The NFL Draft kicks off this Thursday and there are a host of former Georgia Bulldogs looking to hear their names called.
We’re discussing each of them over the coming days, looking back at their college careers, scouting their NFL potential, and speculating a little about where they might wind up. First on the list, a perennial threat in the pass rush who’s likely to get the call during Thursday evening’s first round.
Azeez Ojulari came to Athens our of Marietta High as one of the most promising pass rushers in the class of 2018. A four star prospect and the #18 ranked player in the Peach State, he chose the Red and Black over Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Notre Dame and a host of others. At the time I was impressed with his combination of pure strength, speed, and size at such an early stage of development.
I am no less impressed now. Ojulari saw limited action in 2018, redshirting after playing in only three games. But in 2019 he broke out, leading the team in sacks (5.5) and quarterback pressures (34). A full ten of those QB pressures came in the Dawgs’ 43-14 win over Tennessee, a dominant performance that cemented Ojulari as one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the SEC.
Last season Ojulari picked right up where he left off, leading the SEC in tackles for loss (12.5) and sacks (8.5). After starting all ten games of the COVID-shortened season, Azeez wrapped up his Bulldog career by earning defensive MVP honors in the Peach Bowl, tallying three sacks, two of which led to fumbles.
That’s the type of disruption that Ojulari could deliver for the NFL team that drafts him. At 6’2 and 250 pounds Ojulari looks the part of an NFL edge rusher, with a low center of gravity, the strength to take on pro offensive linemen, and a quick first step. If there’s a knock on him it’s that his pass rushing arsenal isn’t yet fully formed. He sometimes defaults to either outrunning or bull rushing linemen.
Even with that Ojulari may already be the most productive pass rusher available in this draft. But there’s every reason to believe given his improvement in each of the past two seasons that Ojulari is just going to get better.
That’s why multiple mock drafts have him going to any number of teams in the latter half of the first round. It could be the Ravens at pick 27, or the Bills at #30. But there are also some teams higher up who could decide that Ojulari is a surefire contributor and possible multi-year starter who can’t be allowed to escape. In particular, the Dolphins at 18 and Jets at 23 could both use help in the pass rush and might not be willing to pass Ojulari up.