2021 Draft Pick Scouting Reports
1st Round – WR Kadarius Toney, 6’0”, 193lbs, 4.38, University of Florida
Scouting Report: Toney is an average-sized receiver who plays bigger than his size (6’0”, 193 pounds), with decent speed and outstanding balance and quickness. Versatile, Toney was used outside, in the slot, and even out of the backfield at Florida. He has tremendous acceleration and change-of-direction skills, which makes him very dangerous after the catch. He creates separation and makes defenders miss. Toney needs work on reading defenses, route running, and overall technique. Toney also has experience rushing and returning the football. He has a strong arm and can even throw the ball. Tough, Toney will play hurt but has been somewhat injury prone. He has had some off-the-field issues.
Sy’56’s Take: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. One-year starter that was a key part of the offense all four years. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Toney saved his best for last as a senior. He broke out in a big way and finally translated potential into real production. He did more in 2020 than his three previous seasons combined, partially because of the amount of talent the Gators had ahead of him on depth chart before this past fall. Toney has joystick quickness and change of direction whether he is running routes or carrying the ball. He is the kind of guy that can miss contact in the phone booth and will always fight for more yards. Toney plays bigger and tougher than his frame suggests. It will be hard to find a more competitive spark plug than him. There are concerns around character and durability and he needs a specific role. The right offensive mind can make him a dangerous weapon though, one that can really elevate an offense as a whole.
There are some teams that have Toney in the top 5 according to one of the very few media resources I trust and speak with. That really surprises me. I won’t give details here but there are a few serious red flags with character, and I just don’t see Toney having a high ceiling. He is as tough as they come, and I love his stop-go quickness. He will make plays with the ball in his hands. But there is a cap to his speed, he doesn’t play very big, and there are a lot of shortcomings I see when it comes to routes/ball skills/awareness etc. Really intrigued to see where he goes.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
Opening Statement: We made a trade back. Obviously it was too good an opportunity. It added too much value, and we felt very comfortable with where our board was and we felt comfortable with who would be there, who would be available in that slot. So we made it. We did it. So we added a 1 and a 4 next year. Another pick for this year and another pick for next year. We were very pleased we were able to make the play.
As far as Kadarius is concerned, one of the off-season goals was to add weapons on offense and Kadarius, certainly he’s a good-size kid. He’s strong. He can run. He catches the ball well and he’s a very tough kid and he’s got return skills. So we were thrilled that he was there for us at that spot. So that’s where we’re at.
Q. How surprised are you by the Eagles making a trade with the Cowboys to get ahead of you? I know you mentioned division teams don’t really trade. The way they got Smith, how much did that influence your decision to move back?
A: That was part of it. Howie (Roseman) is not afraid to trade with anybody. I had a conversation with him earlier in the week and he said, ‘Dave, do you have any problems trading with me?’
I said, ‘No, if it works for both of us, it works for both of us.’ They made the trade and we decided to trade back.
Q. How much stronger do you guys view next year’s class compared to this one and how important was it for you to get that additional first-round pick next year?
A: It was very important. It was very important to get the first round pick next year. As I told you guys at my pre-draft presser, there’s a lot of unknowns here with this group and plus a lot of kids went back and took advantage of the NCAA giving them an additional year of eligibility. That obviously played into our thinking.
Q. Can you explain how things worked with Chicago? How did it work when you guys were actually on the clock?
A: What happened was we had called around and you do that calling and I had spoken to Ryan Pace, and I had heard he was interested in moving up, so I called him. When I spoke to him, he said, ‘Yes, we’re very interested.’ And then the conversations begin.
I spoke to Ryan today before the Draft and I spoke to him again. He called me again somewhere around the 7th pick, somewhere in there, and then we got on the clock and from there, Kevin Abrams took over and finished off the trade.
Q. How close was your group at 20? Was it an obvious choice? Were there three or four guys?
A: No, he was the next guy up for us. He was the next guy.
Q. If there were other people at 11, you would not have made the trade. Did the fact that there were only three quarterbacks taken kind of force your hand here a little bit and is it a little bit disarming when you see two cornerbacks come off the board, two Alabama receivers come off the board and you’re thinking, I’m going to get this guy, I’m going to get this guy and you realize, I’m not getting any of them, we have to pivot to Plan B here.
A: We had really talked this through, me, Joe, Chris Mara, Tim McDonnell, Kevin Abrams and Mark Koncz, we had all discussed thoroughly, really looked at our board. We had a lengthy meeting on Monday and we followed it up with another meeting on Wednesday and so we really — we knew what we wanted. We knew where we wanted to go and we knew at which point we would consider a trade back and that’s where you get the other piece of it where we’re calling teams behind us.
So we had thoroughly — and then we met again at 6 o’clock tonight to just constantly review and talk it through and it was a great group effort and we all felt very — we all felt very together on the decision. And we made it.
Q. Do you think Toney is a step down from that cluster of Alabama receivers? Is he close?
A: We’re thrilled to have him. We’re thrilled to have Kadarius Toney, okay. He is a big kid. He’s a good-sized kid who can fly. He’s got really good hands. He’s got great run-after-catch skills. We’re thrilled to have him.
Q. When a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers is pressuring his team to trade him, do you call over to a team and say, what’s going on, just due diligence?
A: No, it’s none of my business. Very frankly, we’ve told you guys over and over and over again, we believe in Daniel. It would have cost — it’s going to cost a motherload for anybody to get him — even though he’s 37 years old.
Q. Were you surprised by the Eagles moving up ahead of you, but not only moving up ahead of you, but with the Cowboys? Seems like it’s rare in-division like that and going for a receiver and taking one right there.
A: I think I said it earlier. Howie is not afraid to trade with people in the division. Howie called me and I told him, I said, ‘Yeah, I got no problem trading with you.’ It’s a business deal. That’s what it is. It’s a business deal. And one hand washes the other, so obviously Dallas was happy with their return. So they made the trade with Philly. It’s not a big deal.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q. With Kadarius (Toney), do you see him as a finished product or is this a receiver that you can bring in your building and go from where he was last year to reach a ceiling that maybe you guys are projecting going forward?
A: Look, every pick in this draft is a projection. There’s not a single player who is NFL ready. Let’s not make that mistake. Everybody here needs development and part of the evaluation is identifying how high their ceiling is. We’re excited about adding him to our team. There’s a lot of things he can do and has a lot of versatility, but like every rookie coming in here, they’ve got to earn what they get and we’re going to work them multiple positions to find their strengths. We can’t assume what we saw on college tape is the best fit for them.
Q. Joe, can you speak to the roller coaster of emotions as the first round was unfolding, and I know Dave just addressed the fact that you guys addressed the possibilities, and the fact that it was Philadelphia, as you know as well as anybody are not very well liked in these parts that made that trade a jump ahead of you, that dynamic, can you speak to that?
A: Yeah, just first on the trade, trades happen a lot. Normally doesn’t happen within the division but hey, look, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. They made a move that worked for them and that was a good business move. That being said, in terms of the roller coaster of emotions, you just let the round play out. Evaluate all these players for a reason. You never know how it’s going to shake out. You know where you want to take certain guys. You know what you’re looking to fill in terms of best player available and some positions of need. We are very happy how it turned out but we added great value.
Let’s not mistake that these picks, they are people, so let’s not forget about that. You’re adding people to your team. You know, you talk about the value of having good, young developmental players to work with, and we just went through a season of free agency, okay, where we invested a lot in a team by adding veterans to our team and this is an opportunity to get more picks to add good young developmental players to our team, whether it’s this year or next.
Q. Curious if you had a point where you wouldn’t have felt comfortable going back, was 20 as far as you would go and did you expect that Toney would be there or were you not sure when you made the move?
A: Yeah, you know what to be honest with you, you evaluate the players, you’ve got their value to the team. You can never assume anyone is going to be there. There’s a lot of good players in this draft and there’s a lot of teams that want those players for one reason or another. In terms of a point we wouldn’t go back, again, we’re always willing to listen to whatever comes our way. It’s the value of the trade relative to who you’re looking at right there. For us it was a good move. We’re pleased the way it turned out. We got a good player that’s going to be able to come in and compete with our team and we have more assets to use in the future.
Q. Most people thought three quarterbacks, four quarterbacks would go before you picked and obviously only three did. Once you saw that happening, did you get a sense, oh, these two or three guys, we thought one of them would definitely be there was not going to be there?
A: No, we played out every scenario beforehand, as Dave alluded to, we have lengthy meetings and a lot of ‘what ifs’, and that’s the way we operate, as well as the coaching staff throughout the season. It’s our job to talk through the scenarios, so when a situation arises we have a course of action and plan we can go and execute.
Q. Kadarius had some injury issues at Florida and “character” issues, some things that needed to be investigated. You couldn’t get him in your building and really get to know him, how did you figure that out and figure he’s a guy that’s worth a 20th pick?
