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Trades & Grades: Experts react to Giants' draft class


The first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft were wild.

The Giants made a big move on Thursday, trading the No. 11 pick to the Chicago Bears for the No. 20 pick and the No. 164 pick, along with Chicago's first- and fourth-round picks in 2022.

With the No. 20 overall pick, the Giants selected Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney, an explosive offensive weapon.

Then on Friday, the Giants got things started by trading the No. 42 pick to the Miami Dolphins for the No. 50 pick and Miami's third-round pick in 2022.

With the No. 50 overall pick, the Giants selected Georgia linebacker Azeez Ojulari, one of the most talented pass rushers in the draft.

But the Giants were not done trading. In the third round, the Giants received the No. 71 pick from the Denver Broncos in exchange for the No. 76 pick and the No. 164 pick acquired in Thursday's trade with Chicago. The Giants then selected UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson with the No. 71 pick.

To get things going on Day 3, the Giants selected Northern Iowa linebacker Elerson Smith with the No. 116 pick in the fourth round.

Two rounds later, the Giants made their final two picks of the draft, selecting Arizona running back Gary Brightwell at No. 196 before finishing up with the selection of Oklahoma State cornerback Rodarius Williams at No. 201.

Here is how experts have graded the Giants' draft class.


Day 1

"I projected the Bears-Giants deal in my first-round trades article a few weeks ago, despite the Giants' apparent reticence against moving down early in the draft. Getting a first- and fourth-rounder in 2022, plus a fifth-rounder this year, to move down nine spots wasn't much of a decision for GM Dave Gettleman. Toney's quickness off the line of scrimmage is fantastic, and he looked like a first-rounder from the get-go during the 2020 season. Daniel Jones should find the former Gator to be a great slot target, combining with free agent acquisitions Kenny Golladay and John Ross to spice up the Giants' passing attack. Although Toney had a couple drops during Senior Bowl week, he was reliable during his Florida career, so I don't believe that is an issue. And if you watched those practices closely, Toney separated from defenders in Mobile, Alabama, in a way that most receivers don't."

Pro Football Focus: Above Average

"Kadarius Toney is still learning to play wide receiver, but his development in 2020 was impressive to watch if you cued up his tape chronologically. Plus, there is no more electrifying playmaker in this draft. Toney is a tackle-breaking machine, and while he was primarily a slot receiver in college, he has the size and moves to develop into more than that at the next level."

ESPN's Mel Kiper on Round 1 winners

"How about Dave Gettleman trading down? It was his first trade back -- in any round -- in his nine drafts as a general manager. And the Giants got back the Bears' No. 20 pick, a fifth-round pick this year and their first- and fourth-rounders next year to move down nine spots. That's a big win for a team that is still ascending and building its roster. With that No. 20 pick, Gettleman got a weapon for quarterback Daniel Jones in Toney, who should get 10-plus touches per game on offense and as a returner. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands out of the slot. New York's receivers were very poor last season, but now Jones has Toney and free-agent signing Kenny Golladay to take him to the next level. Either way, any team that adds a future first-round pick and still gets a great player is a winner on draft night."

"Give Giants GM Dave Gettleman a ton of credit for making the most of a bad situation, trading down to 20 with the Chicago Bears and picking up a future first-rounder (plus fourth and fifth-round picks) in the process. And not only that, he still got a playmaking receiver in the 6-foot, 199-pound Kadarius Toney... He's fast and elusive and a weapon the Giants can line up all over the field. He definitely helps them meet what was obviously their first-round goal: To add a weapon for young quarterback Daniel Jones."

"Dave Gettleman traded down for the first time in his tenure as a general manager, and one thing is confirmed: He didn't get fleeced. In fact, the opposite is true. When you look at this year's and last year's trades in the first round, no team got more value from trading down than the Giants in this swap. Think about this: Depending on the growing pains of quarterback Justin Fields in the NFL, the future first-rounder that changed hands could even be about the same value as the No. 11 pick they gave up on Day 1. But even if Fields hits the ground running and the Bears win the Super Bowl in 2021, the Giants would still come away with positive value out of this trade. In other words, the risk of the uncertainty of the Bears' future first-rounder is low, but the upside is tremendous."

"The Giants ranked 31st in both yards per game and points per game last season, while also ranking dead last with 12 receiving touchdowns. So, they addressed a major need by selecting a talented wide receiver in Florida's Kadarius Toney. He is an electric playmaker and gives the Giants offense much-needed speed and big-play potential."

