Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
“With the 32nd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles select…”
Boy, will it be sweet to hear those words--especially in Dallas, after our archrival Cowboys stole the NFL Draft from the very steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Eagles have never drafted at #32 overall, and before I go to into the explanation for this pick, I want to be clear that I don’t expect them to do so this year, either. If the draft board falls the way it did in this mock, I fully expect Howie Roseman to seek a trade down in order to pick up some extra draft capital and accommodate some team looking to move up for Mason Rudolph (or some other player that dumb teams trade up for). Mocking trades wasn’t an option in this exercise, so instead I stood pat and made my best pick for our beloved birds.
I sat back patiently during our mock draft--just as I imagine Howie and Joe Douglas will do on Thursday night—and waited for a highly rated prospect to fall to me. The Eagles are in a great position this year. While there are many positions where we need to add youth and depth, there are no true needs on this roster. There is no position where a drafted rookie, even a first round rookie, would be a lock to start from day 1. We talk every year about focusing on taking the best player available and this year, Howie and Joe have the luxury of doing exactly that.
If you’ve been reading mock drafts for the last few months and saying, “they’ll never take a running back in round one,” or “Really? Wasting their first rounder on a tight end,” you’re not alone! To the contrary, I would argue that the Eagles roster is so deep and talented at so many positions that no matter what player/position they select at #32, it could be considered a luxury pick. This is the luxury of being Super Bowl champions and getting your MVP caliber QB, future Hall of Fame LT, playmaking MIKE linebacker, and special teams captain back from injured reserve. Which brings me to…
Doubtless, eyes will roll upon seeing a guard listed next to the Eagles pick. After all, the Eagles have Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks at RG and a solid starter in Stefen Wisniewski at LG, not to mention FA acquisition Chance Warmack and former third round pick Isaac Seumalo waiting in the wings. Guards just aren’t a sexy pick, especially in the first round, and offensive tackle is perceived to be a much greater need for the future with Jason Peters at age 36 and Lane Johnson just one PED-slip up away from a two year ban. Unfortunately, the consensus top-3 tackles all came off the board already, and without the option to trade down, reaching for an inferior prospect at a different position seemed unwise.
Let’s not forget, for as well as Wisniewski played last year, he’s a 29-year-old journeyman who spent most of his career as a center. He won the Eagles’ LG job last year only because Seumalo was downright awful in his 2 starts and Chance Warmack was mediocre at best. Wiz played well and helped the Eagles win a Super Bowl, but bringing in some young competition for him would not only improve the line overall, but allow Seumalo to focus on backing up an aging Jason Kelce at Isaac’s most natural position: Center.
What if the Eagles brought in another Pro Bowl caliber talent to replace Wiz? Then, they could truly boast 5 stars across their offensive front, and dominate opposing defensive lines until the cow(boy)s come home. It’s true, the Eagles don’t need a guard, but we’re talking about adding an impact player here. We know the Eagles believe in building through the trenches. We already have the best offensive line in the NFL… what if we could make it even better?
