Welcome. We're here to interrupt your daily dose of Saquon Barkley/Josh Allen/Sam Darnold/Bradley Chubb debates to focus on the less-heralded but just as (if not more) important big fellas.
Most drafts are stronger at tackle, or at least have more air time dedicated to the potential next franchise tackles. Speaking of which, we lost one of the greats this offseason to the bliss of retirement. Everyone gather round and pour some out for the great Joe Thomas.
Moving onto the next generation, we're actually going to start with a guard. This draft happens to be better at that position, but we aren't picking the name the guy at the crosswalk will be able to reference -- we're going with the guy right after him. Stick around for two more prospects to watch, too.
Draft projection: First round
I walked alongside Hernandez into the bench press area at the Indianapolis Convention Center during the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and let me tell you, this guy is an absolute house who would make the little piggy who built the brick home blush.
At 6-foot-2 and 348 pounds, Hernandez has a sturdy base, great balance and excellent feet to match his power. He's a stone wall on a carry-on suitcase platform -- you know, the ones with the four rotating wheels. Hernandez is as quick in a pass drop and laterally as he is off the ball, stymieing larger interior linemen and free-rushing linebackers and finishing off opponents when he's one half of a double team. His motor lasts deep into the play and his tape just screams reliable, long-term NFL starter.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein and Gil Brandt each compare him to recently retired Bills guard Richie Incognito, who is equally compact and powerful, but having seen both in person and watched both on tape, I'm giving a slight edge to Hernandez. Incognito was an exceptional pulling guard and a very reliable blocker for many years, but Hernandez just seems like a better, more evolved version of him.
The only actual knock on Hernandez is his arm length, which at 32 inches is shorter than usual, but also undoubtedly aids him in his upper body strength. He posted an offensive line-best 37 reps on the bench press on that afternoon in Indianapolis, and ran a 5.15 40-yard dash. While the 40 often doesn't mean all that much, the combination of numbers validated what we already saw on tape.
I'll be very surprised if Hernandez doesn't go in the first round Thursday. This draft's offensive line heartthrob is Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson, and while it's largely justified, we'd be making a huge mistake if we overlooked Hernandez. I can tell you from experience -- it's a hard thing to do.
School: Ohio State
Draft projection: Second round
Price gained quite a reputation at Ohio State: Two-time captain, two-time All-American (unanimous in 2017), Rimington Trophy winner (following Elflein, who won it in 2016) and the Big Ten's Rimington-Pace offensive lineman of the year in 2017. He was also the model of consistency, setting an Ohio State record for consecutive starts with 55 (in 55 games played).
He's a tenacious, relentless and powerful blocker who harbors such desire to destroy his opponent, it occasionally puts him in bad positions. He'll lose balance from time to time as a result and needs to work on having a more balanced base, but his stubbornness should serve him well at the next level if he lands in the right situation. Few will outwork him, and even less will be quicker off the ball. Both are key traits for interior linemen.
He was barreling toward a first-round selection when he stepped atop the bench press platform in Indianapolis, laid down, burned through four reps and then unexpectedly racked the bar before standing and grimacing while grasping at his outer chest. It was a scene seen many times before in weight rooms across America: Price had partially torn his pectoral muscle.
The injury knocked him out of the rest of the combine, but he stuck around to answer questions the next day, intent on proving to teams and media members that he wasn't the type to run from adversity. The injury isn't considered to be incredibly serious, but will drop him into the second round, where a prospective team stands to score a potential steal. If Elflein's first season in the league proved anything, it's that successful interior linemen from Ohio State are valuable at the next level. Price is just next in line.
Draft projection: Second or third round
We could've slid a tackle in here who has a more popular name. We even could have weaved a tale of redemption for Orlando Brown. But we'll instead go to the West Coast to pluck a Duck out of Oregon.
Crosby got his first taste of big-time football during Oregon's run to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, and though he didn't come away with a title, he did gain valuable experience. His college career has been a series of hurdles, with sudden and drastic shifts in program health, coaching changes, multiple injuries, and even tragedy in his hometown of Las Vegas all experienced along the way. Out comes a lineman with plenty of perseverance and intestinal fortitude, a mean streak in the run game and some hardware, too. Crosby as named First Team All-Pac-12 in 2017 to go along with the Morris Trophy as the conference's best lineman, as voted on by those he faced. He also landed a well-deserved Senior Bowl invitation.
Crosby is a road grader when run blocking. He has an ideal frame, a good base, adequate feet, good eyes for targeting opponents and a drive that often takes opponents unlucky enough to end up in his clutches 15-plus yards downfield. He's an ideal tackle to run off of thanks to these abilities. One will struggle to find a more consistent run blocker in this draft.
His knock is in the passing game. His drops aren't quite as quick and smooth as one would like out of a left tackle in the NFL, leading many to project him more as a right tackle. There's also a small sample size of him in these situations due to Oregon's style of offense under Mark Helfrich, before their one-year romance with Willie Taggart. He also has a slight tendency to get tall in pass protection, which could hinder him in the future.
Having said that, these are minor knocks for a player who looks like he could be a very solid right tackle in this league for quite some time. His film is impressive and at times laughable due to the absurdity of his run blocking. He literally drives opponents 20 yards downfield before swallowing them whole or planting them among the rubber pellets ingrained in artificial turf. Having seen his games live and then reviewed them again on tape, I'll be excited to see where he ends up, mainly because I think he's a bit of a hidden gem.