This year’s crop of edge rushers doesn’t have a Chase Young or a Joey Bosa type of impact player.
But try to tell Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari that this class of pass rushers of which he’s a part is uninspiring, and he’ll politely point out that there is a player among the group who’s more than capable of having that same kind of impact in the NFL.
“I just feel like I'm that guy,” Ojulari said during his pro-day media availability.
“I just feel like I've got a quick first step. I'm explosive. I use my hands well. If you beat the edge, you beat the man. I always go by that. I can bend," he said.
Ojulari isn’t just talking for the sake of hearing the sound of his own voice. The redshirt sophomore linebacker has quietly been climbing up the draft boards, most recently NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah’s board, where Ojulari rose ten spots to his current ranking of 29.
According to CBS Sports, Ojulari triumphed in his pro-day performance with 26 bench press reps, a 10’7” broad jump, and a 4.62-second 40-yard dash with a 1.61 second 10-yard split.
“I believe it was really good and will help me,” Ojulari said of his showing in front of the NFL community. “Everybody was questioning some things I could do. I just felt like I came out here and showed them.”
The Giants of late have had some modest success with linebackers who played for the Bulldogs. Lorenzo Carter, their third-round pick in 2018, looked to be on his way to a breakout season last year as a pass rusher before an early-year Achilles injury put him on the shelf. Last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Tae Crowder, played well enough to earn snaps as a starting inside linebacker alongside Blake Martinez.
The Giants, who are thought to be looking to add to their pass-rushing arsenal, have set themselves up via their free-agency activity to where they aren’t pressured to grab a player at a specific position in a certain round.
But certainly, prospects like Ojulari could draw their attention if they feel Penn State’s Micah Parsons, Miami’s Gregory Rousseau, and Michigan’s Kwity Paye aren’t the right fits and if the Giants are finally ready to trade down in the first round, where Ojulari figures to still be available.
Ojulari, who said he models his game after Bucs edge rusher Shaq Barrett, touts his versatility as a key selling point for an NFL team.
“I just feel like my versatility and the way I use my hands the way I can bend,” he said of what sets him apart from the rest of the edge rushers.
“I feel like I'm the most bendy and versatile, and I've got an explosive first step. And I can also drop in coverage, too. So you're not just getting a pass rusher out of me, you're getting all three downs. I can play all three downs for sure.”
Ojulari’s NFL rating (67.6) was fourth out of nine eligible edge players (out of nine who took part in at least 40 coverage snaps last year. Ojulari, who didn’t allow a touchdown last season, also allowed just four out of seven pass targets to be completed for 30 yards, 10 yards coming after the catch.
In three seasons for the Bulldogs, he finished with a career 79.6 rating and did not allow a single touchdown in his career coverage snaps. Graded as the second-best overall defender on the team last season, Ojulari finished as the team leader in sacks (9.5), and it wasn’t even close.
Despite all he potentially brings to a defense, Ojulari has at least one thing in mind to work on so that he can be closer to a finished product for whatever team drafts him.
“One thing I can definitely improve (is) working more counter moves,” he said. “You know, being more efficient with that."