Justin Pugh played tackle at Syracuse, and the spot on the New York Giants' offensive line that seems most open right now is right tackle. So it's easy to presume that Pugh, who was their first-round draft pick last week, will challenge for the starting right tackle spot in Giants training camp. David Diehl and James Brewer don't appear to pose an insurmountable challenge for the highly regarded rookie, and if he shows he can handle the job, there seems to be no reason not to give it to him.
However, prior to the draft most scouts were projecting Pugh as an NFL guard because his arms had measured short at the combine. And as Art Stapleton of The Record explained in a recent blog entry, the Giants' offensive line picture is fluid:
The overlooked domino here is Brewer, of whom Reese has said “we expect [him] to come on and contribute this year.”
Brewer worked at guard last season when Snee and Baas were banged up, and I could see one of the three (Pugh, Brewer, Diehl) having more of an impact at guard if someone should win the job at RT outright. Down the line, if Brewer proves he could handle RT, then in 2014 it would not surprise me if Pugh lands the starting job at LG with Boothe on a one-year deal.
This is why the Pugh pick makes sense as a Giants first-round pick. Not because he fits an immediate need. The Giants don't draft that way. Pugh made sense for the Giants because they don't know what their needs are going to be on the offensive line a year from now. They're thinking about a 2014 version of Pugh, who's had some NFL experience and a chance to show a bit of what he can and can't handle in terms of position. If he shows he's a tackle, then they know they're set at the tackle spots with him and Will Beatty. If he shows he's not, then maybe he replaces Boothe (or, down the line, Chris Snee) and they know they need to find a right tackle unless Brewer shows he's the answer over there.
The Giants like Pugh as a player and believe he's going to be able to handle the NFL, regardless of where and when he's asked to be a full-time contributor. The "need" he fills is "long-range offensive line puzzle piece," and they believe he's a good enough player to succeed wherever and whenever he ends up fitting.