A: You know, the skill and the person has to add up together. We fully vetted every player on this board. We are very comfortable bringing him to New Jersey. We are very comfortable adding him to our roster to compete with other players on the team. Listen, we use every resource we have, okay, Jeremy Pruitt who is in our building, Jeremy recruited him out of high school. So we have people in this building with established relationships who have known this guy through the course of not only being in college, but going back to when they were in high school developing as a player.We have numerous coaches that spent a long time recruiting, have had this guy in summer camps for multiple days at a time and had extended exposure to him. We had guys at the pro day. We had Zoom meetings that were allotted by the league; we used those, phone calls. We have a great medical staff and we trust them to decisions for by the medical. I’m not a doctor, so I trust Ronnie Barnes and his staff. In terms of anything else off the field, again, look, it’s no secret I’m pretty particular about who I bring into this building, okay. I think sometimes you have to understand the person, and you have to understand the character on a deeper level than what just may be Tweeted out.
Q. Joe, we haven’t spoken to you in a while, can you talk about the offensive overhaul going back to the middle of March?
A: We are looking to improve our team in all three areas, offense, defense, and the kicking game. Working through free agency there were some offensive players that were available we thought could come in here and compete with our team and possibly improve us through competition. We are looking to do the same thing with defense and the kicking game as well. We are not a finished product by any means in any area and we are always looking to improve. If there’s a good player out there, we are looking to add them if they fit what we are looking to build.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. A lot of scouting reports about Kadarius [Toney] describe him as a gadget player. How do you describe his skill set?
A: He’s a playmaker. He’s instinctive, he’s tough, makes a lot of plays with the ball in his hands. We feel he has flex inside and out. He also has value as a returner for us. Like I said, this is an instinctive, tough guy with very good athletic ability and speed.
Q. There were some character concerns in the background. Joe said you dug into that, talked to him and people who knew him. What’s that process like when you’re trying to dig into a prospect like that and are you just talking to a lot of people? How does that work exactly?
A: Well, our scouts in the fall talk to everyone they know on campus via Zoom and phone calls, we work them, every player, all fall. We had a chance to meet [Kadarius] down at the Senior Bowl. We spent time with him in person to get to know the person there and that continues. Then our security staff goes through every check that we do on every player.
Listen, if there was a concern with him, he wouldn’t have been on our board. And like Joe [Judge] said, we thoroughly vetted him through Zooms and phone calls throughout this process of the spring.
Q. This kid was a high school quarterback I believe. How is he as a receiver and can he play some gadget plays for you at quarterback?
A: Gadget plays at quarterback? That’s up to Joe and Jason [Garrett] and his staff. But he did; he has excellent athletic ability. He’s versatile. That’s what we like about him but like every player in the draft, he’s raw, every player in the draft and every player has to develop into a pro. So, it will take some time but this guy is a playmaker with the ball in his hands.
Q. The natural comp, he went to the same school as Percy Harvin; how similar or different they are?
A: Percy is a little before my time but both fast and playmakers. There’s a comp there, I’m sure.
Q. Is he a guy that you envisioned when you look at him as being in the backfield or the guy that can do that?
A: Again, that’s up to Jason and Joe and their staffs, what they do with him. He’s instinctive and smart enough to do that but like we said, the best thing about him, we feel he can play inside and out and add another weapon to our offense.
Q. Obviously so much was made about the top three receivers in this class. I’m just curious from your perspective, how do you see Kadarius in that second group or how close is he to the top three guys?
A: He was close enough, we felt like he was the best player available at the time we took him. I don’t know if there was a big separation, if I can say that, but like I said, he’s right up there and he was worthy of a first-round pick, so that shows you what we think of him.
Q. Last week you and Dave [Gettleman] talked about how there’s development but also when you bring in a guy, you want him to contribute. Is Kadarius close enough to being a polished receiver where you think he could come in or is there still developmental stage? I know that is for all rookies, but how close is he to being a part of this offense from the jump?
A: He’s close. He’s played at a high level at Florida. Made a lot of big plays on a big stage, so I think he’s ready mentally. He’s tough. He’ll be ready to go.
Q. I know he was down at Senior Bowl. Did getting in front of him in person, is that an important part of vetting a guy like this and actually looking him in the eyes, especially this year?
A: Absolutely. We actually met with him the first night down there, one of our last interviews and we got to spend a lot of time with him. Really great to meet him and get that face-to-face at that point in the scouting process and then watch him throughout the rest of the spring throughout the Zooms, more and more time, really get to know him and get to know the person and feel really good about him.
Q. Did you take extra time on the Friday or did you have a long meeting?
A: We had a long meeting, it was one of the last ones of the night, like I said, and we got to spend a little extra time than was allotted. So, it was really good.
Q. What do you remember about that meeting? What struck you and did you come out of that meeting saying that this is a guy that we could see on our team?
A: Yeah, it was, we were all tired, that process down there was pretty strenuous of going back-to-back to back of these long interviews which was great. But it was late in the night and we were tired. We were talking through plexiglass and everyone had masks on, and he brought energy at that point. We love that. He brought energy to the room, to the conversation. Was easy to talk to. Was open and honest and we loved everything about that conversation.
Q. That was the first time you got to meet him person-to-person?
A: That’s the only time, actually, person-to-person throughout this process with the rules the league set out.
Q. I would imagine in your evaluation of him, you’re thinking of him as a guy if he’s in the second round, because if there’s no trade you’re not taking him at 11. Two questions; is that true? Do you look at him and say, we love it if he’s in the second round for him?
A: Obviously we had a first-round grade on him. That’s the value. I did not think he would be there in the second round. Any time you get him, it’s a great value for him.
Q. For someone like you who evaluates all the players, when you see the players coming off the board, what is your sense as a guy who is thinking, okay, we are going to get the cornerback, this receiver, and then the trade? Is there a sense of deflation, like, okay, now we have to do this all over again in a half hour?
A: No. No. Because again, you let the board come to you, and I think that trade was an excellent trade to get assets for us for the future. You know, we get another first round player, which is potentially another first round starter. That’s an excellent, excellent opportunity for us. We had to take advantage of that.
Media Q&A with Kadarius Toney (Video):
Q: We were talking to Joe Judge and the front office and they were talking about how you guys spoke for a while at the Senior Bowl. What do you remember about those conversations? What was your impression of the Giants coaches? And what did you think when they picked you?
A: Really, the conversation back then was just trying to figure me out and stuff. It was so early in the process. What I thought about the coaches, I kind of took them as they came. They were very serious, so I made sure on my end that I was up to par, like on point.
Q: Where did you think you were going to go? Obviously, there was a cluster of the Alabama receivers and [Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr] Chase and then there was maybe a group after that. How do you look at them compared to you? Do you think you’re in like the second tier or do you think you’re as good as anybody in this draft? Where did you kind of get a sense of where you fit in?
A: Really, I don’t even like try to compare myself to nobody, I just try to be the best version of myself that I can. Throughout this process, I didn’t really envision myself going anywhere but a place that I was wanted. By them really just taking a chance on me it shows me like who was really in my corner the whole time.
Q: Did you think you were a first round pick the whole way?
A: Yeah, for sure. I feel like ever since I was little this was my dream, so I’ve been striving to be that ever since.
Q: For people who don’t play, what do you bring to the Giants offense?
A: A lot of dynamic versatility.
Q: During the process, how many questions did teams have about some of the off-field stuff you had early in your career at Florida?
A: Right now, everybody’s not really concerned about anything that happened off the field because that was like two, three years ago.
Q: If somebody gives you a call later tonight, a good friend, somebody from the family, what are you going to tell them about this experience tonight and what it’s going to mean to you to be a New York Football Giant?
A: I would say this whole experience was kind of special, kind of eye-opening, too. I really can’t even describe the kind of feeling that I felt once my phone started ringing. Just emotion. It was really a lot to digest.
Q: Do you feel like you’re joining an iconic franchise?
A: It’s kind of crazy. Growing up watching NFL football sometimes, like me just going to a team that – Eli Manning was there, Odell [Beckham Jr.] was there, Tiki Barber, everybody. A lot of people were a part of this franchise and I’m just next in line to do something special.
Q: You have a history of playing quarterback in high school. What has that done for your game? Do you feel that that’s helped you maybe grasp the receiver routes and all the stuff that receivers do a little bit better than if you didn’t have that experience?
A: I really feel like it helped me as far as learning plays, learning the offense, seeing things and defenses, and recognizing coverages on the run and on the move. I think it helped a lot in my game.
Q: Who were some of the players that you sort of modeled your game after that we would know of obviously in the NFL? And how do you envision yourself fitting into an offense that already has a lot of weapons on offense at wide receiver?
A: I’d say my game is kind of like Davante Adams, (Alvin) Kamara, like just quick, dynamic, explosive. Because Kamara, he’s really explosive and really elusive. Really coming into an offense that’s already full or packed, I want to just play my role. Whatever my job is, do it to the best of my ability.
Q: There aren’t a lot of wide receivers who would name a running back as a comparison to themselves.
A: Because I’m versatile. A lot of people can’t play running back.
Q: A lot of people say that you still have room to develop as a route runner and things like that. Where do you feel like you have room to grow as a player?
