The NY Giants still possess a major need at the edge-rushing position heading into the 2020 NFL Draft. They may turn to a familiar name to attempt to fill the hole.
If Julian Okwara’s name instantly rings a bell for NY Giants fans, that’s because it should. That’s because his older brother, Romeo Okwara, signed with Big Blue as an undrafted free agent in 2016, only to play sparingly – but well – in his short time with the team.
In hindsight, letting Romeo go was a mistake as he showed legit potential for little to no cost and quickly realized that potential with the Lions, racking up 7.5 sacks on just a 640K salary in 2018. The elder Okwara is best known for his breakout performance in the pivotal December 2016 10-7 win over the Cowboys where he racked up 8 tackles, 3 TFL, and a sack in a spot start.
NY Giants GM Dave Gettleman has an opportunity to right that wrong and bring in an even better Okwara in the 2020 draft. After a breakout 2018 season at Notre Dame that saw him compile 8 sacks, Julian was expected to be a first-round pick heading into his senior campaign in 2019.
Unfortunately, a broken fibula ended his season after just 9 games and has somewhat clouded his draft stock. A shattered fibula on a taller, athletic edge rusher is a legitimate concern to be had and is the main reason he is now being mocked in the second and third rounds more commonly now.
With edge rusher not appearing to be a legitimate option in the first round for Big Blue, Okwara should be a player that is heavily scouted as he should hear his name called anywhere from pick 32 to 70. The lanky, 6’4 248 pound pass-rusher projects beautifully in the Giants’ 3/4 base defensive scheme as he is likely too light to play defensive end in the NFL, but easily athletic enough to thrive as a 3/4 outside linebacker.
In a pinch, Julian Okwara can even give a team some positive reps in pass coverage which is always a huge added plus for a 3/4 outside ‘backer. If selected by Big Blue, Okwara would likely be a day one starter and be in the mix as the team’s lead rusher as a rookie with the team’s overall edge-rushing group being so weak at the moment with the apparent departure of Markus Golden.
A twitchy athlete that is a force against the run as well, Okwara probably makes the most sense as a scheme and draft position fit for the NY Giants out of any edge rusher in this class. If still around at #36 he should be in serious consideration, and if by some miracle he falls into the third-round Gettleman would be wise to entertain trading up from #99 to secure the freakish athlete.
Okwara is firmly ranked as being between the third and sixth-best edge-rusher on almost every single NFL draft expert’s big boards. In my mind, he’s got the highest ceiling outside of Chase Young, but also comes with bust potential as he likely wouldn’t be a high second-rounder in a more normal draft with a deeper edge group.
With the Giants possessing major needs at offensive tackle, edge, center, and free safety, it’s honestly a longshot that Okwara ends up with the team.
But, if Big Blue is going to take a stab at an edge rusher in the second-round there a few – if any – better options than the former Notre Dame stud.