The Giants kept wheeling and dealing on Friday, making two more trades to draft two defensive playmakers: Georgia edge Azeez Ojulari and UCF corner Aaron Robinson.
They also added another third round pick in 2022.
“I’m sure Dave (Gettleman)’s got a concussion or somethin’,” coach Joe Judge cracked of the Giants’ sudden, uncharacteristic willingness to deal. “So we’ll make sure we check on him overnight and get back to work tomorrow.”
Ojulari, a 6-2, 249-pound redshirt sophomore, was the SEC’s sack leader last season (8.5). The Giants traded back and him No. 50 overall in the second round.
Adding a pass rusher was a major need for the Giants after going offense with Florida receiver Kadarius Toney in round one. They felt fortunate to select the former college roommate of Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was at Ojulari’s draft party to celebrate Friday night.
“When he got drafted, we thought about it could happen one day,” Ojulari, 20, the No. 50 overall pick in the second round, said on a Zoom call with a big smile. “We were like, ‘It would be cool.’ And look at us now: teammates.”
Robinson, a 5-11, 186-pound corner, is a physical and versatile Alabama transfer with 20 passes defended and three interceptions the past two years for Central Florida. He is cousins with former NFL player Denard Robinson and an ex-high school teammate of Broncos receiver Jerry Jeudy.
The Giants traded up to take him at No. 71 overall in the third round. They believe Robinson will give defensive coordinator Pat Graham the ability to call more man-to-man defense. He played a lot of slot in college but feels he can contribute outside, too.
“I always favored the defensive side of the ball a little bit growing up playing it,” Robinson, 23, out of Deerfield Beach, Fla., said of his physical nature. “That’s a plus in my game. I come with it every play.”
“He’s an excellent tackler, ball hawk,” Gettleman said. “He’s a press corner and really fits what we do. He gives us more perimeter muscle.”
Uncharacteristically, the Giants traded both of their original picks on Friday night, meaning they’ve traded up or down from all three of their picks so far this draft.
They traded out of their original second round pick at No. 42 with the Dolphins, picking up an extra third-round pick in 2022, before taking Ojulari eight spots back.
Then they traded up from No. 76 to No. 71 with Denver in the third round to get Robinson, flipping the fifth-round pick (No. 164) they got from the Bears on Thursday night to the Broncos.
Friday’s second round was chaotic league-wide, with 12 different pick changes as the trades flew. And the typically conservative Giants were smack dab in the middle of it.
Gettleman admitted there were two interior offensive linemen the Giants would have taken but saw they were selected by teams ahead of them. It’s believed Notre Dame guard Aaron Banks (No. 48, 49ers) was one of them.
The Giants franchise hadn’t traded down since 2006. Gettleman had never traded down in eight prior drafts as an NFL GM prior to Thursday. But so far the through three rounds the Giants have gone trade down, trade down, trade up.
That includes Thursday night’s trade back from No. 11 to No. 20 with the Chicago Bears before selecting Florida receiver Kadarius Toney.
All told, the trades have given the Giants two picks apiece in the first, third and fourth rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Gettleman admitted that the focus on acquiring more 2022 picks was a conscious effort.
“I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a priority,” he said.
Don’t kid yourself: this is where Judge’s New England Patriots influence has created a major change in how the Giants approach the draft. Bill Belichick and the Pats regularly trade down to acquire more assets. The Baltimore Ravens are great at it, too.
The Giants and other teams view 2022 picks as premium assets compared to this year’s for several reasons, as well.
This year’s scouting process was still mainly virtual, and medical information was difficult to come by. The draft class was watered down, short on talent and numbers due to players returning to colleges. Next year’s will be deeper.
Plus, the Giants will be under a salary cap crunch in 2022, and rookie deals could help them manage salaries. And finally, though they won’t say it out loud, stacking draft assets prepares them to draft or trade for a quarterback if they have to.
“This draft you have more unknowns than you can shake a stick at,” Gettleman said. “Kids who didn’t play this year. You have a lot of incomplete medical information, so it’s an odd draft class, it’s an odd year. The NCAA allowed all those players to get another player and a ton of them did. We really have a feeling that next year’s draft is gonna be very strong, and it just gives you options.”
The Giants still wanted to add some good players, too, and they feel they did that for their defense on Friday.
Director of college scouting Chris Pettit said Ojulari “has the ability to make big plays in big spots. He’s ultra-competitive.”
Giants linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer recruited him to Georgia out of Marietta, Ga. All three of the Giants’ picks so far were recruited to the SEC at some point by members of Judge’s staff.
Ojulari can rush with his hand in the ground or standing up. He’s a young and ferocious physical specimen who made 12.5 tackles for loss last season and has huge upside.
“They call me Z. Sometimes they call me Vibranium,” Ojulari said of his nicknames. “Mostly Z though.”
Many believed Ojulari was talented enough to go in the first round. There were reports that a knee issue was giving teams pause, but a source told the Daily News those were inaccurate.
Ojulari had surgery late in high school for a torn ACL, but he checked out for teams ahead of this weekend’s draft. He even had a follow-up examination with Dr. James Andrews recently to confirm there was no issue.
“I was fully healthy the last two seasons at Georgia,” Ojulari said. “My knee is good. Everything is good and solid. Everything’s perfect.”
Gettleman now has drafted at least one player out of Georgia in all four of his Giants drafts, and five total: OLB Lorenzo Carter (third, 2018), CB DeAndre Baker (first, 2019), Thomas (first, 2020), LB Tae Crowder (seventh, 2020) and Ojulari.
And his latest pick was eternally grateful on Friday.
“It was crazy when I got the call,” he said. “I saw New York on it so I just picked it up. I was 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 being in the house too.”