Now, let’s finally talk about the player BGN’s own Ben Solak lovingly refers to as “Willy ‘Nandez”. Standing at 6’2 and 327lbs, Will Hernandez is a big dude. He’s also a hell of a football player. He’s strong as an ox, disciplined, and surprisingly nimble for a guy his size. Watching his tape, he actually reminds me of Brandon Brooks a bit in how well he moves his feet for a guy with his bulk and frame. Don’t take my word for it, check out what the professional scouts have to say about the former UTEP guard:
“Four-year starter at left guard and the most highly-decorated offensive linemen in UTEP history. Hernandez possesses a rare combination of power, balance, and athletic ability. He is a plus run blocker with the anchor and footwork to handle himself in pass protection as well. Though he lacks height and length teams would like, it shouldn’t hurt his stock much. Hernandez should be able to step in as an immediate starter with a high ceiling.” – Lance Zierlein, NFL.com
“Amid UTEP’s sadness, Hernandez emerged as a star. He made various All-America teams in 2016 and 2017, entrenching himself as one of the handful of best offensive lineman in a sport with hundreds of them. He showed up at the NFL Combine on Thursday and put up 37 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, more than any other O-lineman. He measured 6’2 and 327 pounds, making him the fourth heaviest of the group, punctuated by a cut build. That all sounds good. The key is that it’s in line with what we already knew. Hernandez is a mauler and close to a sure thing in the NFL.” –Alex Kirschner, SBNation.com
”Player Comparison: Richie Incognito. Hernandez has a similar skill set and style of play to Incognito. After being a third-round pick out of Nebraska, Incognito has been a four-time Pro Bowler. He is a good run blocker and reliable pass protector. Hernandez also should go on the second day of the draft, and I could see him being an NFL blocker similar to Incognito.” –Charlie Campbell, Walterfootball.com
“Hernandez has average height and a very thick/square build for the position. He lines up at left guard for the Miners and completely dominates in the run game. He is quick out of his stance and uses his upper strength to torque and dump defenders at the point of attack. He does a nice job of re-working his hands to maintain inside position and maintain leverage. In pass protection, he has the power base to anchor bull rushers and surprising quickness to redirect vs. athletic defenders. He piles up some gnarly knockdowns when he’s uncovered. He’s always looking for extra work. Overall, Hernandez is a tempo setter in the run game and more than adequate in the passing game. He had a great Senior Bowl and combine.” – Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com
”He’s exactly what you are looking for in terms of his work ethic and how much he loves the game. He will clique instantly in the offensive line room and he will be one of the strongest and toughest guys on the team as soon as he makes the roster. The only thing that scares me are those short arms.” - NFC area scout
Hernandez is a mauler with a mean streak at left guard. Joe Douglas will love that he was a productive 4-year starter at UTEP, and Howie will love adding another punishing run blocker to the Eagles’ offensive line. Hernandez is widely regarded as a top 25 prospect, and if he didn’t play a position that is somewhat devalued in today’s NFL, he would almost definitely be off the board already. In fact, former Eagles’ scout Daniel Jeremiah has Hernandez ranked as his 21st overall prospect, and 2nd as an offensive line prospect (after Quentin Nelson). That’s right, Jeremiah has Hernandez ranked above any of the offensive tackles in this draft class. Hernandez could be a steal at #32.
Additionally, this pick feels very Patriots-like to me. Remember when the Patriots beat the Eagles in the 2005 Super Bowl? Well, guess who they drafted at #32 overall just a few months later. I’ll wait…
If you guessed offensive guard Logan Mankins, you win the prize. Mankins didn’t do much in his career outside of the 7 Pro Bowls and 6 All Pro selections. Hernandez has the talent to make that kind of impact on this Eagles squad. If you’re still not convinced, here’s a highlight reel of Hernandez destroying people. He wears #76 at LG:
Some might question Hernandez’s fit with the Eagles, given how many zone blocking concepts they utilize in their offense. When I put on the tape, I see a player pulling and getting out in space with relative ease. Hernandez, to me, is a plug-and-play guard who is scheme diverse, and I don’t question his fit in the Eagles’ offense.
The better question is, where does he fit in an already stacked Philadelphia offensive line picture? I think Hernandez can compete with Stefan Wisniewski for the starting LG job from day 1. Doug Pederson and Jeff Stoutland won’t hand anything to the rookie, so I expect the depth chart going into training camp to look something like this:
First team (from left to right): Jason Peters, Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson
Second team: Big V, Will Hernandez, Isaac Seumalo, Chance Warmack, Taylor Hart
That is a pretty exciting second group. Four out of five of those players could start for most of the teams in the NFL. Given Hernandez’s status as a natural guard and a better run blocker than Wiz, I would expect him to win the LG competition by the end of camp. That opens up a multitude of options for Howie Roseman. He can try to trade Wiz or Chance Warmack, much like he did with Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin last year, or he can simply cut Warmack and save the team some cap space. As Doug Pederson said last off-season, “iron sharpens iron.” Adding competition, at any position, always improves the roster.
Additionally, Hernandez fits what Joe Douglas seems to value in a prospect. Last year, the Eagles picked player after player with high-end college production and a lot of game tape to evaluate. Joe D doesn’t go after combine stars, he goes after productive football players. Will Hernandez fits that mold.