"He has the tools to really add a big-play threat to the offense. Trading down and getting a playmaker and a first-round pick next year is a good move."

"New York added Kenny Golladay as a defined outside No. 1 for Daniel Jones. Toney, a big-play slot with some nice field-stretching skills, can complement Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton well with his versatility."

"Whatever happened with the Giants this draft the team needed a weapon, and Toney is a weapon. He's a receiver in the Stefon Diggs mold, and along with Kyle Pitts made the Gators' offense a nightmare."

Day 2

ESPN's Mel Kiper on Day 2 winners

"Dave Gettleman did it again. That's back-to-back trades down in the first two days, and now the Giants have extra first-, third- and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. And to get Ojulari, my third-ranked outside linebacker, at No. 50 is stellar value. Ojulari is a perfect fit for New York's 3-4 defense, and he'll be a speedy rusher off the edge. He had 8.5 sacks for the Bulldogs last season. He also has some coverage ability, so he'll be able to disguise in Patrick Graham's defense. Gettleman & Co. also got a versatile and physical corner in Robinson, who could compete for early playing time. It was a good Day 2 for the Giants."

SNY's Ralph Vacchiano on Azeez Ojulari pick: A+

"This could go down as one of the steals of the entire NFL Draft. It certainly has to be surprising to the Giants that, after discussing Azeez Ojulari as a possibility at 11, they ended up landing the 6-foot-2, 249-pound edge rusher 39 picks later. It was an amazing turn of events, made even more impressive by the fact they got him after GM Dave Gettleman traded down – for the second time in two nights! – swapping the 42nd pick with the Miami Dolphins for the 50th pick and a third-rounder in 2022. That is some brilliant draft maneuvering. In fact, it would've been praised no matter who the Giants took at 50. But to end up with one of players they've been eyeing as a top pick for months … that's a home run. They believe Ojulari can be a home run in the pass rush, too. He's got great speed and explosiveness and is coming off an 8 ½-sack season. The Giants were desperate to find an edge rusher to play either behind or opposite Leonard Williams, who really was their entire pass rush last year. Now they've got a 1-2 punch with a player they never could've expected would've been still waiting for them in the middle of Round 2."

Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer on Azeez Ojulari pick: A+

"Dave Gettleman nailed this one, getting an edge rusher with also dynamic coverage ability needed for the second level. Ojulari offers the Giants the ideal combination of speed, strength and instincts."

"An uncharacteristic second trade down by GM Dave Gettleman early in Round 2 netted the team a third-round selection next year while only costing them eight spots. They ended up with edge rusher Azeez Ojulari at Pick 50, who may have slid due to reported medical concerns. If he's healthy, Ojulari will be a Markus Golden-type difference-maker. Robinson could easily have been picked 20 spots sooner because of his size and versatility, so giving up a late-round pick for his services was a worthwhile investment."

The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia on Azeez Ojulari pick: A

"Dave Gettleman tried the whole trading back thing and apparently decided he liked it! This move worked out great for the Giants. They moved back eight spots and picked up a 2022 third-round pick. There were some injury questions with Ojulari, but if he's healthy, he could emerge as the best pass rusher in the draft. He led the SEC last year with 8.5 sacks. Ojulari (6-foot-2, 249 pounds) has long arms, can win in a variety of ways and will be just 21 years old at the start of next season, meaning he could have plenty of room to grow. I love what the Giants did here."

Pro Football Focus on Azeez Ojulari pick: Elite

"Ojulari could have easily been drafted in the first round, making this selection one of the better values so far in Round 2. He is one of the more advanced pass rushers in this class technically and has an impressive first step off the edge. It helped lead to a 91.7 PFF pass-rushing grade this past season at Georgia. Ojulari also happens to fill a clear area of need for the Giants, whose top four pressure leaders were all interior defenders in 2020."

Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski on Azeez Ojulari pick: A

"At 6'2" and 249 pounds, Georgia's Azeez Ojulari automatically comes up as a potential 3-4 outside linebacker even though NFL squads used base defenses only 24 percent of the time last season. Ojulari is an edge-rusher with arguably the best first step in the class. His Gumby-like flexibility creates opportunities to run the ring and shorten the path toward quarterbacks. Yet the 20-year-old isn't built like a typical defensive end. That's OK. What Ojulari lacks in prototypical size and girth, he makes up for with long arms (34⅜ inches) and powerful pop upon initial contact. He can be seen during games standing up and squeezing holes against much bigger pulling linemen... New York is loaded defensively with Leonard Williams dominating up front, tackling machine Blake Martinez at linebacker and one of the league's most talented secondaries. The Giants couldn't go into the season without some type of edge presence, but they shouldn't have to worry about that any longer."'s Cynthia Freelund on top Day 2 value picks

"Ojulari was my No. 22 big-board player ahead of the draft. The Giants now have two firsts, two thirds and two fourth-round picks next season from a series of trades, including the trade down to No. 50. To amass all of these picks and get a top-22 player at a position of need is the definition of value. Ojulari's speed stands out. HIs burst -- which is the speed (velocity) he reaches from the start of a play to the first 2 yards past the line of scrimmage -- was the fastest in FBS last season. Alignment versatility adds another element to blitz and pressure packages."

CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso on Azeez Ojulari pick: A-

"My EDGE1 in this class. Plays the run better than expected for a smaller outside rusher because of his long arms and leverage. Freaky explosive. Good bend, Good pass-rush moves. The Giants needed more juice up front."

"No GM had better first two days of the draft than Giants Dave Gettleman. His first three picks should make an immediate impact and he picked up first and third-round picks in what will be a loaded 2022 class. UCF DB Aaron Robinson is one of the most underrated players in this draft."

CBS Sports' Chris Trappaso on Aaron Robinson pick: A-

"A fiesty inside-outside cornerback with good mirroring skills because of his light feet and good route recognition. Instant slot starter who'll find the football. Good in run support too."

Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash on Day 2's biggest steals: Azeez Ojulari

"He may not have plus size and strength, but Ojulari is the most advanced pass-rusher in this class. He's a speed rusher in its purest form, possessing arguably the best cornering ability in the class, and he is also the most technically advanced edge defender available this year. This is why he notched a 91.7 pass-rush grade in 2020, which both led the 2021 class and was the fourth-best mark we have seen from an SEC edge defender in the PFF College era."

NBC Sports' Nick Goss on Day 2 moves: A-

"Ojulari was an important player for a Georgia defense that had four players taken in the top 50 picks. He also was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded pass rusher in the 2021 draft class. Robinson adds much-needed depth in the secondary."

Pro Football Focus on Aaron Robinson pick: Very Good

"The Giants' secondary was already in a good spot entering the 2021 NFL Draft. By adding Robinson, potentially to man the slot, New York only improves its outlook. Robinson isn't your prototypical slot cornerback. He has the size and press experience to potentially play outside. He also picked up 80.0-plus run-defense grades in each of the past two seasons at UCF. New York adds another talented piece to its secondary."

SNY's Ralph Vacchiano on Aaron Robinson pick: B+

"What, you thought Dave Gettleman could only trade down? After doing that twice, he flipped the switch in the third round and got aggressive, sending a fifth-round pick to the Broncos to move up from 76 to 71 to get a player the GM said he considered taking at 50. Assuming that's true, good for Gettleman to be bold and not just sit and hope that a player he likes falls into his lap. Was the 5-11, 186-pound Aaron Robinson worth it? The Giants seem to really think so. They believe he's an ideal fit for their defensive scheme, and the kind of press corner they want to build their defensive backfield around. He's not big, but he's tough and he's quick enough to play inside or outside. Giants coach Joe Judge also said he has value on special teams."

Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer on Aaron Robinson pick: B+

"The Giants made another solid defensive pick as Robinson's size and coverage versatility is a great fit for the secondary scheming of Patrick Graham."

The Athletic's Sheil Kapadia on Aaron Robinson pick: B

"He started his career at Alabama before transferring to UCF. Robinson (6 feet, 186) is an older prospect and will turn 24 in November of his rookie season. In 22 games over the past two seasons, he produced 20 passes defended and three interceptions. Robinson ran a 4.38 at his pro day. The Giants could view him as a versatile starter who's capable of lining up outside or in the slot. This is a fine pick."

Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski on Aaron Robinson pick: B

"The New York Giants' earlier grade for Azeez Ojulari mentioned their standout secondary. The addition of Robinson only makes it better. Safeties Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney are New York's two best options to cover the slot. Robinson is a natural corner who happens to work best over the slot receiver. While the Giants can continue to rely on their versatile defensive backs, Robinson provides more stability when working against inside receivers."

Day 3

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


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