A: I mean, I’d agree. I’m really just embarking on my journey of really playing receiver – like my third-and-a-half year really just grasping receiver, so I feel like I’ve got a lot to really learn and a lot to grasp. I feel like I’m in the right position, the right system and the right organization to really learn and grasp a lot of things early.
Q: Can you take us through who called you first to let you know they were taking you?
A: I won’t get into names, but I’m just thankful. I won’t get into the names, I don’t want you to know everything.
Q: What was the message from Joe Judge when you spoke to him tonight?
A: It was more of comforting. If he didn’t believe in me he would not have took a risk, took a chance on me, so really thankful for that right now.
Q: Have you spoken to any future teammates? Has anybody reached out to you yet?
A: No, not yet.
Q: What do you know about New York and what do you know about the Giants in general?
A: I know New York is kind of big, it’s crazy, the ‘Big Apple.’ I don’t really know a lot about New York because I’ve never been. I never traveled a lot. But I feel like it’s a lot to learn about the Giants that I don’t know. I feel like I don’t know anything right now. Right now, I’m trying to find the quickest thing I can learn and move forward. Honestly, I’m thinking about the playbook right now, as far as learning right now.
Q: What about living here, coming here, changing your life, uprooting yourself?
A: I’m always on the move regardless anyway. I was never like an at home person, I’m always moving around, so I don’t think it’s really going to be tough for me to adjust. You got to get used to waking up earlier to get wherever I got to go and stuff, but it ain’t no problem.
Q: Were you overshadowed at all in this process by your teammate [Falcons Tight End] Kyle Pitts and obviously how high he was drafted? And with how exciting of a player he is, do you feel like you flew under the radar a little bit here and what was it like seeing him go that high as well?
A: I was really happy for Kyle to go that high. Like I expected him to go high. I expected Kyle Trask to go high, too. Like I expected a lot of people to go high from my team because that’s the kind of players we are. We just work and are dedicated, but I didn’t feel like I was overshadowed or anything. I just feel like I played my part well and did what I had to do when I had to do it.
2nd Round – LB Azeez Ojulari, 6’2”, 249lbs, 4.63, University of Georgia
Scouting Report: Ojulari is an edge rusher who combines good size (6’2”, 249 pounds) with excellent overall athleticism. Natural pass rusher who also plays hard. He threatens tackles with his initial quickness, bend, rip move, and closing burst. Ojulari has long arms for his size and is physical with his hands. Ojulari needs to disengage from blockers more consistently and will need to add inside pass rush moves to his arsenal. He flashes pass coverage skills but he will need work in this area. Improving player who has a big upside.
Sy’56’s Take: Third year sophomore entry from Marietta, Georgia. A two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020. The semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award led the SEC in tackles for loss and sacks in 2020, a year after leading the Bulldogs in sacks and pressures. Ojulari is a mature, hardworking kid that gets the most out of his talents. He won team-awards for most improved player in 2019 as well as one for his efforts during the offseason strength and conditioning program. Ojulari was also a team captain in 2019, the first time a freshman has earned that honor in the Coach Smart era. This is a kid that has high-end talent that can be used in multiple ways for a defense, and it is paired with top notch intangibles. His game really started to blossom as the 2020 season came to a close. He finished with 5 sacks over his last 3 games. Ojulari still has more physical development to achieve, as he will need to add functional weight to play the every down edge in the NFL, but his versatility, talent, and intangibles will make him a dangerous defensive weapon and he can be one of the best when things come together.
No inside information here. I think Ojulari is on the NYG short list for #11 overall. I’m not exactly sure what NYG is looking to add to their outside pass rush. Do they want a pure burner (what Carter was supposed to turn into, and still can), or do they want an inside-out versatile piece? If it is the former, Ojulari is a very strong possibility. I think he has the best get off in the group. That is a great place to start. I also believe who he is as a person will be exactly what NYG wants to add.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
So we traded back to 50. We got a third round pick in ‘22 and picked up Azeez Ojulari, who we are really thrilled to get. He’s an edge pass rusher. He’s instinctive. He’s very bright. 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.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q: Can you speak about the importance of getting some edge pass rushing in there? The Giants defense for years, it used to be an automatic with pass rushers and it’s been an issue for you particularly on the outside?
A: First off, I was pleased with the progress we made on defense last year with the guys on our roster. We had injuries that affected guys like Zo (Lorenzo Carter) and X-man (Oshane Ximines), and we had some rookies. And obviously we had some rookies had to come in and step up and got good contribution from guys like Jabaal Sheard when they were on the team. So we didn’t look at this in the nature of, you know, that we had to absolutely go out there and address something, or else it was going to be dire. We have confidence in the guys we have on our roster. We like Azeez (Ojulari) as a player. We have a lot of experience with him throughout this organization. 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.
Q. With Azeez, it’s out there that there was a knee problem and some teams actually flagged him. Where did you guys stand on that?
A: Yeah, listen, I don’t think there’s a player in this draft or any draft for that matter that doesn’t have something that shows up on a board. I trust our medical team, Ronnie (Barnes) and his guys do a great job. We have some of the best doctors in the world who look in these guys and constantly update us on what they think the current risk is. All I can go back to is this guy came back, he played, this guy doesn’t miss practices at Georgia. He played with very high effort, high intensity. I’m very pleased with what you saw on tape in terms of the medical expertise. I leave that on Ronnie Barnes and his staff and I let them go ahead and give us the information, and with that information make the decisions.
Q. We know about your connection with Kirby and talking about that Georgia program, how much does that help with transition, and is what they do similar to what you do schematically?
A: I would say the answer in terms of the terminology or maybe some of the concepts of the defense, there are similarities to that. It’s all basically off the same branch of the defensive tree and philosophy from different coaches in the past. However, it doesn’t matter where you come from. None of these rookies have a leg up on anyone. They come in and have to learn our league and system and compete with our vets from on the roster. Just being from a certain school doesn’t give anyone a leg up on anything. You have to come in — the National Football League is completely different from college. You have to learn a lot of things about it: The speed of the game, the tempo of the game. So it’s nice that he’s from a familiar system, but past, you know, day one install meetings and basic terminology, that’s the only jump he’ll have on anybody else.
Q. What is your relationship like with Kirby Smart and is there a quality in the players that he coaches that stands out? Because you have drafted three guys from there in the last year, whether that’s a coincidence or not.
A: Well, I think the coincidence would be that he just coaches really good players. They do a great job of recruiting top talent and develop them over the course of time they are there. Those players work hard and player hard and understand the value of playing old school, fundamental, physical football. That’s really what draws to us. Me and Kirby we worked three years at Alabama. I have a lot of respect for him as a person and I have a lot of respect for him as a coach. When you know where someone is coming from, you have a little bit of insight in how you can coach them, okay, what really makes them tick and how they respond in adverse situations.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. What’s that moment like when you trade back from 42 to 50, and Azeez is very much in the conversation at 42, are you waiting every pick or were you sweating it out?
A: We had a bunch of guys that we really liked there and like I said before, you’ve just got to be patient. You can’t get too high or too low and the board will come to you. You have to trust it. When you have a group of guys there, it makes you feel better as the time and picks go by. Azeez was 1 in the group and he was there and he was the right player for us.
Q. You hear a bunch of things about Azeez as a pass rusher, and some people say he’s the best pass rusher in the Draft. They don’t usually last till 50. So where do you see him as a pass rusher and is he a legitimate edge guy now that you guys added to your team?
A: Yeah, I believe so. The thing that separated I think Azeez from others was he’s pro-ready with his hands. He had real good hand use. He’s instinctive. The guy has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He’s ultra competitive. He has good instincts. He had good hand use for being an underclassman that we liked.
Q. Curious what you would have thought if I told you on like Thursday morning that Azeez would be there at pick 50? Is that something you expected or were surprised by?
A: I wouldn’t say I was surprised or expected. I was wishful. I’d be wishful that was a possibility, along with the other players we had in the group there. But I’m really excited to have Azeez. To bring a pass rusher to our defense, another one, another young pass rusher that we can develop, I’m excited.
Media Q&A with Azeez Ojulari (Video):
Q: A lot of people thought you would go a lot earlier for you. How has this process been for you and how is your knee?
A: This process was a great process, just talking to teams, building those relationships and just being able to be a Giant. I’m just happy to be here. I’m just ready to get to work. My knee is good. Everything is good and solid. Everything is perfect.
Q: Hey Azeez, congratulations. Just caught a little bit of a snippet when you were announced on TV from an old buddy, Andrew Thomas, who is now your teammate again. What was that like tonight? The wait? Did you know it would be the Giants? What was your reaction – describe it when it happened.
A: It was crazy when I got the call, man. I saw a New York on it so I just picked it up. I was just so happy to be on the phone with the Giants. It was electric. It was a great moment for me and my family and Drew (Andrew Thomas) being in the house, too.
Q: You and Drew were pretty close, right? Did I read that?
A: Yes, he was my roommate.
Q: He was the toughest tackle you ever gone against?
A: Definitely. Definitely was.
Q: Hi Azeez, congratulations. Sorry, I’m sure you thought you got away from me down here in Athens. Was it excruciating at all having to wait? I guess you ultimately don’t really know when you’re going to go, but projections were really high for you. Were you hurting there for a while or confused?
