A Draft Profile On Offensive Guard Will Hernandez.
The Detroit Lions have several big needs heading into free agency. Their biggest needs at this point are defensive tackle, running back, and offensive guard in no particular order. If the Lions are able to address other positions in free agency, it could free them up to take Will Hernandez early in the 2018 NFL draft.
What Does Hernandez Do Well?
The first thing that really pops out on tape about Hernandez is incredibly nimble for a man as big as he is (6’2″, 348 lbs). The Lions have put a big priority on athleticism among the offensive line since hiring Bob Quinn as general manager two off-seasons ago. While it is uncertain what scheme they run, Quinn and new Lions head coach Matt Patricia have said they have a very similar philosophy on how to build a team and what it should look like. It seems quite likely for the Lions to select another athletic lineman to help fill the big need at the left guard spot and Hernandez is that guy.
This athleticism shows up well when pulling in the run game and when picking up stunts, both things he does at a high level. He engages quite well in the open field and blocks to the whistle very consistently. His strength is also something that stands out to you on film though. This rare blend of strength and quickness gives Hernandez his mauling run blocking ability.
This play against Arkansas shows you how dominating he can be on the ground game. Even though he fires a bit high out of his stance, he gains inside leverage at the point of attack and never gives it up. Does a good job keeping his hips underneath him as he drives the defender into the ground. His block was crucial for UTEP to pick up this 3rd and short down run, an area that the Lions especially struggled in last season.
This 50-yard touchdown run against Texas was one of his better plays this season. He quickly reaches his double team on the nose tackle. He does a great job getting inside positioning, so the center can release to the second level defender. Hernandez stays balanced as he turns the nose tackle inside to seal the A gap on this 3rd down and short run, completely removing him from the play. His play here is essential for the score on the play.
He also has shown very good footwork and hand-fighting in pass protection. Hernandez consistently recognized stunts and blitzes. However, he needs better pad level coming out of his stance at times which can hurt him. This can set him off balance at times pushing him back in the pocket, but he often recovered well enough he would not give up a sack.
Should The Lions Take Will Hernandez Early In The Draft?
I think there should be a big conversation at pick twenty, if the need isn’t addressed before the draft. If someone like Vita Vea at a position of need is also there, it could go the other way. Right now I see him as a late 1st-early 2nd round type of player, so taking him at their current first rounder would not be that big of a reach to me. However, I think you should still be able to get him while moving down from twenty, or if they chose to move up from their 2nd round pick if he begins to fall. Either way, the Lions would get a player who would an instantly improve the running game, with a nice ceiling to grow into in terms of pass protection.