New York Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham made believers out of all of us who doubted that the Giants would be able to generate a pass rush despite not having a true blue-chipper coming off the edge.
Not only did Graham put together a scheme that resulted in 40 quarterback sacks (tying them for 12th in the league), he did so despite losing Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines to season-ending injuries early in the season, losing Kyler Fackrell for part of the season, seeing Markus Golden traded and having nothing but rookies to fill in some of the gaps.
So imagine what the Giants pass rush might look like if the team has Ximines and Carter back healthy to go along with newcomer Ifeadi Odenigbo and second-year men Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown?
General manager Dave Gettleman has given that some thought as well.
"You’re always looking to get better. Like I said, you can never have too many good players at one position, so you’re always going to look to improve," he said earlier this week. "I wish that Lorenzo (Carter) and X (Ximines) had been able to play the whole season last year, but you know what, they couldn’t, so we filled in with some guys and did the best we could. We’re going to do better."
The challenge for the Giants, who remember pick 11th overall in the first round of the draft, is that there might not be a prospective edge rusher whose value matches that draft slot. Certainly, the Giants could look to drop down the board to as low as No. 20, where it might make more sense to troll the dice on Penn State's Micah Parsons, Miami's Jaelen Phillips, or Gregory Rousseau of Michigan's Kwity Paye. Still, we're talking about a general manager who has never traded down the board in eight drafts.
MORE FROM GIANTS COUNTRY'S "DRAFT NEEDS" SERIES
- Is a Developmental QB in the Cards?
- Draft or Sign Another Running Back?
- Never Too Many Receivers
- A Tight End Now or a Later?
- More Offensive Line Help on the Way?
- What About the Defensive Hog Mollies?
There's always a first time for everything, but with there being some options on Day 2 and 3, that could be where the Giants--who, by the way, haven't spent a Day 1 pick on an edge rusher since 2010 when they drafted Jason Pierre-Paul--might pounce.
Here are three names to consider.
Azeez Ojulari (Georgia): Ojulari is a somewhat raw prospect, at 20 years old and with just two college football seasons under his belt. However, he has great versatility and explosive athleticism, giving him the ability to be disruptive from various stances and alignments. Ojulari is athletic enough to occasionally drop into coverage and help disguise pressure packages. At 6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he may not have the ideal edge length or bend, but he has the athleticism, the flexibility, and the functional strength to handle every responsibility on the edge. He can run, and he can hit. He’s very physical, too, but might not last until the second round.
Jaelen Phillips (Miami): Phillips, 6-foot-5, 266 pounds, was formerly the top recruit in the whole country and can be a franchise pass rusher at the NFL level. He has great length, size, athleticism, fluidity, body control, and technique. He looks every bit like the elite pass rusher recently drafted in the top five. His injury history is a concern--he's had multiple concussions, and he medically retired from football in 2018 before transferring from UCLA to Miami. Will his injury history scare teams off?
Joe Tryon (Washington). At 6-foot-5, 225-pounder, Tryon has shown (albeit in limited snaps) the ability to play well standing up and then rush the passer on third down with his hand in the ground. He’s very much an unfinished product, but you can’t teach his athleticism, closing speed, and open-field agility. He’ll need to get stronger and work on his overall game, but this kid’s a player who projects as a Day 2 guy.