A: No. I just know I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be a Giant. I just waited my turn and wait for my opportunity to come and now it’s here. Now, I’m just happy and ready to be a Giant, for sure.
Q: Azeez, I know (Georgia Head Coach) Kirby Smart and Joe Judge have connections. Have you heard anything about what you’ll be coming into?
A: Definitely. Georgia has some similarities to the Giants defense. I’ve been through it a lot. I feel like I’ll be good with the scheme and everything coming in. I’m just ready to get to work and learn – learn from the best.
Q: Hey Azeez, congratulations. There are some people who say you are the best past rusher in this draft. First question, what do you think about that?
A: Definitely. I mean, everyone has their own opinions, but definitely I believe that. I’m just confident in my game. I’m just ready to go to work with the New York Giants and show everybody what I can do.
Q: Second question, real quick. If you are the best pass rusher, they don’t normally last to number 50. What does that say to you? Does that kind of anger you or do you care about that at all?
A: I’m just blessed to be a Giant. I’m ready to work. When I get there, I just have to go get in the playbook to learn the scheme and everything. I’m just ready to show them what I can do. That’s it.
Q: Hey Azeez, what does it mean to you to go to a team that has your college roommate in Andrew Thomas, Tae Crowder is there, Lorenzo Carter is a Georgia alum – what does it mean to you to be joining up with all these guys that I imagine you’re pretty familiar with?
A: It’s just great just having my brothers up there already. They’re people that I have conversations with. It would be great for me to come in there and learn from them. They’ve been there, so they can teach me and tell me things. So, I just can’t wait to get up there with those guys and be ready to work.
Q: How would you describe what type of player you are to Giants fans who maybe aren’t familiar with you?
A: I’m definitely relentless. Effort is never a question. I’m an all-around player. I can rush the passer, stop and run, drop in coverage or whatever I have to do to help the team, I can do it.
Q: Azeez, congratulations man. What did you think – I mean you’re a guy who has played, you practiced, and then they tell you, or did you even know – that your knee was going to be a problem for teams?
A: No. I didn’t know at all. I was fully healthy the last two seasons at Georgia. I didn’t know anything. I just didn’t know. I’m blessed to be a Giant. I’m happy and ready to get to work.
Q: What was your interaction with Kevin Sherrer? Was he your coach? Did you work for him a lot? How well do you know him?
A: Oh yeah, Coach Sherrer. He recruited me when I was coming into Georgia, so our relationship is already there, for sure. I’ve learned things from him, from watching film and tape and coming into Georgia. We really have a good bond going in, for sure.
Q: Hi Azeez, congratulations. I just got in a little late. I apologize if this is a repeat, but could you describe your pass rushing ability and how you feel it’ll translate immediately in the NFL given what you’ve seen?
A: I have good speed and strength. I can convert speed to power. I can beat the guy off the edge and beat him inside. I can affect the quarterback a lot. I’m just coming in knowing I’m ready to work and contribute and I’m ready to do whatever I have to do.
Q: Just as a quick follow up, in your conversations with Coach Judge and what not and whomever it is you spoke to, what amount did you speak to him about how much they are in need of pass rushing help? How aware are you of that?
A: It was one of the needs, for sure. We definitely had conversations throughout the whole process, daily. I’m blessed to be here. I’m blessed to be a Giant today. I’m ready to get there and contribute.
Q: Azeez, congrats. A lot of the best players in Giants history, most revered players, are pass rushers – Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, etc. What do you think of trying to live up to those expectations and live up to those kinds of names putting on this jersey at that position?
A: Seeing all of those great Giants that came through there, I just know I have to come in ready to work and put it all on the table to give it all you got. Give it all you got for those great guys that played before us. I just have a lot of respect for those players, so you have to give it all you got and do what I can do.
Q: Real quick, Kadarius Toney, did you – I didn’t have time to double check on this schedule – but what do you think of him as a player and a fellow SEC guy, offensive weapon? What do you think of him as a player and a weapon?
A: Man, Kadarius Toney is a beast. He’s shifty. He can shake anything. He can beat you. He has speed. Man, I can’t wait to see him play. Just know he’s a dog, for sure.
Q: Azeez, you said you knew the Giants needed an edge rusher. When they’re on the clock at number 42, are you waiting for your phone to ring right there?
A: I was waiting. I was waiting on it all day.
Q: When in your conversations with Andrew did you guys start talking about becoming teammates and when did it become more and more realistic for you guys?
A: Just basically when he got drafted. When he got drafted, we thought about it. It could happen one day. So, we were like, ‘It would be cool for us to be teammates coming from Georgia. That would be nice.’ And look at us now, teammates.
Q: Hey Azeez, just on a personal level, what do your friends call you? Do they call you Z? They call you AO? They call you Zeez, or what?
A: Yes, they call me Z. Sometimes they call me vibranium. No, they call me mostly Z, though. It’s what it is the most times, Z.
Q: Okay, and the other question I have is, one of the guys you’ll probably be competing with for time is Lorenzo Carter. How close are you with him?
A: Lorenzo is my brother, definitely, for sure. He played at Georgia. I’m ready to get there and work with him and just learn things from him and just ready to get to work.
Q: Hey Azeez, congratulations man. Azeez, I noticed you have that one signature move that you love to go to, to get the quarterback. I’m curious, who helped you develop your moves in rushing and what’s one part of your game that you feel you need to improve at?
A: I’d say my time at Georgia, just working there every single day since I was a freshman. I was finding the move that worked for me and I just kept doing that. Once I found it, I just kept going to it and adjusting off of it when I had to. Thanks to Georgia and my time there, it just helped me with everything I need to do. I will definitely be using it for sure.
Q: Azeez, quickly, did you get better competing with Andrew Thomas in practice a lot?
A: Definitely, every day. Every single day competing. Good on good, everyday.
3rd Round – CB Aaron Robinson, 6’0”, 190lbs, 4.39, University of Central Florida
Scouting Report: Robinson is a tough, aggressive, athletic slot corner with decent size (6’0”, 190 pounds). He plays a physical game. Speedy, he can run with receivers deep. Robinson is better in press man coverage than off coverage. He will play the run but needs to be a more consistent tackler.
Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Deerfield Beach, Florida. Began his career at Alabama in 2016 where he played in 13 games. Transferred to Central Florida in 2017 and redshirted. Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Robinson has the pro-caliber foot speed and burst that enables him to stay sticky to his man on all levels of the route tree. He can play the game with his feet rather than getting too grabby with his hands. Robinson has a lot of dog in him. He is always one of the toughest players on the field and he knows it. Even though he needs to control where he gets aggressive and where to gamble, he is the kind of player that elevates the energy of a defense. That doesn’t occur much from cornerbacks. His size may keep him at nickel but he can play both.
There are some corners that elevate their game with swagger. They are constantly getting in fights, constantly running their mouth. I understand that isn’t an approach for everyone to get behind, but I personally love it. Much prefer that than guys on opposing teams laughing with each other all game and trading jerseys afterward. Robinson hates his opponent every week, and he plays like it. He also has really well developed technique and footwork. Little gamble here, but I think he is starting in the league within a year or two.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
In the third round, we swapped spots with Denver and wanted to move up. Obviously we’re working on defense and we picked Aaron Robinson, who is a nickel, who has got the ability to play nickel and outside the perimeter, and he’s an excellent tackler, ball hawk. He’s got all the stuff… And then with the value we had on Aaron, I just didn’t want to sit and wait. We just felt — he’s a press corner and really fits what we want to do and who we want to be on defense.
Q. You guys have invested some real resources in the secondary since last year, the draft picks you brought in, James Bradberry, obviously this year with Adoree’ and now Aaron Robinson. How does Aaron fit in there and how close are you to being a finished product on the back end?
A: Where Aaron fits in is he gives us more perimeter muscle, so to speak, and he’s also got that flexibility to play the nickel and play the star. We think he’s a great fit, obviously, because we traded up, hello, stating the obvious. Captain Obvious. We think he’s a great fit for our defense and our back end and we feel like you can never have too many assets back there because players come and go. You have injuries. People will say it’s a passing league and it is to a degree. And the other thing that we really liked about Aaron is you do the studies, you do the analytics — I do do it, people — and the best defenses have the best tackling secondaries, and Aaron Robinson is a really good tackling corner.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q. What did you like about (Aaron) Robinson?
A: A-Rob is a good player. Again we are excited to add him to the program. Going to come in and compete. There’s going to be a lot of competition with defensive backs, corners and safeties.
Look, this is a guy that jumped out to us on tape and as well as when we were down at the Senior Bowl got to see him in person, sit down, meet with him; I had multiple meetings that week. Got the Zoom throughout this process. So we had a lot of exposure with this guy as a person, and this guy really does, he’s got a good personality, he really lights up. This is a guy, he plays on the field and you see when he makes a play, his teammates immediately sprint to him. There’s a lot of excitement. You can tell he’s got a bond with his teammates, and that stands out with the energy his teammates play with as well.
