When the New York Giants belatedly realized in 2013 that they had not invested nearly enough resources in a crumbling offensive line they began their rebuild by selecting Justin Pugh 19th overall in the NFL draft. Most so-called "experts" say it takes three full seasons to adequately judge a draft choice. So, by that standard let's ask the question. Has Pugh justified the Giants' decision to make him their first pick in the 2013 draft?
If you want to be a negative Nancy, there are arguments you can use to make the case that the Giants could have done better. Some of those would be:
- As it turns out, the Giants used the 19th pick on a guy who's best position is guard. That's not great resource allocation.
- He's a good player, not a great one. That shows in the fact that he has yet to make a Pro Bowl appearance.
- The Giants could have selected two-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick, star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins or star running back Le'Veon Bell with the 19th pick.
So, bad pick. Right? If that's the argument you want to make, go right ahead and make it. The view from here is that you're full of balogna.
In Pugh, the Giants got a player who has been a starter since the first game of his rookie season. They got a good player who is also a high-character guy and an emerging leader on a team in need of them. They got a cornerstone piece who, if the Giants are smart and don't let him get away in free agency down the line, should be an integral part of the team for years to come.
They also got one other thing -- a modern-day David Diehl, a player who's ability and willingness to play wherever he is needed helps the Giants in immeasurable ways.
Let's look closer at what Pugh did last season and what the Giants can expect from him in 2016 as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.
2015 Season in Review
The Giants moved Pugh from right tackle, where he spent the first two years of his NFL career, to left guard last season. At least that's where Pugh played when the Giants didn't need him somewhere else. Due to injuries, Pugh shuffled to both left tackle and right tackle during the season. He held his own in both spots.
Pugh missed two games due to a concussion, the second of his career. He also suffered one during training camp his rookie season.
Offensive Line Scouting/Development Consultant Duke Manyweather, who also co-hosts the "Block 'Em Up" podcast with former Giant Geoff Schwartz, termed Pugh's move to guard "a very good move for him and the G-Men."
2016 Season Outlook
Pugh is now entrenched at left guard. He prepared his body this offseason as though he would be at guard full-time, and hopes that he is able to get through a season without needing to move around.
"I am loving that I am able to stay there, really feel at home and get all the reps there," Pugh said during OTAs.
"I feel great there. I feel like last year I was really learning how things were going and then at the beginning of the season I wasn't sure if I was going to be at left guard, right guard, left tackle, right tackle, I didn't know if they were going to put me in at quarterback for one play but no, it was good. I enjoy being that versatile player that can play wherever they need me to, but to go into the season knowing that left guard is my position and I can really focus on that, I don't have to slide over to left tackle for half the reps, is huge for me and I think it is going to be huge for my development and I think it is going to be great. I think it is good for everybody up front to know where they are at and have that black and white definition."
If he is able to stay at left guard, Pugh will work between center Weston Richburg, emerging as one of the best in the game at that spot, and second-year left tackle Ereck Flowers. As of now, the plan appears to be for the offensive line as a whole to be the same as it was a year ago, the first time in several years the Giants have had that type of continuity.
Being in that same position with the same teammates lined up on either side of him may also help Pugh make that to elite status as one of the game's premier guards. Manyweather said he is "truly excited to see Pugh's continued growth at guard."
So are the Giants.