BRISTOL, Conn. -- The annual NFL Nation mock draft Tuesday night was a strange experience this year. It was unusual for the Jacksonville Jaguars to be picking in the final 15 minutes of the 90-minute show rather than the first 15.
It also made things a lot more interesting when it came time to make the Jaguars' selection at No. 29: There was a smaller pool of players from which to choose as well as the need to alter plans based on other teams' selections. When the Jaguars were on the clock, I ended up selecting UTEP guard Will Hernandez.
Before explaining why, a quick look at some of the players who also were in consideration but who were gone before the Jaguars' pick:
Offensive line is an area of need, particularly right guard and right tackle. The left side of the line is set with Cam Robinson and Andrew Norwell, whom the Jaguars signed in free agency. It was unlikely Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey would slide all the way to the end of the first round, and he didn't. He went 16th to the Baltimore Ravens. Ohio State G/C Billy Price went 21st to Cincinnati.
The Jaguars really like second-year receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, re-signed Marqise Lee, and added Donte Moncrief on a one-year, $9.5 million deal. The Jaguars like how that position shapes up now, and with the offense built around the run game, wide receiver isn't as big of a need as some analysts believe. Even if it was, Alabama's Calvin Ridley (27th to New Orleans) and Maryland's D.J. Moore (18th to Seattle) were off the board.
Despite the signings of Niles Paul and Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end remains a major need. The Jaguars want a tight end who can be a blocker and factor in the run game, and arguably the player who best fits that description is South Carolina's Hayden Hurst. He went 24th to Carolina.
As for why Hernandez was the pick ...
The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing last season, but it was a bit of a misleading stat, because they averaged 51 fewer yards per game rushing over the final six weeks. They have taken the unusual approach in the modern-day NFL to build their identity and offense around the run game, but to do that, they need to shore up the interior of the offensive line.
Adding Norwell, a first-team All-Pro for Carolina last season, shores up left guard. The 6-foot-2, 327-pound Hernandez would do that on the other side. He is a road-grader as a run-blocker and, according to draft analysts, showed during Senior Bowl practices against better competition than he regularly faced at UTEP that he's pretty athletic and a solid pass-blocker.
There were other players I considered -- UCLA OT Kolton Miller, Texas G/T Connor Williams, and South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert -- but Hernandez made the most sense. It's not a flashy pick, but it's just what the Jaguars need.