The Giants had a few needs to fill, including skill positions like running back, linebacker and cornerback. But true to their form, they bypassed all the hoopla and stuck to their board, by selecting offensive tackle Justin Pugh with their No. 19 pick.
The former Syracuse star is 6-foot-4 and 307 pounds and considered by many to be one of the best tackle/guard combos in the league. The Giants have a habit of selecting ready-made players in the first round and Pugh shouldn’t be any different.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese said that Pugh was high on their draft board and added in earnest that he’s happy that the lineman was available.
“He was the highest guy on our board,” said Reese, almost sounding as if he was trying to convince anyone within earshot. “You guys think I’m joking when I say that, but he was the highest guy on our board.”
Pugh, a 2012 First-Team All-Big East selection, will likely slide immediately into the swing-tackle position — a spot that is very valuable in offensive coordinator’s Kevin Gilbride’s offense.
The extra tackle in the heavy packages is essentially an extra blocker for short-yardage situations, which is something the Giants have lacked in execution in recent years.
Head coach Tom Coughlin certainly expects Pugh to hold his own.
“It’s an outstanding pick for us. Justin is a very good left tackle from Syracuse University, and he’s a technician and an excellent student and very smart,” said Coughlin, who is also a Syracuse alum. “He utilizes all of his ability and he adds a lot of versatility.”
Coughlin went on to praise the versatility of his newest player.
“He can play the left or right side. He’s got big hands, and could even play center for us if we needed that,” Coughlin said. “His feet are good and can get to the second level as well as anyone. ... He can play either tackle position and [can] probably be taught the inside as well.”
Regarding the Giants’ tackle positions, Pugh may not immediately crack the starting lineup, as left tackle Will Beatty signed a lucrative contract extension during the offseason and right tackle David Diehl will be penciled in at the right tackle position. Diehl, though, isn’t inked in as the starter, so it’s a real possibility that Pugh can give the veteran a battle in training camp.
Coughlin certainly thinks Pugh can handle the pressure of camp competition against a respected and long-time veteran.
“Well, it was time to address [adding depth on the offensive line] and if the best player available was an offensive lineman, we’d be very happy to get help along the offensive line,” said Coughlin. “It’s not easy to come into the National Football League and play or start at the offensive line position. But this young man has the experience and intelligence to handle that.”
Follow Giants beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.