In terms of him as a player, he’s a physical player with good traits and gives us versatility to play inside, outside. This guy has some value to play in the kicking game as well. Just the demeanor he plays with, the physicality and his ability to play in both press and off, he’ll give us some options how we can use him.
Q. This is obviously not a new world for the Giants, but the way the draft was manipulated the last two days, moving down, you had a fifth round pick you gained and you just traded away, was with the Giants for about 12 hours or something like that. Do you like this a little bit more rock and roll and keeping everybody on their toes?
A: It’s making the best decision for the team at the time. We had an opportunity to move down and gain more value because there are a number of players we feel in that range are going to be available, we’ll go ahead and look at that option. As you saw with A-Rob, we didn’t want to give somebody else a chance to take him at that point; he was a priority for us to get, so we used the pick to trade on up. As I said yesterday, these picks are people and make calculated risks whether you acquire them or give them up. I feel good about what we did today in the draft. I’m sure Dave has got a concussion or something, so make sure we check on him overnight and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.
Q. What do you remember particularly about the one with Robinson?
A: I just remember he had a very direct personality. You talk to him, he lit up when you start talking football. That’s important, again, the passion for the game. I just like direct, honest people and he’s got that to him.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. What’s your report on (Aaron) Robinson? What did you like about him?
A: A-Rob jumped off, I remember I was sitting here through the pandemic in the office, threw on the UCF tape and his instincts, his toughness and his tackling jumped out to me immediately as I was watching the tape. A little unknown about him, didn’t know much, threw the tape on one day and really caught my eye with his competitiveness and instincts.
Then we’ve kind of followed him throughout the process. We had two interviews with him down in Mobile which got to help us know him as a person, most importantly, and then I went down and saw him at his pro day as well to really spend a lot of time with him.
I think what immediately jumped off was his instincts, toughness, competitiveness.
Q. Aaron Robinson started his career at Alabama, so that’s SEC ties for all three guys this year, most of the guys last year. I think it’s pretty universally accepted that’s the best conference. Is that why you guys keep going to the SEC or do you have stronger relationships there? More scouts in that area? Why is it the SEC?
A: I don’t think we say, all right, this is the SEC we are going to scout it differently than any other part of the country. It’s just the way the board has fallen that the SEC players at the time we are ready to pick are the ones we feel best to be Giants. It’s a very good conference. There’s big people that play fast and tough and we like that. But I don’t think it’s any different — we don’t scout it any different than any other conference in the league.
Media Q&A with Aaron Robinson (Video):
Q: Saw that tweet from [Safety] Xavier McKinney. I guess even though you transferred, you’re still viewed by some of these guys as an Alabama guy. Just curious, what’s it like to reunite with a lot of guys with Alabama ties?
A: You know, X specifically, I remember him when he first got up to school just trying to connect and bond with him. He’s a great guy. I’m ready to get up there and get to work with some great dudes, get around some great coaching, pretty much just set the standard with the brotherhood up there and go to work.
Q: What do you think you bring to the table?
A: Definitely a competitive edge about myself. A guy who’s willing to take it from every angle, vets, coaching and excel at it in my own game. Really just want to bring guys along, including myself, to create something special.
Q: Hey Aaron, I think one of things the Giants really like about you is how physical you are and that you can play man-to-man. That’s something they weren’t able to do as much last year. What does it take to be as consistently physical and effective as you are at that position on the outside?
A: Yeah, you know that pretty much comes with the game of football. I feel like I always favored the defensive side of the ball a little bit more growing up playing it. And that’s pretty much a plus in my game that I take advantage of and come with to every play 150 percent. That’s pretty much it.
Q: Aaron, how important was it for you to get to the Senior Bowl and have that opportunity to meet with the various teams? And to follow up on that, what do you remember about your meeting with the Giants?
A: Having that opportunity to get up there in Mobile to compete against some of the best in college football this past year was a great opportunity for me to pretty much expose myself a little bit more, and have that great opportunity to earn those reps, get those reps on the outside and showcase those skills as well during those practices. So it was definitely a great opportunity for myself. What I remember from meeting with the Giants was the laughs through conversation, pretty much just enjoying that moment with those coaches up there and pretty much coming off natural, it felt like.
Q: Were you on [Wide Receiver] Kadarius Toney’s team at the Senior Bowl or did you go against him at all?
A: I was on Kadarius’s team. We pretty much had one great rep of one-on-ones and a couple more reps during team reps. Pretty much just competing against one another trying to earn something, so respect to him as well.
Q: The fact that the Giants traded up to get you, does that mean something extra to you?
A: Yeah, definitely, just another great opportunity. Thank those guys up there for believing in me and that just pushes me to want to get up there and work 10 times harder for some guys that definitely believed in me. I’m going to take advantage of that and run with it, for sure.
Q: Hey Aaron, you’ll have to kind of forgive me for doing my scouting report on the fly, but did you play mostly in the slot in college?
Q: And so you were saying playing at the Senior Bowl gave you the chance to play outside?
Q: So, do you feel like you can play both at the next level? Are you more comfortable at one or the other?
A: Wherever I’m needed. Wherever I’m needed, I’m willing to learn that playbook, get in with my coaches, spend a lot of time around those guys, around those guys in the locker room as well to really learn it and go out and perform to the best of my ability.
Q: Did you guys play a lot of man or zone in college?
A: We mixed it up. [Defensive Coordinator] Coach [Randy] Shannon definitely mixed it up for us, gave a lot of looks and pretty much helped us a lot as well.
4th Round – LB Elerson Smith, 6’6”, 262lbs, 4.75, University of Northern Iowa
Scouting Report: Smith is a tall, lanky, athletic rush end who projects to outside linebacker in the Giants’ system. He combines good size, arm length, big hands, initial get-off quickness, bend, and closing burst. Good pass rusher who makes plays in the backfield. Raw, Smith will need some time to develop and reach his potential. He will need to continue to get stronger and be more consistent at playing off of blockers in the run game. Smith is a hard worker both off and on the football field.
Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. One-year starter that had his senior season canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 1st Team All Missouri Valley Conference and 1st Team AFCA FCS All American in 2019. Smith broke out in his redshirt junior season, netting 21.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 2 blocked kicks. He plays the game with a level of ease and smoothness in traffic. He gets off the ball in a hurry with great leverage and upper body positioning, his hands are exceptionally fast, and the foot quickness is elite. Smith is just scratching the surface when it comes to his true potential. He needs to sleep in the weight room for a year before he can be an every down asset, but he will be a solid rotational pass rusher right away and has the upside of being a solid starter in multiple schemes.
*If you haven’t seen Northern Iowa play but you want to get a feel for what this kid looks like on the field, think about Jayson Taylor. He has the really long, borderline thin frame but plays with tremendous burst and bend for a player his size. Smith impressed me a ton at the Senior Bowl in the practice tapes. Really twitchy, plays low to the ground, and easily changes direction. His 2019 tape is something else, too. Good player here that may need more time than others but presents more upside than most guys in this tier.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
Elerson Smith, who we took in the fourth round, is a kid that played at Northern Iowa, didn’t play this fall obviously because of COVID. He didn’t opt out. They just didn’t play. And he played the Senior Bowl. He’s long, he’s athletic and we watched him on his Northern Iowa tape and what sold us on him is they played Iowa State and he must have played about 85, 90 snaps. He’s a real tough kid, athletic, long, has some pass rush potential and he’s instinctive, so we really liked him.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q: Elerson Smith, lower level of competition, gained a lot of weight, big hands, good athlete. This team has been looking for an edge rusher for many years. You think you got it right with these two guys?
A: I think we added two guys between Elerson and Azeez that are going to be able to come in that have a skill set to develop and work with, both guys really fit our outside linebacker category. In our defense, our outside backers have a variety of skill set. Some guys are more stout, set the edge guys better in early down run setting and some guys are more third down sub-package pass rushers. Elerson is a guy, I got to sit down with him in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and was impressed with him down there playing. You watch his tape, the one thing I would say about guys from small schools and low level of competition, I think sometimes people over-evaluate someone because where they played in college. And this is a guy you look at his story, he weighed 195 pounds coming out of high school, was built more like a receiver. So someone obviously at Northern Iowa did a good job evaluating this guy and seeing his upside and potential. That’s what I think we did a good job as well with, and we’re going to have an opportunity to develop it. But he’s gained a lot of weight. That just shows his commitment to body and really developing over time. Some guys are late bloomers. But I know when Northern Iowa plays, whether it’s him or Spencer Brown another guys who was drafted along with other guys, those guys play tough. You watch their tape. They are a competitive team. So to me I look at a lot of lower competition, per se, quote, or smaller schools as really more of an opportunity to grow these guys as guys that really weren’t always in a program where they had great nutrition plans or maybe the top-tier strength program or assets available to them. Sometimes you get a guy from a really good program and you have to look and say, how topped out are they. They have been coached very well, had a resource at all times; what is their ceiling and how much higher can they go. A guy from a smaller school, you can say, we can really develop this guy. You know, let’s be patient with this guy, give him time, throw them in, let them compete and if they have upside, all of a sudden you really see them competing on your roster.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. When you look at a guy like Elerson (Smith), Joe was just talking about big school, small school. Is he a little more of hey, you look at him and say, he is not what he’s going to be and you project him and just what kind of potential as a pass rusher do you see him having?
