SB Nation's chief NFL Draft blog, Mocking The Draft, has done a great job of constantly updating their 2011 NFL Mock Draft (being run by SB Nation's NFL bloggers) throughout the weeks leading up to the draft. Villanova has one player, OL Ben Ijalana, who is a sure-bet to be drafted - although where seems to vary depending on where you look.
According to Mocking The Draft and the bloggers from Big Cat Country, Ijalana will be taken in the 2nd round with the 49th pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars.This seems to fall in line with many other mock drafts, where Ijalana is being consistently placed in the 2nd round and being compared to Vladimir Ducasse, a UMASS product who was taken in a similar position last year.
As the guys from BCC say, it would be a 'Best Player Available' pick from the Jags.
In the second round however, while the Jaguars' biggest needs are on the defensive side of the football, the pick of offensive lineman Ben Ijalana is purely a best available player pick on my draft board. One of the Jaguars' needs is on the offensive line as well, and Ijalana can battle with third year right tackle Eben Britton, the loser kicking to the inside and playing guard. The interior line of the Jaguars is an area that needs to be addressed. Adding a player like Ijalana will strengthen the line as a whole. Brad Meester is 34 years old and Uche Nwaneri, who was just signed to a long-term deal in the 2010 season, has been crossed trained at the center position.
We'll continue to talk Ijalana and the draft after The Jump.
Jags fan and SB Nation reader Dan Kadar reacted well to the mock pick of Ijalana, saying that although the Jags may have more glaring needs, the acquisition of Ijalana would fill a need for Jacksonville and that Ijalana would definitely help the team, although maybe not right away.
This pick makes sense. After the first round players, the talent on defense really takes a hit. When your strategy is BPA, Ijalana sort of fits that notion. I still don't know who the No. 1 receiver on this team would be. When Jon Baldwin is sitting out there, it makes sense to go after him. Mike Sims-Walker is probably not going to re-sign and Mike Thomas is at best a high-level No. 2. While Jacksonville is a run-first team, it wouldn't make sense to draft Ponder and not give him weapons when they're available.
Mocking The Draft also put together a great NFL Draft Scouting Report for Ben Ijalana, breaking down all the areas of his game as well as giving what I would call a very fair final analysis of the FCS product.
Ijalana is a good looking prospect with the a ton of upside. His overall build and athletic ability will intrigue NFL teams because he is basically an un-molded piece of clay. I have concerns about his weight distribution and technique but most of those issues can be corrected with coaching. Something, you cannot teach is long arms and Ijalana has the length to effectively lock out defenders. He will also get some love because of his versatility. Ijalana has the size and skills to play either tackle or guard in the NFL.
We'll continue to follow the latest Ben Ijalana rumors and news in the days leading up to the draft on Thursday night.