G-Men Bolster Aging O-Line
As the saying goes, Bigger is better. That seemed to be a theme at the 2013 NFL Draft Thursday night as nine of the thirty-two picks were offensive linemen, one of whom is on his way to East Rutherford to play for Big Blue. The Giants selected Syracuse left tackle Justin Pugh with the 19th overall pick in the draft, which was a surprise to many (cough cough, myself) who thought the Giants would take their chances on one of the athletic pass rushers who were available at number 19 (cough cough , again, myself) or Xavier Rhodes, the talented Florida State cornerback. But as General Manager Jerry Reese alluded to in his presser, for as long as the Giants have been around, and it has been awhile, they have always picked the best player available. Justin Pugh fits the bill.
Pugh is a rock solid offensive lineman with a 6’4” 301 lbs. build who projects as a thick and powerful run blocker with his strong legs and short arms. Scouts were concerned with Pugh’s arm length, particularly if he was going to shift over to tackle, but Reese claimed Pugh “was too good of a value” at number nineteen because after looking over tapes, “you can never downgrade” his skillset and productivity. If there weren’t so many starting-caliber offensive linemen available in this year’s draft, we may have seen Pugh picked much higher than nineteen. For Reese and company, they felt they got the most value with this pick since he was the highest rated player on their board.
As most would agree, the Giants made a conservative selection. They certainly could have taken a chance with the two Florida State d-ends, the high-motored ‘Tank’ Carradine or Bjoern Werner, or their physically gifted corner Xavier Rhodes. I thought they were going to pick Werner, but I can understand why they didn’t. In this draft, there were few definites outside of the top 2 selections. As players like Brandon Graham and Derrick Morgan have shown, picking pass-rushers are crapshoots. The Giants tend to have a knack for finding the right talent coming off the edge, so I trust their front office judgment in passing on the Seminoles. Taking a chance on Rhodes would have been risky too, as the big-bodied corner has trouble with body-control and is undisciplined and underdeveloped in many aspects of his overall game. A good talent, but too risky.
So… did the Giants make the right pick in selecting Pugh? Now that the draft is over, I say yes. I’ll explain. The Giants have needs along the defensive line and secondary, a gaping hole at middle linebacker, and potentially at safety (anyone’s guess if Stevie Brown can repeat last year’s production). But instability along the offensive line is a recipe for disaster, and in order to win Superbowls, teams have to first and foremost dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. On the d-line, Justin Tuck and Mathias Kiwanuka are getting older. They’re not long-term solutions, but they’re viable for this year. The Gmen signed Aaron Ross to help out the secondary, and again, while Corey Webster isn’t a long-term answer, he is still serviceable for one more year. The Giants were taking a bold and, really, silly chance in trying unproven right tackle and former fourth round pick James Brewer at right tackle and are looking to win now and make a pick that would best suit them for the present moment. That pick was Pugh, who can slide into either right tackle or right guard and shore up a side of the line that is oh so uncertain.
Reese and Head College Scouting Director Marc Ross claim Pugh was at the top of their board when they picked him. Right… I want to believe them, and I actually think I do, but I think this pick was out of need along with the fact that Pugh is a very good player.
Time for a grade?
In spite of his short arms, I think he’ll be OK because he is so versatile along the line. He can play all along the line, as Reese and Ross both said he could potentially play center if they needed him to, a rare trait for a tackle. Overall, I think the Giants got great value for their pick in a draft that wasn’t overly loaded with talent.
My grade: B+. And a high B+ at that, like in the 89 range. Not one of those cheap ones a professor gives you because they feel bad for you. The first round 2013 Draft resulted in another solid pick for the Giants. We’ll have to see what the rest of the rounds bring, but for now, the Giants just got a little bit bigger, and a bit better at that.