The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

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Jonathan Bales

Everybody and their brother knows the Cowboys need a new starting right tackle.  The 63 percent overall grade I gave Marc Colombo in my 2010 Offensive Line Grades was the worst I ever gave a player.  Colombo yielded a ridiculous nine sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and 40 pressures in 2010.

What I haven’t discussed much this offseason is the Cowboys’ need for a guard (or two) of the future.  Although I gave Kyle Kosier the highest grade of any offensive lineman (86.2 percent) and I’m not as low on Leonard Davis as most, both players are aging.  There are rumors that Davis could get released this offseason.  That would be a mistake, in my opinion, but it isn’t like Davis is a Pro Bowl-type player anymore either.

In my Combine Preview article, I suggested you watch Villanova OT/OG Ben Ijalana’s position drills this weekend.  Ijalana was a left tackle at Villanova, but some view him as a potential guard in the NFL.  A player with such versatility would be quite a luxury for the ‘Boys.

Scouting Report

You aren’t going to find bad tape on Ijalana.  He simply dominated everyone he faced while at ‘Nova.  That is to be expected from a potential first-round pick from a Division 1-AA school, but Ijalana really dominated people.

In the running game, Ijalana is powerful enough to drive people off of the ball, but quick enough to get to the second level.  He excels on all types of runs, from powers to counters.  His balance and explosion off of the ball are both superb, and Ijalana never stops moving his feet upon contact.

In pass protection, Ijalana utilizes his above-average quickness and excellent footwork to protect the quarterback.  His overall technique isn’t perfect due to lack of elite competition (he could get away with some things that won’t fly in the NFL).  He sometimes stands too upright and doesn’t always use proper hand placement, but it isn’t as if his technique is completely sloppy either.

Some people believe Ijalana is “too small” to stay at tackle, which I think is a joke.  He’s 6’4”, 320 pounds.  If Tyron Smith is moving up into top-10 consideration (which I believe is warranted) at 307 pounds (his Combine weight today), Ijalana has plenty of size.

In my view, Ijalana can play every offensive line position except center.  He could immediately start at right tackle in Dallas because he’s an incredible drive blocker.  The concerns about his pass protection would be minimized on the right side (as compared to left tackle).

Projection

As we all know, Ijalana didn’t face elite competition at Villanova.  I see that as a positive for whichever team scoops him up.  On my current Big Board (which I hope to publish soon), I have Ijalana as a top-15 prospect.  He’s my second-rated offensive lineman behind Tyron Smith.

The fact that Ijalana’s level of competition was suspect simply creates a situation in which great value can be gained from his selection.  If Ijalana went to, say, USC, he’d be a top-15 pick.

As it stands now, I think Ijalana will still get selected in the first-round.  He’s too talented and versatile to slip much further, so I don’t envision the Cowboys being able to grab him in round two.  He’s in that “gray area” where a trade down from the team’s first pick and a trade up from their second pick both seem too far to maneuver.

Still, I would be thrilled if the Cowboys could move back even a few spots in the first round and select Ijalana.  Even though I have Tryon Smith rated slightly higher, I’d prefer Ijalana and an extra mid-round selection over Smith alone.

Other Potential Dallas Cowboys Draft Picks in 2011

Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara

Cal DT/DE Cameron Jordan

UNC DE/OLB Robert Quinn

Ohio State DT/DE Cameron Heyward

Colorado OT Nate Solder

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn

USC OT Tyron Smith

Miami CB Brandon Harris

LSU CB Patrick Peterson

UCLA FS Rahim Moore

Baylor NT Phil Taylor

Aaron Williams, CB, Texas

Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple

Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois

Martez Wilson, ILB/OLB, Illinois

Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon

Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois

Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado

Brandon Burton, CB, Utah

Drake Nevis, DT/DE, LSU

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21 Responses to Dallas Cowboys Potential Draft Pick in 2011: Ben Ijalana, OT/OG, Villanova

  1. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    I was afraid you were gonna have him as 1st round talent…I was hoping he’d be avail in the 2nd round for Dallas but no such luck I guess.

