NEW YORK -- The New York Giants don't generally like to draft offensive linemen in the first round. But they and their Syracuse-alum coach, Tom Coughlin, sometimes have a thing for Syracuse players. The latter overcame the former Thursday night as the Giants selected Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh with the 19th pick in the NFL draft. He's the first offensive lineman they've taken in the first round since Luke Petitgout in 1999.
It's an interesting pick because there are a couple of ways they can go with it. Pugh played tackle in college, but his arms measured short at the combine, so the pre-draft consensus was that he might be better used at guard in the NFL. The Giants have an immediate need at right tackle and could try Pugh there. And with starters Kevin Boothe and Chris Snee returning at the guard spots, there doesn't seem to be room for him to play guard for them right away.
But these are the Giants, remember, and they don't generally use the draft to fill immediate needs. Their philosophy is that the draft is for finding high-quality players who help them build and maintain a deep roster at all possible positions. So in Pugh, they get a guy who might be able to play some tackle and might be able to play some guard, and they bring him to a situation in which he doesn't have to contribute right away but has a chance to play himself into a starting role whenever he's ready for it. It's not ridiculous to think he could beat out Boothe with a big camp, and if he doesn't -- and they don't like him for right tackle -- maybe he hangs around as a versatile reserve until he develops into a starter.
Pugh's reputation is as a very smart player who's likely adaptable to both the NFL game and a position change if that is indeed necessary for him, and he's thought of as a high-character guy of the kind the Giants like to have in their locker room. So it's hard to stand up and shout "Great pick!", and it's equally hard to pound the table and holler, "What were they thinking?!?!?" What this is, in the end, is a very Giants pick -- a guy they like and who's likely to make them better at some point but doesn't have to do so right away.
You can say you like the way general manager Jerry Reese drafts because of the two Super Bowl titles he's won. You can say you're frustrated by the way Reese drafts because he's missed the playoffs three of the past four years. But what you have to give Reese is that he's consistent, and he and the Giants organization stick to their beliefs about the way teams should be built and developed. The Giants did their thing in the first round of this year's draft. And if you're a Giants fan, you likely feel good about that.