ATHENS — Two out of the last three Georgia first-round picks have been busts and had their character questioned on account of off-field incidents, but NFL teams won’t have to worry about that when it comes to Azeez Ojulari.
Ojulari, the first freshman to be named a team captain on a Kirby Smart team in 2019, is the sort of stand-up player who commands respect on and off the field, and the background checks NFL teams do annually are bearing that out.
Of course, there weren’t any obvious red flags about cornerback Deandre Baker or offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson before their disappointing rookie campaigns, with Baker allegedly falling asleep in meetings and Wilson being arrested on a DUI charge.
WATCH: Isaiah Wilson caught by teammate ‘sleeping panda’ video
Ojulari has the maturity and ambition to avoid those sorts of issues.
NFL draft analyst Todd McShay elevated Ojulari to his “Top 32″ NFL draft rankings on Friday noting his explosion in an ESPN pay-site article.
Ojulari was also recently projected to be selected No 30 overall in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills by NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah.
“Ojulari has good size, speed and bend, (and) I really like his first-step burst when pass-rushing, and his instincts are advanced,” McShay penned. “He is definitely better as a pass-rusher than in coverage, but he does have pretty good range underneath when asked to drop back.”
Ojulari showcased that in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Jan. 1, a decision that looks better every day now with the NFL combine canceled this year.
It was one more chance for Ojulari to show off his pass-rush and play-main skills, which he did with three tackles and two forced fumbles in the 24-21 win over previously-unbeaten and No. 8 Cincinnati.
As much as the game did to lift Ojulari’s stock, his motive for deciding to play after two sources close to him originally had said he would sit out, was all team-related.
“It was important for me to just to make sure the seniors go out the right way,” Ojulari said. “Their last game, they worked so hard in this unpredictable season. You never know. Just got the opportunity to play for another game, so I took advantage of it, to play with my brothers. It was great.”
Ojulari is listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, but those close to the program say he weighs a decent amount more, and NFL teams concerned with his size will not be disappointed.
UGA will hold its Pro Day on March 17, though the number of NFL head coaches and GMs is expected to be considerably more limited on account of the COVID-19 restrictions in place.
NFL Super Bowl-winning coach Bruce Arians recently said the elimination of the NFL combine isn’t as big of an issue as some might think.
“I think for me, it’s always been what’s on tape — now let’s do the background on the person,” Arians told The Tampa Bay Times.
“You go to the combine, you fall in love with those guys in shorts, they run a 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash). You look at the film though, they don’t run 4.3…and that guy that ran 4.6, he’s the fastest guy on the field. So the tape don’t lie. You can fall in love and get your heart broken at the combine.”
Georgia junior cornerbacks Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell are two of those 4.3-type of players Arians is referring to, but both have shown they can back up their speed on the field.
Stokes and Campbell, like Ojulari, are also strong character players, as NFL teams have likely already discovered with their background checks.