Plus, imagine Willy ‘Nandez executing combo blocks with Jason Peters next season. Picture him pancaking Tyrone Crawford and then getting up field to seal off Sean Lee on a Corey Clement touchdown run in a rout of the listless 2018 Cowboys. Imagine adding another 330lb monster to our already dominant offensive line, and the impact that could have for our offense. Doug Pederson wants to bully his opponents in the trenches and Hernandez can help us do that. He can be a road grader on our line who opens up huge running lanes for our backs and keeps Carson Wentz clean for the next decade-plus.
Trade Down Targets
I mentioned in the intro that I would fully expect the Eagles to trade down in this scenario, so I want to get into some of the other prospects I considered, and who the Eagles might target if they do move down. I was surprised by how many talented players were still available here. Outside of QB, punter, kicker, and maybe outside corner, I don’t think there’s any position where the Eagles couldn’t afford to add youth and depth. With that in mind, here are some players that are still available should the Eagles decide to move down:
RB: Sony Michel, Ronald Jones – Running back is an underrated need for the Eagles with Ajayi entering the last year of his deal and the uncertainty surrounding his knees. We could definitely afford to add to our rotation and Michel and Jones would both be multifaceted weapons in this offense.
WR: Christian Kirk, James Washington – Nelson Agholor is entering the last year of his deal and the Eagles have to make a decision on his 5th year option by May 3rd. Alshon Jeffery’s health is still a concern given that he played through a torn rotator cuff for the entirety of last season. Adding playmakers to an already potent offense will never go out of style.
TE: Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki – Even with the addition of Richard Rodgers, TE depth is still scarce on this team. In this mock, the Eagles had their choice of the top TE’s in the draft, but none of them were better or safer prospects than Hernandez, in my view.
OL: Isaiah Wynn, Billy Price, Orlando Brown, Tyrell Crosby, Jamarco Jones, Brian O’Neill – Wynn was heavily considered for this pick given his guard/tackle versatility, and O’Neill is a personal favorite prospect of mine who doesn’t quite warrant a selection this high. The fact that there are so many talented linemen still on the board bodes well for a trade down.
DL: Arden Key, Sam Hubbard, Harrison Phillips, Tim Settle – Seven defensive linemen went in the first round of our mock, but there’s still plenty of talent available. I’m sure the Eagles would love to add talent on the edge or the interior, but none of these players were truly the best available. Hubbard was strongly considered, but Hernandez had a higher grade.
LB: Jerome Baker, Malik Jefferson – With four LB’s coming off the board in round one, it was slim pickings if Howie and Joe wanted to add depth to this group. Either of these guys could be trade down targets, however, and the middle rounds will offer more options as well.
CB: Jaire Alexander, Carlton Davis, Isaiah Oliver, Donte Jackson – Jaire Alexander has grown on me as a prospect since we originally did this mock, but he had a down year in 2017. There were many talented corners still on the board here, but with Sydney Jones returning to full health, the Eagles can focus their attention elsewhere.
S: Ronnie Harrison, Jessie Bates III – Harrison was considered, but doesn’t really seem like a scheme fit with his lack of man coverage skills. Bates could be a target in a trade down but is more of a day 2 prospect.
As you can see, there’s a ton of interesting players still on the board for the Eagles to choose from. I consider Hernandez to be the best of the bunch, but that wouldn’t stop me from moving down a few spots into the 2nd round and picking up an extra 4th rounder in the process. Howie could easily package two of his 4ths and move up into the 3rd round as well. Roseman is an artist when it comes to trades, and I’d be surprised if he didn’t make a few moves to give the Eagles more flexibility on draft day.
If you were too lazy to read this 2,700 word diatribe on the Eagles’ draft strategy as it relates to pick #32 and Will Hernandez, here’s my reasoning in a nutshell.
- If the Eagles are unable to trade down and pick up more draft capital, they will likely stand pat and select the best player available.
