Vikings Select Guard In Pro Football Focus 2018 Mock Draft

We’re halfway through the NFL season, which means one thing — let the mock drafts begin.

The Minnesota Vikings are 6-2. They’ve won four consecutive games and their franchise quarterback could return to the active roster any day now. All is well in Vikings Territory (see what I did there?). With the team enjoying a bye week, there’s not a whole lot going on. Even so, it’s way too early to start talking about the 2018 NFL Draft… right?

No, apparently it’s not. But this a good one.

Pro Football Focus published it’s first mock draft of the season. PFF’s Steve Palazzolo reported the projected pick and broke down the Vikings selection. Please note the draft order reflects Vegas Super Bowl odds and not some crazy person’s guesstimate.

27. MINNESOTA VIKINGS – G Will Hernandez, UTEP

[quote_box_center]”The offensive line has gotten a lot of love from Minnesota the last year or so, but Hernandez may be too good to pass up. There are still questions at guard up front, and Hernandez brings a physical run-blocking presence who has surrendered only two pressures in the last two years. Hernandez posted the top overall grade among guards in 2016 at 95.3 and he’s currently second at 90.5.”[/quote_box_center]

Fit With Vikings

As Palazzolo stated, the offensive line was a main focus of the Vikings front office last offseason. However, there is still work to be done.

The Vikings will be on the market for an offensive lineman after the season. Starting right guard Joe Berger is expected to retire after the season, so the team will need to find his replacement. Starting left guard Nick Easton has been serviceable when healthy, but his 41.2 PFF grade up to this point has been less than desirable.

The Vikings could replace Berger with one of the backups, Danny Isidora or Jeremiah Sirles. But, selecting a guard like Hernandez could give the team a potential starter as well as flexibility. Slotting Hernandez (6-foot-3, 330 pounds) between left tackle Riley Reiff and center Pat Elflein, who are both physical players in their own right, could provide the Vikings with a stable left front for years to come.

Reiff is excelling at left tackle and Mike Remmers is playing solid at right tackle. Drafting Hernandez would allow offensive line coach Tony Sparano to test out at least three players (Easton, Isidora, Sirles) for starting right guard next spring.

Potential 2018 offensive line starters:

LT – Riley Reiff – LG – Will Hernandez – C – Pat Elflein – RG – Danny Isidora – RT – Mike Remmers

Here’s a look at Vikings Territory contributor Jordan Reid’s scouting report of Hernandez, via his twitter feed.

Borman Breakdown

Even though zero guards were taken in the first round of the 2017 draft, I have no problem with the Vikings doing it next April. Hernandez was a key contributor at UTEP last season when now-Packers running back Aaron Jones ran for 1,773 yards and 17 touchdowns. Imagine what he could do for a healthy Dalvin Cook.

After watching game film on Hernandez, the guy looks the part of an All-American guard from UTEP. He grades out well in both the run and pass game, has the size of an NFL guard, and could start right away. But is he worth a first round pick?

Here are my reservations: First and foremost, this draft is deep in interior offensive linemen. Secondly, he must embody the type of lineman Sparano is looking for. I’m not sure if he does. And lastly, UTEP is currently 0-8. Call me old fashioned, but I like winners. Now clearly, that’s not all on Hernandez, but because of those factors, I’m hesitant to draft him in the first round.

Jordan and I both agree. Hernandez may not be considered a “bonafide” first-round pick, but he has a definite chance of being selected as one. Either way, I would applaud this pick. He’s considered the best guard in the country.

I would like to see how he plays alongside NFL talent. Scouting Hernandez in the Senior Bowl or a collegiate all-star game surrounded by better players could be the key to determining his value.

Other notable picks:

  • Browns (#1) – QB Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma
  • Bears (#9) – OT Connor Williams, Texas
  • Packers (#12) – OLB Arden Key, LSU
  • Lions (#15) – RB Derrius Guice, LSU
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Sean Borman

Sean Borman is a writer with Minnesota roots that's still somehow an optimist. He was an intern with the Vikings during college and previously wrote for Rant Sports. You can find Sean on the golf course and on Twitter @SeanBoarMan.

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  1. I like the idea of an OL in the first round – like the two OL from Notre Dame – would need to see Hernandez before thinking more about him as a possibility.

    1. Quentin Nelson & Mike McGlinchey? You know Spielman with his love for Notre Dame players has been watching them closely

      1. Palazzolo had the Dolphins taking Nelson, also a guard, at 11.

        If QB is not an immediate need (“Hail Mary, Full of grace…”) I am totally in favor of taking a guard in the first round as that is the only position on the team where I see a likely need for a starter next year. Assuming Berger retires and that Easton and Sirles are both better suited as super-subs (three positions for Easton, four for Sirles), Isidora looks like the best option currently on the roster to start at guard next year (I’m still fine with Easton starting the rest of this season). And Spielman should remember that the two best left guards in Vikings history – Randall McDaniel and Steve Hutchinson – were both first rounders, even if only one of them was ours.

