Why the Slide?: Azeez Ojulari, OLB, Georgia

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Many in the media had Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari projected as a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and it was understandable why he was held in such lofty esteem. Over 2019 and 2020, Ojulari was a tough edge defender for Georgia, providing a real presence for the Georgia defense. Ojulari worked his way onto the field in 2019 and recorded 36 tackles, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He was more consistent as a pass rusher in 2020 despite his sack total – 5.5 – failing to increase. He also recorded 27 tackles, two forced fumbles and two passes batted in 2020. Ojulari (6-2, 240) played really well, plus showed a non-stop motor and an ability to make plays in the clutch. Thus, it was a surprise to some when he slipped to the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

The NFL consensus, per team sources, was Ojulari merited a second-round grade. Some had him a bit lower, and some had him as a high second-rounder. Thus, pro evaluators felt Ojulari was selected at an appropriate spot and did not have a significant slide.

I had the the New York Giants taking Ojulari in the second round in my final 2021 NFL mock draft, and that ended up being correct, as the Giants pulled the trigger on him when he got to their second-round pick. The Giants were a good landing spot for him, as he should be an instant starter. It would be surprising if Ojulari did not beat out Oshane Ximines or Ryan Anderson for a starting spot during the course of his rookie season.

While Ojulari faces some size and length limitations, those could be masked by the Giants’ 3-4 scheme, which will let him line up as a standup outside linebacker. Having a five-technique defensive end to eat up tackles will help Ojulari, and playing next to interior forces like Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence will help disguise Ojulari’s limits as well. Teams will focus their double=team attention on Williams, so Ojulari should see a lot of single-block opportunities. Before long, Ojulari could turn into a solid starter for New York.

2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 16

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

NFL Picks - Feb. 12