NFL

Lance Zierlein names Giants’ Azeez Ojulari a DROY candidate

The New York Giants have been desperately trying to upgrade their pass rush the past few offseasons to little avail. They have not found the right player — or players — to carry them over the hump. In addition their schemes aren’t really conducive for outside rushers to flourish.

They think they have found the right player in Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari, who they somehow were able to get with the 50th overall selection in Round 2 of they year’s NFL draft. General manager Dave Gettleman actually traded back twice in the draft before taking Ojulari, who many pundits had rated as a first round talent.

“He’s instinctive. He’s very bright,” said Gettleman after the draft. “He plays hard, and he’s got pass rush ability and he’s also a solid run player. We’re really thankful to get him.”

“We like Azeez as a player. We have a lot of experience with him throughout this organization,” said head coach Joe Judge. “Marcus Cooper one of our scouts has great relationships with these guys. We put a lot of trust in his evaluations because he gets it know these guys on a deep basis and coincidentally actually three picks came from Coop’s area and he has a lot of inside info on these guys. On top of that, you talk about Azeez, the coach he’s going to play for, Kevin Sherrer, recruited and signed him at the University of Georgia before he was a freshman.

“You talk about the other coaches that we have on staff that had to play against him in the SEC, he’s always a guy that stood out to them on the field as someone they had to account for. I have a lot of respect for the way (Georgia Head Coach) Kirby (Smart) runs his program. I love those guys down there. I think they play tough and they are well-coached. To be able to add a guy to our team to compete with our current roster, he was a good fit for us. We are excited to have him here but like all other rookies, he’s got to come in and compete when he gets here.”

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com believes that Ojulari is one of his top 10 candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year this fall.

The Giants had way too much rush production come from their big men up front — defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who had 11.5 sacks, was the only player to post more than four last season — so they’re hoping Ojulari can give their attack more life off the edge. The tape can be a little uneven at times, but his flashes are really eye-catching. Georgia did so much rotating along their defensive front that I didn’t always feel like he was able to get into a groove. He’ll be on the field full-time for the Giants, and if the coaches can cultivate those flashes into a skilled rush, Ojulari will be a legitimate contender out of this group.

The knock on Ojulari that caused him to slide in the draft was a rumor of an old knee injury he suffered in high school. That knee injury is way in the rearview mirror these days, hence the impressive numbers he was able to achieve in the SEC at Georgia.

Full disclosure, Zierlein ranks Ojuari ninth on his list of 10. The top two are two other NFC East rookie linebackers, Micah Parsons of Dallas and Washington’s Jamin Davis.

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