Revisiting NY Giants’ 2018 NFL Draft: What ‘mistakes’ were made? What could’ve been different?

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) /
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NY Giants
New York Giants guard Will Hernandez  (Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports) /

 Round 2 – Pick No. 33: LG Will Hernandez, UTEP

Gettleman promised upon his arrival as Giants general manager to rebuild the offensive line, and choosing Hernandez in the second-round after signing left tackle Nate Solder and right guard Patrick Omameh, he believed, was a significant step towards completing that overhaul.

However, Omameh was released by the Giants prior to Week 7 that season and Solder has not lived up to his contract.

Likewise, Hernandez’ first three seasons have been a mixed bag, to put it kindly.

Hernandez became a rotational player in 2020, Joe Judge’s first season as head coach, often replaced by fifth-round rookie Shane Lemieux. Lemieux finished the season with a 32.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus, which is quite revealing about how this coaching staff feels about Hernandez if they believe the Oregon product is a better option.

This season, Hernandez surrendered one sack and 25 total pressures in 336 pass-protection snaps, and in his career has already surrendered eight sacks, 63 hurries, and 85 total pressures, per PFF.

It might be too early to label Hernandez a bust, but it isn’t a stretch to say that 2021 will be a make-or-break season for the inconsistent 25-year-old.

What might have been different?

Hear me out.

The Giants were significantly better positioned than the Baltimore Ravens to trade up with the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Lamar Jackson. Baltimore sent Philadelphia the No. 52 overall pick, the No. 125 overall pick, and a 2019 pick in exchange for the No. 32 overall selection to choose Jackson.

How much different might this draft class, and the Giants’ franchise trajectory look today had Gettleman and Co. acted aggressively to come away with both Barkley and Jackson? Even if the Giants’ plan was to play one more season with Manning, having Jackson waiting in the wings and developing behind the scenes might have taken the offense to new heights in 2019 — with or without Beckham as a part of it.

Regardless, these three players were chosen directly after Hernandez: running back Nick Chubb (Cleveland Browns), linebacker Darius Leonard (Indianapolis Colts), offensive guard Braden Smith (Indianapolis Colts).

Leonard is a two-time First-Team All-Pro selection, led the NFL in tackles as a rookie, and has already produced 15 sacks and seven interceptions. Meanwhile, Smith plays the same position as Hernandez and did not allow a sack this season while producing a 80.1 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.

It is fair to say that this is a pick that Gettleman and the Giants might want a do-over on, in hindsight.