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Justin Pugh Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Syracuse OG

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Justin Pugh Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Syracuse OG
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Pugh

New York Giants

First Round: 19th Pick

Although Justin Pugh played his entire collegiate career at left tackle, the three-year starter is valued for his potential versatility in the NFL.

Pugh will likely shift inside to guard, and with more and more teams looking for athletes on the interior line, he could come off the board higher than anticipated.

In terms of his physical tools, Pugh compares favorably to the Ravens' Marshal Yanda, who has excelled at both right tackle and guard during his NFL career.

 

Strengths

Pugh's athleticism is modest for a left tackle, which is why he will likely shift to the right side or to guard in the pros, but it will be considered one of his strengths if he makes the move. 

His ability to block in space and reach the second level will intrigue many teams running the zone-blocking scheme or some form of the read-option. 

Pugh is also an impressive technician on the offensive line. He consistently frustrates more physically talented pass-rushers due to his fundamentals and precise technique. 

 

Weaknesses

Certain teams will be turned off by Pugh's lack of elite strength. He doesn't dominate in the run game and will struggle in one-on-one matchups with nose tackles if he shifts inside to guard. 

On the bright side, if this is Pugh's biggest area of concern, it's easily fixable. He has the frame to add some weight and should be able to improve his strength if it's deemed necessary by his coaches. 

 

Tools

Pugh is a guard/tackle 'tweener due to his physical tools. At first glance, the 6'5" Pugh appears to have the length to play tackle, but his 32" arms raise some doubts.

By comparison, the 6'2" Chance Warmack has arms that measured 34 3/4" in length. Only three offensive linemen at the combine had arms as short or shorter than Pugh's, and all three are considered interior linemen.

As an interior lineman, however, Pugh's athleticism will be considered an asset.

 

Intangibles/Character/Injury Concerns

Pugh missed the first four games of his senior year with an injury to his left shoulder, but otherwise, he remained healthy throughout his career. 

Despite leaving school a year early, Pugh has plenty of experience, making 33 career starts. 

 

System

Pugh lined up at left tackle at Syracuse but lacks the athleticism to excel at the position in the pros. If he shifts inside to guard, however, his athleticism becomes an asset and should make him an ideal fit for a zone-blocking scheme. 

His lack of elite strength may cause some teams to worry about his ability to hold up against more physical nose tackles from the guard position, but he appears to have the frame to add some weight and should be able to improve in this area.

 

Pass Blocking

Matt Miller Breaks Down Justin Pugh

While Pugh will probably shift inside to guard in the NFL, his pass-blocking skills certainly aren't lacking on the outside. 

Pugh may lack the long arms and elite athleticism that most teams like to see in a offensive tackle, but his impressively quick footwork helps to make up for his other physical limitations.

He is consistently quick out of his stance and has shown an ability to slide outside with edge-rushers while maintaining good positioning. 

If he does shift inside to guard, Pugh will struggle with more powerful bull-rushers. Even strong defensive ends are able to walk Pugh back into the pocket fairly consistently, and nose tackles will do even more damage. 

For Pugh to hold up in a man-blocking scheme against dominant nose tackles, he will need add weight and improve his lower-body strength.

 

Run Blocking

Pugh lacks the strength to be a dominant run-blocker, but he wins battles due to his fundamentals. 

With proper hand placement and quick footwork, Pugh is able to consistently redirect defensive linemen in order to open up holes even if he isn't able to drive them back with the use of pure strength. 

As a result, Pugh is more of a finesse run-blocker, which won't interest every team depending on their scheme, but it's an effective strategy that works given his skill set.

 

Recovery/Blocking in Space

Due to his modest athleticism, Pugh is occasionally beat off the snap, especially by more athletic edge-rushers. His quick footwork, however, allows him to consistently recover and at least slow down the pass-rusher even if he isn't able to completely deter him from reaching the backfield. 

As an interior lineman, Pugh's ability to play in space will be considered elite. His athleticism should match nearly any 3-technique pass-rusher and he will be able to recover when he's beat off the snap. 

In order to improve his ability to recover against bull-rushers, however, Pugh will need to add some weight and improve his lower-body strength. When he's jolted back and loses his leverage, Pugh needs have that extra weight to help him re-anchor.

 

Hand-Fighting/Technique

Pugh is a finesse blocker who doesn't win with pure strength. And while that comment is often taken as a negative, it's what works for Pugh's skill set. He knows his positioning extremely well and is able to control more physically gifted defensive linemen with his hand placement and footwork. 

 

Future Role/Versatility

Pugh's been rumored as a potential first-round pick, which feels like a reach for a player with some physical limitations. However, if he falls in to the late second or third round, Pugh would be an incredibly safe selection. 

He has the tools to play all five positions on the offensive line and that type of versatility all but guarantees Pugh a 10-year career as no worse than a quality backup. 

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