The New York Giants surprised some experts when they selected Northern Iowa outside linebacker Elerson Smith in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Smith, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound defensive end/edge rusher, had played just one year of college football and was considered very green. The Giants found that out last summer and Smith found himself on injured reserve for the first two months of the season.
When he began to suit up in November, Smith played only 19 percent of the defensive snaps, making eight total tackles and registering two QB hits.
This year, with Wink Martindale as the defensive coordinator and a year in the NFL under his belt, Smith intends to play a bigger role in the Giants’ defense.
“I’m gonna make sure I take advantage of every opportunity I have in front of me,” Smith told The Post this offseason. “If people remember my name or not right now, that’s not gonna help us win games. I’m going to try to take care of the opportunity I have in front of me.”
Smith is up against several obstacles, however. The Giants’ top pick in this year’s draft, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and last year’s sack leader (Azeez Ojulari) are ahead of him on the depth chart, as well as Oshane Ximines and Quincy Roche.
That is not the only hurdle Smith has. His frame is not prototypical of the position he plays. He is aware and has added about 10 pounds since last season to add bulk. It’s hard to tell, though.
“I’m just tall, stretch it out a little bit so you can’t really tell,” Smith said of his added weight.
Luckily for Smith, Martindale knows how to use his linebackers and play off their strengths. Smith’s height could actually help him in certain situations.
“I always say there’s a good place for a small person,” Martindale said. “It’s behind a big, long person in this league, because you know, it helps everything. It helps your open-field tackling and helps separating off blocks and it helps going up to the 50/50 ball. Length does play a big part of it.”
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