Last weekend the 2018 NFL Draft took place in Dallas as the NFL gave it’s annual welcome of new players into the fraternity. Now teams are getting ready for their mini-camps and OTA’s as training camp draws closer. Out of the 256 players that were chosen last weekend, two were Hispanic. While that number is lower than last year, it still shows that the NFL continues to invest in Latino talent. With that being said, here are the players who had their named called in North Texas….
Texas El-Paso offensive guard Will Hernandez-
Hernandez was the first Latino player selected this year. He was chosen 34th overall (2nd pick of the second round) by the New York Giants. After a stellar individual career at UTEP in which he was named an All-American, Hernandez put on a show at the NFL Scouting Combine in which he did 37 reps on the bench press and posted a 24-inch vertical jump. Now he’ll head to the Big Apple where he’ll be tasked with helping to fix an offensive line that dealt with injuries, allowed 25 sacks and accumulated 194 penalty yards in 2017.
Miami (FL) wide receiver Braxton Berrios-
With Danny Amendola now playing for a division rival, and with Julian Edelmen coming off a season-ending knee injury, the New England Patriots may have found their new slot receiver. Enter Braxton Berrios, one of the driving forces behind the Hurricanes ACC Coastal Division championship and Orange Bowl appearance last season. He possesses a skill set similar to Amendola and Edelmen, and it was that attribute that convinced Bill Belichick to use his sixth round selection (210th overall) to bring the 22-year-old Puerto Rican to the northeast. The potential to catch passes from the ageless wonder known as Tom Brady is a pretty good way to break into the league.
Unfortunately not every player gets drafted. But once the draft concludes, teams scramble to fill out their rosters with undrafted rookie free agents. Which is the exact situation that Florida Gators kicker Eddy Pineiro finds himself in.
Like Hernandez, Pineiro is also an All-American. The son of Cuban immigrants is the most accurate kicker in Florida history as he converted 88.4-percent of his field goal attempts. He left school a year early in order make his NFL dreams come true. That, combined with the fact that kickers were in low demand this year, could be the reason why he wasn’t drafted. But that didn’t stop one AFC team from giving him an opportunity.
The Oakland Raiders are looking for a new place kicker after parting ways with Sebastian Janikowski after 18 seasons. While duplicating Janikowski’s legendary leg strength may be out of the question, Pineiro can win the job if his accuracy carries over into the NFL. The only other Latino players to get free agent deals were wide receiver LaQuvionte Gonzalez (Los Angeles Rams), and offensive lineman Chris Gonzalez (Minnesota Vikings), no relation.
LaQuvionte Gonzalez started his college career at Texas A&M before transferring to Kansas in 2015. After catching 62 passes for 729 yards for the Jayhawks in 2016, Gonzalez was dismissed from the team just before the start of the 2017 season. After that he found his way onto the roster at Southeastern University -an NAIA school in Florida- where he was the school’s leading receiver last year.
As for Chris Gonzalez, he played his college ball at San Jose State. And while the team posted a losing record during his time there (14-35 between 2014 and 2017), they did average 200 passing yards per game.
While this year’s Latino free agent group is smaller than last year’s, there’s no denying that there’s still some talent making their way into the league. Over the next week or so, all 32 teams will open their rookie mini-camps.