Player: OT Justin Pugh
Vitals: 6-6, 292 LBS, 22 YO
Regular Season Stats: Started every conference game this season, part of line that blocked for three straight 1000 yard rushers.
Strengths: Intelligence, work ethic, quickness on the edge.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up on weight to match 6-6 frame, recent injury questions
Big Moment: As almost anyone following Syracuse will tell you, the team got noticeably better up front when Pugh returned. Syracuse finished 6-2 with Pugh in the lineup.
What the TNIAAM Crew says:
Chris Daughtrey: I think Pugh has got the best chance to be drafted high. The draft has had no shortage of top offensive linemen that have gone high; Robert Gallery, D'Brickishaw Ferguson, Michael Oher, Jonathan Ogden, Orlando Pace, etc. If NFL execs love QBs, the love linemen who can protect QBs almost as much. One of my very first pieces over at Bleeding Orange was entitled "Justin Pugh and the Point of no Return" and spoke to the choices a guy like Pugh has to make regarding his pro future. Pugh has got the talent, but he's still a bit undersized at only 285 or so. If he's going to make it as an NFL OL, he's going to have to get bigger. Unfortunately he's packed on just about as much muscle as you can fit on a 6'5" frame. So, in his case, bigger means fatter. If he's willing to pack on 20 or 30 pounds worth of cheese burgers in order to make a run at the NFL, I think he could be very successful. On the other hand, he might decide it's not worth the inevitable heart attack. Much like Nassib though, not playing football past college isn't totally a bad thing
Matt McClusky: I'm not going to even pretend with this one. Linemen are the toughest position to judge in football for me. I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan (yes, I'll take your pity), everyone in the world tells me Jason Peters, our big tackle, is a game changer. That's all and good, except I've watched him be burned by quicker defensive ends in key moments of big games for the last few seasons. But you know what? After Peters tore his ACL this offseason, causing him to miss this year, all of a sudden, I'm missing me some Jason Peters! Even though he's an overpaid, out of shape, bum, the line seems worse without him. So, in other words, offensive lineman is tough to judge and I'm certainly not an expert. However, I'll say this, when Justin Pugh missed time earlier in the year the entire offense seemed out of sync, Pugh comes back and Nassib and Alec Lemon go crazy and Jerome Smith rushes for over 1,000 yards. Given that, I'll say Pugh ends up a top two round draft pick and develops nicely into a legit NFL player.
Sean Keeley: By all accounts, he's the kind of guy that a team can draft in the 2nd or 3rd round and fans & media types will nod in agreement and call it a solid pick. He's the best Syracuse offensive line prospect since...I don't even know. He's built for the next level and he's proven that he's capable of coming back from injury and playing to a high level. That injury might be a big asterisk for a lot of teams but if he can put up good combine numbers, they'll look past it.
Andrew Pregler: I'll echo what has already been said: solid pick in second round of the draft. I think that Pugh will be someone who is in the top five in combine numbers for tackles and top ten for linemen overall but his intelligence will wow general managers. From speaking with him in media ops, the guy knows his stuff, knows the game, knows the value of teamwork and is the prototypical Doug Marrone Syracuse offensive lineman. His quickness makes up for his lack of girth for right now, but at the next level they will do all they can to bulk him up. If Pugh can't get up to size while retaining his current skill set, he's a solid rotational guy for 5-6 seasons. If he can bulk up and keep his assets, he's a guy with a lot of upside.
Consensus: The safe bet to go off the board either one or two. Pugh's intangibles are what he has going for him right now, if he can impress with the physical traits he should be one of the top 10 linemen taken in this year's draft.