- The Eagles don’t have a need at LG, but they also don’t have any gaping holes anywhere on the roster, so they take the best player and find a way to make him fit. Hernandez gives the Birds yet another difference maker on the offensive line--with the added bonus of saving us a bit of cap space if Howie decides to trade Stefan Wisniewski or trade/cut Chance Warmack.
- Hernandez is a top 25 prospect who will fall because of positional value, but he could be a Pro Bowler at left guard for the next decade, upgrading an already dominant offensive line.
- Hernandez fits the mold of what Howie and Joe are looking for, a four-year starter in college who didn’t blow up the combine, but blows people up on the field. He’s one of the most consistent and productive players in this draft class.
- Will Hernandez is a tireless worker and a high character guy who loves football, and will fit right in with one of the most fun locker rooms in all of sports. He’s a high floor/high ceiling player and the kind of unspectacular, impactful addition that winning organizations always make. Football is won in the trenches, and Hernandez has the talent to be a difference maker up front.
Do you approve of this pick?
This poll is closed
2018 BGN Community Mock Draft Order
1) Browns (GMinTraining): Saquon Barkley
2) Giants (ablesser88): Quenton Nelson
3) Jets (20Safety_Hazards): Sam Darnold
4) Browns (MJ1893): Josh Rosen
5) Broncos (drc242): Baker Mayfield
6) Colts (I Need a Username): Bradley Chubb
7) Buccaneers (dunc123): Minkah Fitzpatrick
8) Bears (NVEagleShark): Tremaine Edmunds
9) 49ers (Doug Pederson’s Pair of Balls): Calvin Ridley
10) Raiders (Milehighbirds): Derwin James
11) Dolphins (danishdynamite_): Roquan Smith
12) Bills (LAOJoe): Denzel Ward
13) Washington (Eagle1987): Vita Vea
14) Packers (89Tremaine): Mike Hughes
15) Cardinals (RimoDawkins): Josh Allen
16) Ravens (PhillyEagles2011): Mike McGlinchey
17) Chargers (LBCeaglesFan!): Da’Ron Payne
18) Seahawks (KEZHOG): Marcus Davenport
19) Cowboys (Brawnybalboa): Rashaan Evans
20) Lions (dshelton5): Derrius Guice
21) Bengals (Palaniappan K M): Connor Williams
22) Bills (BeamerWentzorBentley): Lamar Jackson
23) Patriots (jy1187): Harold Landry
24) Panthers (dceagles): Justin Reid
25) Titans (ei78): Leighton Vander Esch
26) Falcons (SakPrescott): Taven Bryan
27) Saints (MidMajorMatt): Courtland Sutton
28) Steelers (SummersInVA): Joshua Jackson
29) Jaguars (RecarTabmok): D.J. Moore
30) Vikings (AnthroEagle): Maurice Hurst
31) Patriots (PhilaWolverine): Kolton Miller
32) Eagles (JALupowitz): Will Hernandez
Now it’s time for you to vote for who YOU think the Falcons should pick in the 2018 BGN Consensus Mock Draft.
1) Browns: Saquon Barkley
2) Giants: Sam Darnold
3) Jets: Josh Rosen
4) Browns: Josh Allen
5) Broncos: Baker Mayfield
6) Colts: Bradley Chubb
7) Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick
8) Bears: Quenton Nelson
9) 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds
10) Raiders: Derwin James
11) Dolphins: Roquan Smith
12) Bills: Lamar Jackson
13) Washington: Vita Vea
14) Packers: Denzel Ward
15) Cardinals: Mason Rudolph
16) Ravens: Mike McGlinchey
17) Chargers: Da’Ron Payne
18) Seahawks: Marcus Davenport
19) Cowboys: Rashaan Evans
20) Lions: Derrius Guice
21) Bengals: Connor Williams
22) Bills: Calvin Ridley
23) Patriots: Harold Landry
24) Panthers: Courtland Sutton
25) Titans: Leighton Vander Esch
26) Falcons: Maurice Hurst
27) Saints: Dallas Goedert
28) Steelers: Joshua Jackson
29) Jaguars: D.J. Moore
30) Vikings: Will Hernandez
31) Patriots: Kolton Miller
Who should the Eagles pick at No. 32?
This poll is closed