New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese has a reputation for using the "best available" approach to stockpile his roster with talent that falls into his lap on draft day. There's no telling exactly where the Giants had Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh on their final draft board, but Reese addressed a major need by snapping up Pugh with the 19th overall pick Thursday night.
A three-year starter at Syracuse, Pugh protected the blind side of quarterback Ryan Nassib. At 6-feet-5 and 307 pounds, Pugh has excellent size for offensive tackle, but his relatively short arms (32 inches) has many scouts projecting him as a better fit inside at guard -- or even center -- in the NFL.
"For us, I think he has the skill set to play anywhere along the line, and whatever our coaches feel is our biggest need to put him at next year, I think he can do that," said Director of College Scouting Marc Ross.
Wherever the Giants ultimately determine he is the best fit, Pugh will fill a significant need. They entered the draft extremely thin at offensive tackle, with James Brewer expected to compete for the starting job on the right side but depth extremely thin. David Diehl is close to the end of his career, and behind him is a group of young players with zero NFL regular-season games on their resumes.
At guard, the Giants brought Kevin Boothe back on a one-year deal but he will be an unrestricted free agent after next season, while right guard Chris Snee will be entering his contract's option year. The Giants have Brandon Mosley, last year's fourth-round draft pick, waiting in the wings, but a season-ending ankle injury likely puts him behind in his development, while Jim Cordle has been more of a swingman at the position.
"I'd been asked if I thought it was time to take a hard look at the offensive line in terms of young talent," said Giants head coach Tom Coughlin. "Well it always is, but some years it's just not available to you. So we do feel like the addition of some young, talented players is going to help us going forward into the future, we think we have a young man who has demonstrated the ability to learn (and) we think he can play at the right tackle."
Reese still has seven more draft picks entering the second two days of the draft. The Giants need more offensive line help, and are also expected to be in the market for pass rushers and inside linebackers.
Both Coughlin and Ross noted that Pugh, who was primarily a left tackle in college, is a rare type of athlete that can play any of the five positions along the offensive line, a characteristic that Ross noted gave Pugh a leg up on his competition.
"In a year, who knows what our needs will be?" he said. "Just having a guy who even during the game if your center goes down, this guy can go in there and move where ever you want him to go."
For the time being, Pugh, whom Ross said has the frame to add bulk and strength, will compete for the right tackle spot, along with Diehl, who's in the final year of his contract this season, and third-year man Brewer.
With seven more picks left - their original six and an extra seventh rounder awarded to them as a compensatory pick last month - the Giants will probably look to add depth along their defensive line and at cornerback with their upcoming picks.
"It will be interesting," Reese said of the work that still lies ahead for the front office. "You see players with similar value at different positions. We think we'll get a few more good players to contribute right away."