A: I think there’s a lot of potential. The biggest thing with the smaller school guys, we always start at step one, do they dominate that level. They have to dominate that level of competition to get in the conversation. And the great thing about Elerson that, again, reference the Senior Bowl again, but we got to see him on the same playing field with guys from Power Five schools and the higher levels and he fit right in. He competed his butt off and looked the part. You got to compare apples-to-apples there. That was a great venue for us. There were times when he had to play a Division I team. He played Iowa State this year, played over 90 plays in that game and competed to the last whistle and it was really impressive to see. But I think there’s big upside there, with all our players, they are going to have to come in and develop and become pros.
Media Q&A with Elerson Smith (Video):
Q: Obviously, the Giants were at the Senior Bowl and I’m curious about how much you talked to them there? Do you remember those conversations? What was your impression of the Giants when you met with them?
A: At the Senior Bowl, I just had a brief 15-minute interview just like any other team there. I didn’t really get to know them much or meet with the other coaches and people on staff until later when we had a few meetings. First impression was. obviously, I just know that the New York Giants is a great, historically great, organization. I’m excited to be able to contribute to what they have.
Q: When you arrived in Northern Iowa, you were really thin, like 215 pounds or whatever it was. Then you put on all that weight. How would you describe what this journey has been like for you going from that skinny kid to being drafted by the New York Giants, which has a pretty rich history of pass rushers obviously?
A: It’s been a process. I’ve had to take advantage of each day early on when I wasn’t getting a lot of acknowledgement or recognition. It was a process. I was just kind of working in the dark and just making sure that I was getting the most out of every day. It has been a whirlwind the past few months. I’m excited to kind of take that same approach when I get to New York – just making sure that I’m getting better everyday and not letting days get by where I’m not getting better because if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse. I’m really excited to be a part of New York.
Q: Technically, you called it an opt-out from last year, but clearly, that’s not what happened until the spring anyway. What was it like to have that senior season taken away from you?
A: It’s tough because your senior season is what you look forward to, you know, for all four years really. We had a great group of guys playing together in Northern Iowa and we really had a chance to make a run for it this year. But, obviously, with Covid and everything going on, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened to me. I just tried to go with the flow and understand that it is what it was and I had no control over the season being canceled. So, I just wanted to make sure that I was making the most out of my days and continuing to work toward the Senior Bowl and our Pro Day.
Q: How important was that Senior Bowl because nobody had been able to see you on the field since December of 2019?
A: It was huge. I think at that point, it was the only film I had where I played around 260. All my other film I was around 240 or 235. I just wanted to show teams that I could play with the new weight and to show them I was working hard on my body and my game and that I am able to contribute to an NFL team at this point. It was an important week because I didn’t have the film like everyone else had from the 2020 season.
Q: Obviously, being 6’6″, you have a size advantage off the edge over a lot of tackles, but is there a pass rush move that is kind of your go-to or one that you’ve really refined and you think is your best trait?
A: I like to work moves together. I love a good bull rush. I think my get-off is what starts all my pass rush moves. I love driving offensive linemen off the jump, get their feet moving and really get them scared of my length and my get-off. From there, depending on what the offensive line is giving me, it’s going to be a bull rush or I’m going to take the edger or coming underneath. I love pass rushing, though. I have a lot of fun doing it.
Q: I just wanted to ask you – the Giants also took an edge rusher in the second round in Azeez Ojulari. Are you a little bit surprised to land in New York? How much do you know about the edge rush situation with the team?
A: I’m not surprised to land in New York. I had a decent amount of meetings with them before. The edge rush situation is something out of my hands, but I’m excited to get to know the guys. I’m excited to work with them. I’m excited to get better with them and try to make the pass rush better as a whole unit. I don’t know much about Azeez, but I’m sure he’s a great player and I’m excited to get to know him and get after it and get to work with him, too.
Q: How much football have you played in the last like five years? It seems like ’16 and ’17, you didn’t play, ’18 was limited and ’19 was a big season. Is it only two years in the last five?
A: Yes. I mean, other than practice, which I treated like those were my games because that’s what I needed to get better at, my first few years of college, I started one year. Then, I was in a reserve pass rush role my sophomore year. I just like to make the most of my opportunities and I was able to do that my junior year. I think that’s a result of me treating those first few years like those were playing seasons for me or preparing for every game throughout those seasons, so I was ready at that point.
Q: I noticed you blocked two kicks. Are we talking about placekicks and you’re coming up the middle, I assume?
A: Yup. Just right on the ball, getting off and driving through the back.
Q: You’re being drafted as a pass rusher here, but have any teams asked you to play tight end or told you that they would like you to? I know you’re such a well-rounded athlete. You did it in high school. Is that something the Giants and other teams talked to you about?
A: No, not the Giants. I heard a joke about it, but no serious talk about me playing tight end.
Q: When the season was cancelled, I think you entered the transfer portal but then pulled your name out. What were those couple weeks like and what was that specific decision like for you? How did it go and how did you come to the decision to not transfer and not play?
A: Honestly, that was one of those things that were out of my hands again. I entered the transfer portal a few days after our season got cancelled because I thought it would be best for me to be able to boost my stock at a bigger school or maybe just find somewhere to play because I knew I wanted to enter this draft. After the FCS season, I entered the transfer portal and was talking to some schools. I had some schools in mind, but then the FBS cancelled, or postponed their season for that brief little stint there – a brief few weeks a day after I was into it – so, at that point everything was so up in the air. I was like, ‘I’m just going to declare and start training for the Pro Day and Senior Bowl.’ That’s kind of how it happened.
Q: I know you’re from the Minneapolis area. Do you know Carter Coughlin at all? I know you grew up near each other.
A: I actually don’t, not personally. I played against him in high school, football and basketball. I know he’s a great athlete. I know he did great things at the University of Minnesota and I’m excited to get to know him in New York.
Q: You probably posted him up pretty good in basketball.
A: I wasn’t very good at basketball. I was a wrestler most of my life. I played basketball a little bit later, even though it’s funny because I’m 6’6″, I’m not a basketball player.
6th Round – RB Gary Brightwell, 5’11”, 218lbs, 4.62, University of Arizona
Scouting Report: Brightwell is a big, physical, no-nonsense, downhill runner with good speed and acceleration for his size. He is not a particularly creative running back, being more of a one-speed, one-cut slasher. His biggest negative is ball security. He needs to protect the football better.
Sy’56’s Take: Sizeable slasher that can put his foot in the ground a burst upfield. Will push defenders back on contact, shows decent late wiggle. Hard nosed kid that will get yards after contact. Has fumble issues, mechanical.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
With the first sixth round pick, we took a running back out of Arizona, Gary Brightwell. He’s a big kid and he’s got a heavy body, he’s a heavy body runner, he’s in the 215, 220 range and he really is a quality special teams player. So he’s got dual value.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q: Gary Brightwell sounded like you talking about special teams and all the hidden yards and importance of it. What did you like about him in those roles while he was in college?
A: He’s a guy that definitely jumped out. A few weeks back, me, Tom Quinn and Thomas McGaughey were sitting in the staff room on a Saturday about 5:30am in the morning and Tom Quinn brought his name up and we watched his kick game and this dude was flying down the field and it was early enough that it woke you up and you really got excited about watching him. You start watching a lot more of his offense and start talking with our scouts who have done a lot of research on him and talking to Burton (Burns) as far as the running back value. Look, he’s a guy that jumps out from his skill set. You are always looking for good versatility and depth at those positions, running back and the kicking game. To be honest with you, the opportunity I had to really speak with him and spend some time with him even though it was over Zoom with Gary was very, very impressive. He has an tremendous story. This dude had the utmost compliments given to him from everyone who has been around him at every level. He was the guy that was available at the time and he was a guy we guy we could bring on on our roster and compete to be on the roster and make us a better team.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. And then one guy that wasn’t at the Senior Bowl that you picked was Gary Brightwell who was a little more under the radar. Joe talked about how impressed he was with the special teams tape. Was that something that stood out to you?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Especially, one of our special teams coaches, Tom Quinn, ran into me one day in the hall and said he really saw some good traits in him. So we threw on the tape. Also as a runner, this guy will help us as a running back, as well. He’s competitive. He’s tough. He’s got good hands. Good athlete. So yeah I’m looking forward to seeing him run and also contribute on teams.
Media Q&A with Gary Brightwell (Video):
Q: What does this moment mean for you to get drafted by the Giants and considering your journey here and everything you’ve been through? What does it mean to get picked by them?
A: This moment is special for me. My family grew up as Giants fans, so I mean this is everything I dreamed of.
Q: So does that mean you’re a Tiki Barber guy? Who was your favorite running back growing up?
A: Tiki Barber was my favorite running back.
Q: Tell us about your game, Gary. What are you going to bring to the team?
A: I’m excited to bring some special teams to the field. I’m going to bring a lot of explosive plays, but my priority right now is getting the playbook, getting on special teams and dominating.
