There aren’t many players headlining the offensive line group for the 2018 NFL Draft. But that doesn’t mean that this year is bereft of talent, it just means that the players carry a bit lower profile, particularly on the interior.
The New York Giants drafted one of the best offensive linemen remaining on the board by taking left guard Will Hernandez with the 34th overall pick. Let’s take a look.
- Powerful, stocky build. Has natural leverage and is difficult for defensive tackles to move, or run around.
- Good hand usage. Hands improved between junior and senior years. Once he gets his hands on a defender, it’s usually the end of the play for him.
- Surprising agility. Moves much better than expected for a guard with his build, both in space and mirroring in pass protection.
- Scheme versatile. Hernandez has the strength to block heads-up in a man-gap scheme, the athleticism to pull, and the ability to zone block.
- Highly durable. Started 49 straight games at left guard at UTEP.
- Doesn’t always play to his weight and mauling reputation. Can still stop and turn defenders, but doesn’t always generate the movement you’d expect.
- Hand use has improved tremendously since 2016, but still occasionally doesn’t strike with a “pop” or lets his hands get outside on defenders.
- Short-ish arms at 32 ⅜ inches.
What they’re saying
“At first glance, it might be hard to imagine that a Texas-El Paso squad that finished 0-12 in 2017 might be led by a future top 50 NFL draft pick but that may very well be the case with Hernandez, a four-year starter at left guard who may just be the best senior interior offensive lineman in college football.
Do not make the mistake of thinking that because the Miners finished winless in 2017 that the team lacks talent. In fact, in Hernandez UTEP boasts its best NFL prospect since the Raiders made linebacker Thomas Howard the No. 38 overall selection of the 2006 draft.”
- Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout
Maybe it has something to do with the shell he wears, with its high neck roll, but watching Hernandez harkens back to an earlier age of football. Perhaps the 1980s or early 1990s, when high-octane passing offenses were beginning to dominate but running games were still revered.
Hernandez can do it all out on the football field, be it pass protection, block in the power run game, zone runs or get out in space on screen passes. His arm length might concern some with rigid thresholds there, but he can play.