jaguars, had 10.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 23 quarterback hits. Brian Burns, taken one pick before Dexter Lawrence, had 7.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits.
In 2020, Yetur Gross-Matos (38th, Carolina Panthers) had 2.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits.
Vote in the poll at the bottom of the story and let us know if you are taking the over or under on 6.0 sacks for Ojulari as a rookie.
More on Ojulari
We’re putting the over/under for sacks by rookie edge rusher Azeez Ojulari at 6.0. Which are you taking?
This poll is closed