While there were some rumors circulating around the New York Giants wanting a non-offensive lineman at pick No. 19, the vast majority of pre-draft scuttlebutt stated that, by hell or high water, Big Blue were going to improve their offensive line with their first-round pick (19th overall).
General manager Jerry Reese and head coach Tom Coughlin did just that with the selection of Syracuse OL Justin Pugh. This represented the first time since 1999 that the Giants drafted an offensive lineman in round one (Luke Petigout).
Pugh (6'4", 305) had a decorated career for the Orange, earning All-Big East honors in 2011 and 2012. With Pugh anchoring the offensive line and protecting the blindside of quarterback Ryan Nassib, Syracuse set numerous school-records, including passing yards (3,757) and touchdown passes (26).
There's no question that the tutelage of his college coach, Doug Marrone, a former NFL offensive lineman, greatly helped Pugh's development.
Now, how does he fit in with the Giants? It's an incredibly loaded question, and the answer is complicated.
Pugh has the versatility and ability to play anywhere on the offensive line, from left tackle to center.
Ralph Vacchiano @RVacchianoSNY
Pugh projects to RT for Giants, but Reese says they believe he could play guard or center, too. #NYG4/26/2013, 2:34:43 AM
But, the knock on him is his short arms. Typically, a left tackle that comes into the NFL with short arms must shift, either to right tackle or to the interior of the line. As far as the Giants are concerned, that's just fine, as Will Beatty is entrenched as the protector of Eli Manning's blindside.
So, with that said: Where is Pugh's most likely position?
For his rookie season, I believe it's at right tackle. Incumbent starter David Diehl had a down season in 2012, and this is likely his last campaign as a Giant. It's hard for me to think that Pugh isn't already a better option than Diehl at right tackle.
But, if you look past his rookie season, Pugh might project best in the interior of the Giants line. Left guard Kevin Boothe is on a one-year deal, and the long-term status' of both right guard Chris Snee and center David Baas are very much up in the air.
Plus, the Giants are very high on James Brewer, once considered to be the heir apparent to Diehl at right tackle. If Brewer can develop this season, it could give the Giants the luxury of moving Pugh inside.
Last year, the Giants offensive line didn't have the mean streak that possessed during their Super Bowl championship seasons in 2007 and 2011. In those years, the line wore opposing defenses out, and the Giants must get back to that brand of football if they're to return to the postseason in 2013. Pugh should help open up running lanes for David Wilson, and provide better protection for Manning.
All in all, I like the pick for Big Blue. They desperately needed toughness and versatility on the offensive line, and Pugh provides both. He's both a short-term and long-term solution for the Giants.
As Giants fans are apt to say: In Jerry (Reese), we trust. This was another solid selection by the Big Blue braintrust.