Last April the New York Giants spent a first-round pick on Syracuse standout Justin Pugh. He was the first offensive lineman the Giants took since they nabbed Luke Petitgout with the 19th pick in the 1999 NFL Draft. Pugh was the opening day right tackle due to injuries, and didn’t disappoint. He was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise horrendous offensive line for the Giants. But while Pugh certainly played well at right tackle, he can be dominant inside at guard.
Pugh was a left tackle at Syracuse, and a pretty good one at that. He was First-Team All-Big East in both 2011 and 2012. The knock on him coming out was his short arms. It wasn’t enough to knock him out of the first-round, but it was enough to make teams wonder about his prospects as an NFL tackle.
Pugh had a solid season, and showed progression from game to game. But at the end of the season he was nothing more than above average. Pro Football Focus gave him a +7.1 for the season, which is fine but nowhere near the levels of the better offensive linemen in the league. Some of that certainly had to do with his inexperience, but with his physical limitations it’s hard to imagine his ceiling being significantly higher than what he’s already shown.
Pugh will never be able to physically dominate big, fast, physical defensive ends. But inside at guard he will be going up against slower players that he can handle more easily with his strength and superior footwork. At 6-foot-5 and 301 pounds, Pugh projects similarly to Chris Snee (6-foot-3, 305 pounds) who was one of the most dominant guards in the league during his prime.
If the Giants were set at other positions, keeping Pugh at tackle wouldn’t be a huge issue. But the Giants have to completely revamp the inside of their line. Why not move Pugh to a position where he could be dominant, while upgrading at right tackle at the same time?