It truly comes as no surprise across the league that the Dallas Cowboys generate their success from their offensive line. In 2016, The Cowboys wheeled out an offense that featured two rookie starters at two of the most important positions. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott excelled tremendously and a large reason for their success is because of the offensive line.
After the 2016 season, the Cowboys lost Ronald Leary to free agency and Doug Free to retirement. Despite the two players being more of the afterthoughts on the offensive line, it was clear in 2017 that their presences were missed. Dallas filled the positions by signing Jonathan Cooper to play left guard and sliding La’el Collins over to right tackle.
2017 had its bright spots and its stagnancy in terms of the offense. Perhaps it was a combination of a variety of things, but the Cowboys will need to improve upfront if they want to get back to where they were in 2016.
With the rest of the division improving in the defensive trenches, the Cowboys need to figure out their trench play, specifically left guard.
On top of filling the starting roles, the Cowboys will need to add more offensive line pieces for depth purposes as well. Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports reported that the Cowboys are looking into Marcus Martin as an option:
G/C Marcus Martin will visit the Lions and Cowboys. Martin is a former third-round pick of the Niners. Started for parts of two seasons in SF. Spent last season with the Browns.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 17, 2018
Regardless of what happens, the Cowboys will look into the prospects of adding an offensive lineman early in the draft and one player that has seen his name in the news with the Cowboys is UTEP’s Will Hernandez.
As the draft nears, we will start to get word of which prospects will come into Dallas for pre-draft workouts. One of those players that has already been extended that invitation is Hernandez.
What does Hernandez do well?
At 6-foot-2, 327 pounds, his is a large man. With such natural size, Hernandez does an unbelievable job at moving laterally and getting to the next level. Due to his size, many will question his ability to get to spots to finish blocks. However, his tape is indicative of a plus athlete.
Hernandez has quick feet and extremely strong hands that allows him to keep his defender from disengaging with him. With Hernandez, an NFL team will have a guy who can bully people in the running game and hold his own in the passing game as well.
This is UTEP's Will Hernandez at Left Guard. His Hulk Smash and casual walk away is my favorite thing. pic.twitter.com/s4M7pRGp4t— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) March 17, 2018
What does Hernandez struggle with?
The main issue with Hernandez is how he is going to adjust to facing defenders who are simply quicker and more athletic than guys he faced in college. Due to this, there could be some growing pains with how he performs from the get-go. He likely won’t be an instant stud like Zack Martin was in his rookie year.
Like most guards, Hernandez needs to work more on his technique in pass protection in comparison to his ability in the run-blocking department. Hernandez seems a little slow off the ball. He also is quite aggressive. Hernandez will need to train his aggressive mindset to become more conservative with his initial contact.
Pros of the Cowboys drafting him
Well, it is quite simple. By drafting Hernandez, the Cowboys will add yet another first-round pick to their offensive line. He would also be inserted next to Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, perhaps two of the best players at their positions in the league.
With Hernandez, the Cowboys can continue running the football with success and being able to consistently sustain drives, especially late in the game when they are trying to put games away. With his ability to block and move well in space, Hernandez could be a nice player for quite a long time in Dallas.
Cons of the Cowboys drafting him
This one is also quite simple. By drafting Hernandez, the Cowboys will be adding yet another first-round pick to their offensive line. This is an area that the Cowboys have invested a lot of resources in over the past couple of years.
By spending another first-round pick on an offensive lineman, the Cowboys will have to wait to address other areas of need like the defensive tackle, safety, and wide receiver positions. It could also mean years down the line that the Cowboys would invest more long-term money into the offensive line.
Disclaimer: After not being in the initial Top-50 list, here is what NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah had to say about Hernandez and his future prospects:
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.
Should the Cowboys use the 19th overall pick on Will Hernandez?
Would you draft Hernandez? Tell us why you would or would not in the comments section.