In recent years the term ‘tweener' has become a dirty word in NFL draft circles. It seems to conjure images of useless players unable to adjust to the NFL because they don't fit some archetypal model of their position. It was this kind of thinking that allowed Eric Norwood to slip to the Panthers, and the modus operandi that caused DB Jordan Pugh, to become a Carolina Panther.
At 5'11", 191 lbs on paper Pugh looks too small to be an NFL safety, which the Panthers are transitioning him into. Though he played both position at Texas A&M he looks more comfortable at FS even though his body seems to indicate he's a CB at the next level. With Ron Meeks' sleek, streamlined defense the Panthers will prescribe to the ‘if it ‘aint broke don't fix it' model with Pugh and allow him to play at his more natural position. First and foremost Pugh is a playmaker, and his pro-day indicated this ability when he ran a blistering 4.40 40 yard dash and had a 40.5 inch vertical leap, to put that in perspective NBA MVP LeBron James has a 44" vertical.
A star out of Plano West Senior HS Jordan Pugh stayed local when he committed to Texas A&M and was a four star recruit according to scout.com. Here is what they had to say about Pugh entering college:
State Top 20 prospect, and #3 corner in Texas and #1 DFW CB very physical, athletic, and could eventually compete for top overall CB honors in the State. Run support separates him from the others. He's stocky, hits hard and has very good speed and can play both man and zone coverage.
Normally I wouldn't go back to look at a player's high school reports, but in this case it's important to see his instincts. Pugh played CB in high school, but it's this physicality, athleticism and run support that projects him perfectly to safety at the next level. Reading this I see flashes of Panthers' 2009 7th round gem Captain Munnerlyn.
Scout.com goes on to list his pros and cons as the following:
+ Coverage Awareness
+ Tackling ability
- Jamming Ability
So, the one area that scout.com finds fault with Pugh will be eliminated by moving him to safety. It appears to be the smart move.
During his college career Pugh amassed 212 tackles and four interceptions splitting time at both CB and FS. Superficially it's easy to think Pugh may be a factor on KR or PR, but realistically he has underwhelming stats in that area returning 14 punts in his college career for a meager average of 5.5 yards.
Footballfanspot.com had an interesting pre-draft analysis of Pugh saying his stock was on the rise close to the draft:
Already a very intriguing late round prospect in my eyes, as one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the Big 12, Pugh really caught my eye with a 4.44 40 at 5-10 196. I'm hoping others took notice too. He looked good in positional drills too, but that didn't surprise me as much as the time.
The sentiments of this writer seem to echo the thoughts of a lot of Aggie fan boards and comments. Granted, these fans are biased, but most believe he was an absolute steal in the 6th round, let's hope that they're accurate and Pugh can become the next late round DB gem for the Panthers.
Upside: B Pugh has the potential to be an effective player where needed at safety and with his speed and tackling ability he can be a factor on special teams
Downside: B He appears to be a hard worker, and wont be required to have a meaningful impact his rookie season. Worst case scenario he's a lifetime special teamer.
Fit: A Smaller than ideal, hard hitter, big heart... does this sound like anyone we know? The Panthers' scouting department has been hitting it out of the park with their recent DB selection, and we can hope Pugh is the next in a long line.