Q: Did you talk to [Head] Coach [Joe] Judge about that already? He’s a pretty big special teams guy.
A: Nah, that’s my thing. That’s been my thing since high school. I’ve been a special teams guy.
Q: What do you like about that?
A: I feel like special teams starts the game and also finish it. Special teams has all the hidden yards. I mean, you need special teams to dominate.
Q: How can your parents be Giants fans when you’re from Chester?
A: I don’t know. I mean, my parents are not Giants fans. My mom is an Eagles fan, but obviously she’s got to be one (Giants fan) now. And my uncles and aunts are Giants fans.
Q: You didn’t get a chance to play a lot because of Covid. Is that good or bad or what?
A: I mean, it could be good or bad, but to me I think it worked out just right. I’m a Giant.
Q: How much did the Giants talk to you about special teams and how do you show them? How does the draft process go about in providing to them that you can do special teams and showing them?
A: I mean, we didn’t really talk about special teams. We broke the film down and we mentioned special teams, but honestly special teams impacts me. I like to be the guy that starts the game off like on kickoff at Arizona. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play it last year as much as I wanted to, but I feel like special teams starts the game. Without special teams, it could be a win or lose situation. It’s the hidden yards.
Q: What units did you play on at Arizona?
A: So last year, I got to play punt pro [protection] and I also played kick return because I was the starter last year. But years before, I played everything.
Q: Just your thoughts on being in the running back room with [Running Back] Saquon [Barkley].
A: Honestly, my thoughts about it is I get to play behind a guy who’s very competitive. I’m going to make him work and for sure he’s going to make me work, but I just can’t wait to see how he approaches the day because I know some guys have different ways. And he can help me a lot, honestly. I mean, he’s been there for a few years now, so he can help me a lot. He knows secrets that I might not know right now, so I want to learn from this guy.
6th Round – CB Rodarius Williams, 6’0”, 189lbs, 4.53, Oklahoma State University
Scouting Report: Williams has good size for a corner and has experience in both press and off coverage. He is a competitor who plays a physical game. Williams lacks ideal speed and quickness but he is instinctive in coverage. He breaks up a lot of passes.
Sy’56’s Take: Smart and instinctive. Supports the run and knows how to play physical in coverage without getting flagged. Plays faster than he times because of knowledge, feel, and reaction twitch.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman (Video):
Then our last pick was Rodarius Williams out of Oklahoma State. We had a solid value on him on the board. He’s athletic. He’s fast. He can carry the vertical. He plays our style. He’s a press corner and we were just very pleased to see him there.
Media Q&A with Head Coach Joe Judge (Video):
Q: In regard to the secondary and specifically, Rodarius Williams and Aaron Robinson, how much adding guys like that change what you guys can do schematically and coverage-wise?
A: Look, we are always looking for different skill sets that create versatility within our defensive schemes and look ultimately throughout the draft and free agency you’re looking for the best players available. We happened to go through the Draft and we had the opportunity to add two good corners, coming to compete with our current roster. We’ll see when they get here how it shakes out. I tell the guys all the time, truest thing I can say, it doesn’t matter how you get here; it’s what you do when you are here. We are excited to get these guys here and at the same time excited to work with everyone on our current roster, and again, look, our goal is to make every position as competitive as can be and that’s when you really get the best out of your team.
Media Q&A with Director of College Scouting Chris Pettit (Video):
Q. Rodarius Williams is going to be 25 in September. Some teams are drafting guys who are 20. How old — how do you look at age in the draft process? Is there a number that’s too old? Is there a number that’s too young? Are you aware if a guy is 22 versus 23? Do you know that number off the top of your head? How do you see age?
A: I mean, I think it’s a piece of the puzzle like every measurable is or every skill is. Obviously it didn’t affect us, his age and why we took him. You know, it’s case-by-case basis when it comes to the age to be honest with you. But no, I mean, actually he’s more mature. We don’t have to — some of these guys that are coming in, maybe don’t have the life skills being younger players, really straight out of high school almost. But no, it’s part of the puzzle like everything else, like I said, every measurable, every skill.
Media Q&A with Rodarius Williams (Video):
Q: Hey Rodarius, congratulations. So you’re actually Greedy Williams older brother, but he got to the NFL two years first.
A: Yes sir.
Q: What’s that like when you’re the older brother and he’s there first? Are you thirsty to get there? Now, what’s that moment like?
A: It’s just a humbling moment, man. Everything that he felt on his day, I feel. I’m just ready to get in and get the work done.
Q: What has he told you about NFL life?
A: Stay healthy, stay on top of things and don’t get in any trouble.
Q: Hey Rodarius, congratulations. Can you describe your game a little bit? And also, a lot of guys down at the lower part of the draft have a lot of special teams value. Are you one of those kinds of guys?
A: I wasn’t a big special teamer, but I did play special teams. I’m coming from a four-year starting experience, so whatever needs be I’ll adjust. Whatever you guys need of me is what I’m going to do.
Q: What kind of player are you? How would you describe yourself? Obviously, you’re very durable. You play all the time.
A: I’d say durable like you mentioned and definitely high confidence in myself. I believe that I will go down as one of the greats.
Q: Hey Rodarius, congratulations man. You’re 24 years old if I read correctly. That’s usually on the older side, so I’m wondering what that was like throughout the process and how much teams harped on that or you heard that or you had to fight that perception of, ‘Hey, you’re already old or older,’ I should say.
A: I’ve never had any run-ins or anything as far as things like that. My coaches used to tell me, if you could play, you could play, regardless of age. Teams definitely can see my durability. I don’t miss too many games. I don’t miss too many practices. I’m a guy that’s going to show up to work.
Q: Hey Rodarius, did you speak with the Giants at the Senior Bowl and what was your impression of them when you had conversations with them?
A: Oh we had a great talk. They were one of the teams that showed a lot of interest in me when we had meetings and stuff like that, drawing up plays and stuff like that. I was just showing them my knowledge of the game. They really took a lot of interest in me and I’m just – I’m not really shocked that you guys picked me. I kind of had expectations to go to the Giants leading up to the Draft.
Q: Yeah, so I was going to say, when you left your meetings with the Giants, did you say in your head, ‘I think this team might try and draft me’? Was that in your head right away?
A: Yes, most definitely. I was like, ‘This is going to be one of the teams that definitely gives me a call.
OC/OG Brett Heggie, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.50, University of Florida (Video)
Heggie was a 3-year starter in college with experience at center and both guard spots. He lacks ideal power and athleticism for the NFL, but he is a smart, tough, feisty blue-collar lineman.
OT Jake Burton, 6’5”, 315lbs, 5.35, Baylor University
Burton is UCLA transfer. He has good size, but lacks ideal overall athleticism/foot quickness. Burton is physical and plays hard.
DE/LB Raymond Johnson, 6’3”, 270lbs, 4.73, Georgia Southern University (Video)
Johnson played at defensive end in college but could project to edge linebacker for the Giants. He combines good size and overall athleticism. Johnson plays low with good leverage and initial quickness. He is physical and plays hard.
The 2021 NFL Draft was a wild ride for New York Giants fans conditioned to the usually staid approach of the conservative franchise. I repeatedly warned fans before and during the early stages of the 1st round that New York’s obvious interest in the two Alabama receivers was going to cause another team to jump ahead of the Giants. Many Giants fans had become invested in these two players because the belief that Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith were 1a and 1b (or visa versa) on the team’s wish list, assuming tight end Kyle Pitts, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, and offensive tackle Penei Sewell were gone. Pitts went 4th, Chase 5th, Waddle 6th, and Sewell 7th. Giants fans became justifiably nervous. There were still three more selections before the Giants’ pick at #11. The two top corners went next, raising hopes with only one pick to go. However, the Dallas Cowboys lost their shot at Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn, and were now willing to trade down. They did. With the annoying Philadelphia Eagles, who most likely stole Smith from the Giants. Fans were pissed. Once again another team traded ahead of the Giants to take a player everyone knew they liked. And this time it was the fucking Eagles! It seemed like the entire draft was already disaster for the Giants.
Who would the team pick? Many fans had been lobbying for offensive lineman Rashawn Slater and linebacker Micah Parsons. There were rumors the Giants might select defensive lineman Kwity Paye or offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker. Arguments could have been made for each of these players, but the trade up by the Eagles seemed to take the luster off of any consolation prize.
Then all of the sudden, word came the Giants traded down. What? Dave Gettleman never trades down. And his predecessor didn’t either. And nine spots?!! All the way to the 20th pick?!! That’s a big drop. What did they get in return? It had better be good! It was. They got a 5th round pick in this draft and a #1 and #4 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Life was good again. Giants fans celebrated.
But who to pick at #20? The obvious blue chippers were long gone. So were Parsons, Slater, and Vera-Tucker. No other offensive lineman seemed worthy of the pick. Kwity Paye or linebacker Azeez Ojulari seemed like obvious options. But lurking in the back of my mind were two considerations: (1) this was widely regarded as a very deep draft at wide receiver, and (2) this was widely regarded as a not-so-impressive draft for edge pass rushers. Might the Giants look at Rashod Bateman? The Giants surprised most when they took wide receiver Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall selection.
