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Draft class achieves stated goal of competition


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants' six selections in the just completed NFL Draft covered just four positions.

Kadarius Toney, the first-round choice from Florida, should immediately take a spot in the team's wide receiver rotation. Gary Brightwell, the first of their two sixth-round picks, is an intriguing running back prospect from the University of Arizona who is expected to provide immediate help on several special teams.

The other four selections will result in a particularly competitive training camp by adding talented rookies at two defensive positions – edge rusher (Azeez Ojulari and Elerson Smith) and cornerback (Aaron Robinson and Rodarius Williams) – where the Giants have plenty of veteran options.

And that aligns with core philosophies of both general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge.

"You can never have too many good players at one position," Gettleman has often said.

"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," Judge said.

View photos of the New York Giants 2021 NFL Draft Class.

Let's start on the edge. After a trade down in the second round to the 50th overall selection, the Giants selected Georgia's Ojulari, arguably the best pass rusher in the draft. They added another quarterback chaser in round four, when they secured Smith from Northern Iowa.

The newcomers join a group that includes young veterans Lorenzo Carter (another Georgia product) and Oshane Ximines, who were limited to nine combined games last season because of injury, free agent signee Ryan Anderson and second-year pros Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin and Niko Lalos. Kyler Fackrell, who had 4.0 sacks last season, signed with the Los Angeles Chargers.

"There's a lot of competition there," Gettleman said. "I've said this a million times; fundamentally, the college kids are further behind than they used to be. So, at the end of the day, it's about, do they have the talent, the physical talent, the feel, the instinct, to develop as pass rushers? Both of these kids do. Elerson definitely does. That's why we drafted him and at the end of the day, it's about competition. It's about competition. And we just feel like with those two draft picks, we've upgraded."

Judge was pleased with the players who wore Giants uniforms last season and excited for the opportunity to evaluate the rookies on the field.

"I was pleased with the progress we made on defense last year with the guys on our roster," Judge said. "We had injuries that affected guys like Zo (Carter) and X-man 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. We didn't look at this in the nature of … 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 as a player. … 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. … 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 sets. Some guys are more stout, set the edge better in early down run setting and some guys are more third down sub-package pass rushers."

The Giants had interest in cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain, who were taken with the eighth and ninth picks by Carolina and Denver. Robinson was in the pool of players the Giants were considering when they took Ojulari. When he was still available in the third round, Gettleman made his third trade of the draft, this time with the Broncos to move up five sports to No. 71 to get Robinson.

"We didn't want to give somebody else a chance to take him at that point," Judge said. "He was a priority for us to get, so we used the pick to trade on up."

Robinson joins a crowd at cornerback that includes Pro Bowler James Bradberry, marquee free agent acquisition Adoree' Jackson, second-year pro Darnay Holmes, Isaac Yiadom, Julian Love (who also plays safety), Madre Harper, Sam Beal and Williams, the sixth-round selection from Oklahoma State. Safety Xavier McKinney, the 2020 second-round draft choice, can also play in the slot.

"As the media says, and as the public perception is, this is a passing league," Gettleman said. "So, why not a lot of corners, okay? I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can never have too many good players at a position, and when everybody comes in, let the games begin."

"We are always looking for different skill sets that create versatility within our defensive schemes and ultimately throughout the draft and free agency you're looking for the best players available," Judge said. "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."

No matter how it does, the competition is going to be interesting, exciting and closely contested.


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