        Outside of guard, I don’t see any openings for starters next year. On defense, with Rhodes, Waynes and Alexander under contract, if Newman retires and Brock moves on, we’ll need depth at CB, not immediate starting talent. Harris or Kearse may be ready to challenge Sendejo, and I’m not one of those people who has this fairy tale notion that we really “should” find an elite partner for Smith at safety. A better LB3 would be nice, but is not essential unless a Myles Jack-quality player falls to us. And If Tom Johnson or Brian Robison retires, we have Jaleel and three young DE’s in the wings, respectively.

        On offense, center and OT are set on the line, and running back only becomes an issue if Cook can’t come back AND we don’t sign McKinnon to a new contract. With Diggs, Thielen, Teadwell, Wright and the two rookies under contract, even if Floyd moves on we’d at most need some third day talent to offer some competition. Ditto for Rudolph’s back-ups at TE.

        Quarterback is obviously the $64,000 Question. If Bridgewater or Bradford are healthy enough to bring back, the ideal situation would be one of them as the starter, signing Keenum to a longer-term deal as QB2 – he seems to have the ideal personality for the role – and Sloter as QB3. Then we can draft a guard in the first round, a CB or LB in the second and/or third, and spend day 3 on best play available types. Bit if Teddy and Sam are both done, that will change all of Spielman’s calculations.

        It’s never too early to think about the next NFL draft.

  2. not picking 32nd is a disappointment, doubt we’d take a guard in the first, and yes, way too soon to think draft, unless you’re a packers fan. enjoy the moment

    1. CalVkg, from the article, “Please note the draft order reflects Vegas Super Bowl odds” I think we’ll draft at 32. Why do you doubt we’d take a guard in the first? You think we need to address other positions? QB is a position of need…

      1. yeah, saw how the draft order was made and being hopeful. can find good guards later in the draft, but don’t mind taking one high, just doubt rick will do it, not his m. o.

        1. That’s true, he rarely drafts o-linemen in the first round. There are quite a few options at guard in the early-to-mid rounds. A main focus should be the prospect fits what Shurmur & Sparano are looking for in an offensive lineman (ala Reiff & Remmers)

          1. If this was still an offense built around Adrian Peterson, Hernandez might have been an ideal fit, but a guy who weighs as much as Hernandez does might have as much trouble fitting in the new scheme of things as 6’8″ Alex Boone did. Hernandez seems to combine the strength of an ox and the tenacity of a terrier with superior hand and foot technique, but does he have the quickness and mobility to get off the line of scrimmage for all of those play-action passes Shurmer has used so effectively this year (after a lot of off-season practice, per Zimmer)? I didn’t see that kind of mobility in space in those film highlights.

            I don’t mind grabbing one of the top guards in the draft in the first round and letting everyone else wait for Day 2 and Day 3 to feast on the rest of the prospects if that’s the only position of outstanding need on the team, but I agree that scheme fit is key. And I couldn’t care less if the kid is coming from a winning team or program, Sean, as long as he can fit in with the rest of the offensive line and into what appears to be a very good locker room.

            1. Very good points, and I agree with your analysis of Hernandez. As far as prospects coming from winning programs, I’ve thought about it some more…it doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. Being part of a Ohio State or LSU program does give you a slight advantage over a Minnesota State in my book, but it holds very little weight overall

  3. How about the kid from Michigan I believe his name is Cole not sure if he will be coming out this year but I like the look of him last year has played center guard and Tackle

    1. Mason Cole. Senior.

      From WalterFootball:

      Height: 6-5. Weight: 305.
      Projected Round (2018): 3-5.

      Cole is a solid player, but he doesn’t have a special trait, such as being very strong or particularly athletic. Some sources have said that Cole isn’t as tall as his listed numbers and that they see some limitations to him for the NFL.

      With Graham Glasgow in the NFL in 2016, Cole moved to center and had a good season for the Wolverines. He could stand to get stronger and improve his pass protection for the NFL. Cole was Michigan’s starting left tackle during 2014 and 2015 and really improved in that time. For the NFL, Cole would fit best at center.

      Read more:

      The Vikings like versatile offensive linemen, especially from the Big10 (Reiff, Elflein). The team needs depth along the interior of the line. Should be interesting to see how Cole’s draft stock is affected by the combine. Could be a steal if he falls to the later rounds.

  4. Hernandez would have been a good pick this next year if A.P. was still in Minnesota but he is not the Vikings have a different blocking scheme the linemen they are looking for are more athletic with movement skills.

    1. Agreed Carl. That was my main reservation with Hernandez. UTEP’s offense uses the more straight-up, in-your-face type blocking the Vikings USED TO USE w/Peterson. Now, there’s a lot more misdirection and pulling, which in turn requires more athletic linemen. I think there’s prospects out there who better fit our needs