Heading into Thursday night's first round of the 2021 NFL Draft, the expectation was that former Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari would be selected somewhere in the first round.
However, as the clock struck zero at the end of the first round, Ojulari's name had yet to be called. So, what caused the fall to be available on the second day of the draft? Here are some possible answers:
Ojulari tore his ACL in high school, which caused him to redshirt his freshman season in Athens, only to be followed up by two consecutive seasons in which he played every game. Additionally, he won Georgia's weight-room award in the offseason leading up to his redshirt freshman season. So, by all accounts, he was a more than healthy football player.
However, some concerns popped up just before the draft that the medical information NFL teams received in Indianapolis might have raised a few red flags.
Ojulari did visit Dr. James Andrews, a well-respected surgeon in the athletic community, and Andrews sent a letter to all 32 teams assuring them that Ojulari's knee was strong and there were no concerns. That was in January, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic.
However, a week or so before the draft, a select group of players traveled to Indianapolis for medical checks. That's where Ojulari was red-flagged because of a degenerative lower leg condition according to Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline. Doctors were concerned the previous injury would lead to progressive, often irreversible deterioration, and loss of function in the ligaments.
If the the medical concerns weren't the issue, then it would have to be that his physical frame was what NFL teams were not willing to invest first-round capital. At just under 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Ojulari isn't the prototype for an NFL edge defender. Look at the profiles of the edge defenders taken ahead of him in the first round:
- Jaelen Phillips: 6-5, 266
- Kwity Paye: 6-4, 271
- Payton Turner: 6-6, 269
- Gregory Rousseau: 6-7, 265
- Jayson Oweh: 6-5, 257
- Joe Tyron: 6-5, 262
That's an average of 6-5.5 and 265 pounds.
So, it's either Ojulari doesn't have either a first-round caliber medical evaluation or frame, or it's a combination of both. He certainly has first-round caliber tape and production in the SEC over the last two seasons.
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