With the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft class being praised by many analysts, it is interesting to see which rookie is projected to make the biggest impact. After trading the 11th overall pick to the Chicago Bears for a package centered around the 20th overall pick and a future first rounder, the Giants selected University of Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney. The expectations are high for Toney, and he will be utilized heavily in this offense. If you were to expect that Toney would be the choice here, it would be hard to disagree. However, the player that may make the even bigger impact is Azeez Ojulari.
The Giants took edge rusher Ojulari with the 50th overall pick, after he dropped out of the first round due to reports of knee issues. Many draft experts even had the Giants selecting Ojulari at pick No. 11, so the selection being made at 50 makes the pick even more valuable.
Let’s take a look at why Azeez Ojulari may make the biggest impact among the Giants rookies in 2021.
Instant Playing Time for Giants Rookie Azeez Ojulari
Ojulari will be put onto a defense that will utilize his abilities immediately. The Giants have been missing an edge threat for some time, and Ojulari will be put directly into that role. During his final season at Georgia, he recorded 8.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The Giants already have established defensive linemen, such as Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams. The latter finished with 11.5 sacks last season exclusively from the right side. During Ojulari’s time at Georgia, he also spent a majority of his time on the right side. The impact of both rushers coming off of the same side will be a lot for offensive lines to handle. If both rush effectively, the right side should be shut down more often than not.
Strength in Pass Defense and Run Defense
Ojulari excelled in college at run defense, as many saw him as the best rush defender in this class. His five forced fumbles in his final season at Georgia will be welcomed on a Giants team that finished near the top in takeaways. Ojulari will be used as more of a pass rusher, but his ability to drop back into coverage will also be helpful. The athleticism that he has has allowed him to be seen as such a strong run defender. He is able to quickly get off the line and get around blockers. His speed and athleticism were on full display, when he ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash. This speed should translate to the NFL and will give more unathletic tackles a hard time.
Why Not Kadarius Toney?
Expectations will be extremely high for the first-round pick, and his impact will certainly be felt, eventually. The difference between Toney and Ojulari is that Toney will have to be on the offensive side of the ball. And when you’re on the offensive side of the ball, you obviously have to share. With a Giants offense now including Kenny Golladay, this means there are less balls to go around. Saquon Barkley, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram will also be fighting for touches. There is no guarantee that they will all get the ball like they would like to, and someone will undoubtedly be left out. Considering that Toney is a rookie, he may be the odd man out.
There will no doubt be an adjustment to the game for him, and it may take some time to get used to playing at the NFL level. While Toney may show flashes, his impact may not be as sudden as Ojulari will be on the other side of the ball.