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Will Hernandez scouting profile: An old-school mauler the Bengals could use

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Is the small school prospect a diamond in the rough, or does he need a lot of polishing before starting at the NFL level?

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s class of interior offensive linemen brings a lot of talent to teams looking to add those positions.

It just so happens that the Bengals are in the market for these areas, as Kevin Zeitler left for Cleveland last offseason and center Russell Bodine is set to hit free agency this year.

One of the most intriguing prospects this year is UTEP offensive guard, Will Hernandez. While the talent was evident throughout his time with the Miners, he was still a bit unheralded by many scouts because of the “small school” stigma.

Then came the Senior Bowl.

Hernandez shined in practices and his draft stock began to rise because of it. He comes into April’s class as arguably the second-best natural guard behind Notre Dame’s Quentin Nelson, and could sneak in as a pick on night one.

Profile:

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 340 pounds

Class: Senior

Position: Offensive guard

College: University of Texas—El Paso

Projected Round: 1-2

College Highlights:

  • Four-year starter at left guard for the Miners
  • 2014 Freshman All-Conference USA Honors
  • 2015 All-Conference USA Honorable Mention
  • 2016 All-Conference USA First Team
  • 2016 AP All-American Second Team
  • 2017 All-Conference USA First Team
  • 2017 AP All-American Second Team

Highlights:

Analysis:

Remember current Eagles guard, Brandon Brooks? He attended the University of Miami (Ohio) and intrigued scouts as the winter months of 2012 passed. Through the college bowl season and the pre-draft process, Brooks helped himself so much that it parlayed into a third round selection by the Texans.

Hernandez is an old-school mauler, who really takes it to the opposition and could be in that same mold of Brooks on a number of different levels, who also happened to make the Pro Bowl in 2017. He plays with good punch and leverage, anchoring down at the point of attack. His strong point is in the run game, but he is also quite stout in pass protection.

The only knocks on him are that he doesn’t have elite athleticism (but still above-average) and the questions surrounding the talent level he played against at UTEP. Still, we’ve seen him both pull to the next level and take out aggressive pass-rushers.

Currently, the Bengals’ right guard job is wide open, as nobody truly grabbed the reins from Zeitler’s departure last year. Alex Redmond showed some promise at the end of the year, but if Hernandez is there at the top of round two, I don’t see how the Bengals don’t at least contemplate the possibility of adding him.

At the Senior Bowl, the Bengals showed massive interest in the guard. Given what he showcased in Mobile, it appears as if he’s ready to step into a starting role right away for an NFL team.

However, if the Bengals do take a chance on Hernandez, there will be other major decisions to follow. Is he able to play right guard after solely lining up at left guard all four years in college? If not, are the Bengals willing to shake up the offensive line even further after a dismal year up front?