It’s not that Toney wasn’t viewed as a 1st-round pick. He was. Urban Meyer has already said the Giants broke his heart because the Jaguars intended to draft him at #25. Toney’s “issues” fall into two categories: (1) some off-the field incidents related to guns and his interest in pursuing a music career, and (2) whether a “gadget” player – no matter how good – was worthy of a 1st-round investment. Many felt that with Joe Judge’s obsession with team culture, combined with the fiasco with cornerback Deandre Baker, would cause New York to not even consider Toney. Right or wrong, the team is clearly not overly concerned with Toney’s “character.” They met with him at the Senior Bowl and came away impressed.
The second “issue” is more of my own personal baggage. I’m still a bit of a mental prisoner to old-fashioned football. When you draft a wideout in the 1st round, I have held the belief that the guy has to start at the X or Z (outside) positions. A slot guy? Used much more in 2021 than 1991, but he had better be damned good! And a “gadget” player? Forget about it. A 1st-rounder on a player who may get 10 snaps a game?! Not a good investment.
This is where the game has changed. Depth charts mean less and less with each passing day, both on offense and defense. Not just because of who actually receives more snaps but also because “traditional” formations (i.e., one running back, one fullback, one tight end, two wide receivers) no longer apply. What matters is this: can Judge, Jason Garrett, and Freddie Kitchens figure out a way to best use Toney in combination with Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley? Because Toney needs to touch the football. But so do the other five players. Beyond 2021, one could see Toney replacing Shepard in the slot given Shepard’s contract vis a vis performance to date.
So what do the Giants have in Toney? He has average size (6’0”, 193 pounds) and doesn’t seem to play as fast as he times (sub-4.4). But the guy is the very definition of a “make-you-miss” player. Toney plays bigger than his size, has the toughness of a running back, and miraculously gets away from tacklers on a consistent basis. His balance and run-after-the-catch ability are jaw dropping. Again, it’s not him running away from people the way Waddle does, but the way he jukes and contorts himself to avoid defenders. Some draft pundits questioned his hands, but he only had three dropped passes during his entire career at Florida. Many say he needs to work on the mental aspects of the game – reading defenses, route running. Those are not insignificant concerns, and if he is going to be a “regular” wide receiver, he will have get better at both. To justify this selection, Toney has to play more than a few snaps per game. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff game plans for him. He can be used outside, in the slot, out of the backfield, on jet sweeps, on bubble screens, etc. A former high school quarterback, he can (and has) even throw the football on trick plays. Toney should also be strongly considered in the return game.
So scratch one need off of the wish list. It might not have been Waddle or Smith, but the Giants drafted a play-making wide receiver in the 1st round. Onto the other apparent needs – outside pass rushers and offensive linemen.
Day two arrives with the Giants picking 10th in the second round. Things appear to go New York’s way as three defensive backs, two defensive tackles, one wide receiver, one running back, and only two offensive linemen go in the first nine picks. The only “oh crap” moment comes when the Eagles draft center Landon Dickerson (who could also project to guard). Fucking Eagles. None of the edge rushers went. Giants are going to draft Ojulari, right?! What?! Another trade down?! What’s going on?! This is both exciting but also nerve-wracking. I want Ojulari and now we are going to lose him. What did we get in return for dropping down eight spots? Miami’s 3rd rounder in 2022. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. All of the sudden, we’ve added an additional #1, #3, and #4 in next year’s deeper and better-researched draft. That’s cool. But I wanted Ojulari.
Four more offensive linemen go. So if the Giants wanted to go that route, forget about it in round two. The run on that position started before #18. Three more defensive backs and another wideout. No big loss. Holy crap! Ojulari is still there. Something about concerns about a degenerative knee condition? If the Giants doctors are OK with it, I am. Draft him! They do. Now, I’m really happy. Ojulari is a guy who I thought would go in the 1st round was the best fit for what the Giants needed – a true 3-4-type pass rushing outside linebacker. If you told me the Giants would get him with the 50th overall selection, I would have laughed at you. Ojulari has to refine additional pass rush moves, but the one he is a master of is damn good… his initial get off, hand slap, bend, and closing burst is very difficult for offensive tackles to handle. The major question on him is can he become a consistent pass-rush presence against big NFL tackles with quick feet. If he can, the Giants addressed a major need.
Round 3. Have to go offensive line, right? Not so fast. There have been whispers for weeks that the Giants don’t think their line is the train wreck. Do they want to add talent at the position? Yes. But they are not going to force the pick. The Giants still could use help at RB, DT, another edge rusher, linebacker, and maybe even in the secondary where they are one injury away from being in trouble. The League and the NFC East is loaded with good receivers. The Giants could use another corner. Aaron Robinson, who was supposed to be long gone, is still here. However, the other three teams in NFC East pick right before the Giants. Dallas and Philly still need help at corner. Wait?! What’s this?! Trader Dave Gettlemen is moving ahead of all three NFC East teams, giving up his newly-acquired 5th rounder, to select Robinson! What the hell is going on!? We learn later that the Eagles are damned pissed off they missed out on someone here. Revenge!
Robinson is a stud. He can play slot corner if Darnay Holmes remains too grabby or gets hurt. He and Holmes can both play slot corner if teams go four wide. He can also play outside. Robinson is an athlete, but he’s also a cocky son-of-a-bitch who hates the guy lining up over his head. Giants fans will love him. Fans of other teams will hate him. A strong New York secondary just became stronger. Isaac Yiadom is less likely to see the field.
Day three. Rounds 4-7 but the Giants only have three picks…one 4th rounder and two 6th rounders. Have to address the offensive line today, right? Nope. Giants go defense again, selecting edge rusher Elerson Smith, who didn’t play in 2020 because his team didn’t play due to COVID. Smith has an unusual build, very tall (6’6”) and lanky. He’s listed in the 260-pound range but looks too thin (similar in build to Jason Taylor of the Dolphins many years ago). However, he is another guy with a good initial quickness, bend, and closing burst. The Giants didn’t need one edge rusher, they needed two. Hopefully the got them in Ojulari and Smith. The competition for a roster spot and playing time will be fierce with Lorenzo Carter, Oshane Ximines, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson, Cam Brown, and Carter Coughlin. Carter and Ximines – the opening day starters who missed most of the season due to significant injuries – are definitely on the hot seat.
About 80 more players went off the board before New York picked again in the 6th round. The Giants take a running back, addressing a big depth need, but not a name that was expected. However, Judge makes it clear that Gary Brightwell was a special teams stud in college so the pick makes sense. He’s also an ascending player who was just beginning to receive more playing time but Arizona’s schedule was abbreviated to five games. He’s a no-nonsense, big back with some wiggle to his game, however he has to stop fumbling. Brightwell has a great shot to make the team because there isn’t much behind Barkley and Devontae Booker.
The last pick was a pure value pick. Rodarius Williams was supposed to be long gone. I’ve seen talk in The Forum that the soon-to-be 25-year old won’t be around a long time, so don’t worry about his age. I will tell you what, Williams is the kind of guy who could have a long NFL career. He’s another physical, aggressive corner who plays with a chip on his shoulder. I feel 100 percent better about our corner situation with both Robinson and Williams at the position. Knock on wood, but the Giants may have the best secondary in the NFL.
Summary: A few months ago, I whined (yes, literally whined) about how bad this roster was, especially on the offensive side of the ball. In a few months, the Giants have added:
- Two new back-ups behind Saquon Barkley (Devontae Booker and Gary Brightwell).
- Three new wide receivers (Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and John Ross).
- One new tight end (Kyle Rudolph)
- Two new offensive linemen (Zach Fulton and Jonotthan Harrison)
- A new nose tackle to help ameliorate the loss of Dalvin Tomlinson (Danny Shelton)
- Four new edge players (Azeez Ojulari, Elerson Smith, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Ryan Anderson)
- A new inside linebacker (Reggie Ragland)
- Three new corners (Adoree’ Jackson, Aaron Robinson, Rodarius Williams)
Holy shit. I always tell you guys that teams can only do so much in one offseason. Somehow the Giants crammed two offseasons into one, and also picked up an extra #1, #3, and #4 for next year’s draft.
The glaring omission? The offensive line. Gettleman said they were considering offensive line in the draft but they went before the team selected. So they do want to add more help there. But both Gettleman and Judge publicly say they are not as worried about the position as others. PR? Blind optimism? Or just maybe justifiable confidence? We shall see. The Giants do appear to have two starters at tackle with vet insurance (Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, Nate Solder). They also seem to be set at center with Nick Gates and former starter Harrison. Guard is more of a question mark. The Giants signed veteran Fulton to compete with Will Hernandez and surprise starter Shane Lemieux. Kyle Murphy also quietly lurks in the wings.
My only other “wish list” position not addressed was defensive tackle, but the Giants are in decent shape with Shelton and Austin Johnson. In a crunch, Dexter Lawrence could also handle the position.
Overall, you have to hand it to the Giants. They have completely remade this roster in just a few months.