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NFL Draft: Giants take UTEP guard Will Hernandez in second round

UTEP's Will Hernandez is pictured during a game

UTEP's Will Hernandez is pictured during a game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. Credit: AP / Sue Ogrocki

He’s heavy. He’s cranky. He hasn’t won a thing since 2016.

And the Giants think he’s perfect.

That’s why they wasted only the time it took to write the name “Will Hernandez” on the card in selecting the UTEP guard with the 34th overall selection Friday night, continuing the rebuild of their offensive line in particular and their offense as a whole.

A day after drafting running back Saquon Barkley, saying he would help the quarterback, the wide receivers and the defense, they chose a player who will directly help Barkley.

“Didn’t you hear that loud scream?” Giants general manager Dave Gettleman said when asked about the reaction of Barkley, who was at the team’s facility Friday evening.

No, it was inaudible over the cheers of the rest of the coaching staff and front office.

“One of the great gifts you can get in the draft is when value meets need,” Gettleman said. “We had a solid first-round grade on Willie. We’re thrilled to get him. He’s exactly what we’re looking for. He’s a power broker. He’s tough. He finishes strong.”

He is, Gettleman said, a hog molly.

The only concern the Giants had was that he would not be available when they selected. They lack draft capital to move up, so they had to wait patiently for their assigned slot. When the Browns took another offensive lineman, center Austin Corbett, with the first pick in the second round, the Giants had their guy.

So what drew the Giants to Hernandez? First of all, his position. He’s another piece in the offensive line, which already had added Nate Solder and Patrick Omameh in free agency.

“If you can’t block ’em, nothing works,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’ve made an effort here to improve ourselves up front so all those guys who do the fancy stuff can do their thing.”

Gettleman compared Hernandez to Chris Snee, and not only because he was selected with the same pick in the draft 14 years later.

“Will is bigger. He’s a natural 325-pound guy,” Gettleman said. “You don’t want to anoint him, but this kid has a chance to be really, really good.”

Second of all, there’s the disposition. “He’s cranky,” Gettleman said.

Added Shurmur: “That’s kind of a good thing in our sport. In a lot of parts of our culture, that’s not admired. But certainly in our sport, it’s something that we value. Cranky is good.”

Hernandez said he has a completely different, nasty personality on the field than he has off it.

“It’s more than a game to me,” he said of playing football. “It’s who I am.”

And finally, the losing. UTEP was the worst team in college football last year, finishing 0-12. Hernandez started every game at left guard and said it was “one of the worst seasons I ever experienced in my life” and something he wants to “make sure never happens again.”

“If you look at him in Game 12, you know the kid’s got pride,” Gettleman said. “He played as hard in that game as he played in Game 1.”

Hernandez said he came away from his predraft visit with the Giants with a good feeling. He even caught a glimpse of Eli Manning during his tour of the facility, though he was not introduced to him. Now it will be his job to not only block for Barkley but protect Manning.

“That’s so much responsibility,” Hernandez said. “But I got him. I got him 100 percent.”

Notes & quotes: The Giants used their two third-round picks to help their defense. With the 66th selection, they took Georgia linebacker Lorenzo Carter, who figures to be a productive edge rusher in the new 3-4 scheme. Three slots later, with the pick they acquired in the trade of Jason Pierre-Paul, they took North Carolina State defensive tackle B.J. Hill.


Guard, UTEP

6-2, 327

A big, nasty, athletic guard who can pull and hit in space but also hold his ground protecting the middle of the pocket . . . A four-year starter at left guard who was named second-team All-America in 2016 and 2017 . . . In 39 of his 49 games the team allowed one or fewer sacks . . . Was a wrestler and participated in track and field in high school in Las Vegas . . . Came to football relatively late, not playing until high school.

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