    The thing I really like about him is that he’s got a “shorter” base than most tackles. If you compare him physically to Costanzo, the 1st thing you notice is that his legs are shorter considerably. Tackles who carry most of their weight in their upper body are ideal in that they usually can stand to add more upper body strength (weight in chest/arms) w/o slowing appreciably, they don’t have bending problems and they have better footwork. Also, tackles w/ longer trunk tend to have longer arms – it’s reported that Ijalana’s arm length is 36″ (supposedly 1/2″ longer than Constanzo’s and a ful 2″ longer than Doug Free’s) while his height is actually 3″ shorter than both of them.

  2. john coleman says:

    I couldn’t see how Ijalana could be any worse tthan our current RT. The fact that he is projected at OG gives us the bonus factor, if he can play OT.

    I would say that he is dominant which is what you want from a DII player. So he might be a little raw because of competition, but talent is talent. If Akwasi Owusu Ansah had been healthy we might be less skeptical of DII players.

    I’m hoping you are wrong on him being in the 1st rd. IMO he is a solid 2nd rd pick.

    As you stated he could be a great value and he is on par if not above Carimi, Castonzo, and others in that general category.

    I would not be upset with him as one of our picks.

    TJ- The measurables you point out are important and the lower base should also translate to leverage.

    JB-I also see 6-4 320 as big enough. No worries there.

    JB,TJ- In case you don’t know somethings up with the site. When I signed on TJ’s name and email were in the blanks. Also in trying to leave a comment on Nevis I was logged in as VG.

  3. john coleman says:

    Where do you have Sherrod?

  4. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    hmmm, haven’t had a problem to report on my end (my name and email always appear). Guess this site likes me…

  5. Mont Seventeen says:

    I hope Jerry will be aggressive, again this season, by trading up with both top picks as he did last season. Carolina and Buffalo could be trading perfect partners. Patrick Peterson or Robert Quinn are the types of players that will put the Boys over the hump.

    The Boys, have plenty of #2 type personality guys… not many leaders, not many winners!

    Oft-injured Columbo, a leader of the Oline, will be missed emotionally, if he goes. Kosier, another main-stay and back-up center, helps Gurode with line calls. Kosier out, could mean Gurode moves bc his calls are not consistent.

    Losing those 2 Vets will hurt big-time and possibly Bigg… Is a lot but it could work! a sure fire Blue-Chipper from late in the first round, will help that transition.

    But with Jerry’s track record and a brand new HC, this Oline could get ugly!

  6. moses says:

    Ijalana is getting a lot of good press and is listed among the top OTs in the draft. On the NFL network, Billick or Mayock were both talking up this kid so he isn’t going to be a surprise

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Mont, I’m not sure I follow you…how is Columbo a leader if he’s, as you put it, oft-injured? He did play 15 games last year but missed most of the end of the 2009-2010 season and almost all of training camp this year. Even if he wasn’t in the training room at the most critical time of player development/leadership, why would anyone one on the team follow him after watching him play? If he really is the leader you say he is, then that’s the problem – that’s just another area that needs improvement on the O line.

    Also, I would hardly call Kosier the back-up center. Actually, he was often referred to as the emergency center. This year in training camp, he took his 1st snaps at center EVER – believe it or not he was as linebacker in HS and played some G and T in college. Again, you have more info than most if you know that he’s making line calls…

    I do agree w/ you on Jerry’s track record w/ drafting o line (2nd round is highest ever). However, there are 3 1st round O line draft selections on the team right now in Columbo, Davis and Barron. At least, we know he’ll trade for or sign FA 1st round o line talent. I think he, just like everybody else, knows that this year is the year to do just that.

    Given this draft class this year, the only 1st round talent that’s worthy of consideration so far might be Tyron Smith and Ijalana. If they wait til the 2nd round and draft the best RT available at that time, I’d bet money that selection would still be better than Columbo…

  8. starred4life says:

    I don’t follow the college ball at all, so I’m not up on any of the big named players. But I think there could be a huge market for trading down this year (as opposed to other years).
    There’s no free agency (as far as we know).
    The Boys aren’t shopping a stratospheric #1 or 2 in the draft, but a tasty pick at the tail end of the top 10.
    There are tons of talented players in this draft on the defensive side of the ball. If you can trust any of the draft gurus, there are about 65 players’ names being bandied about as potential first rounders.
    I think if a stud drops to us at number 9 (which wouldn’t surprise anyone) let’s say V. Miller, JJ Watt, or Green, for example, the phone might light up with offers of a third to just move back a couple of spots (to the Vikings’ 12th). Or an extra second rounder to move back to the 14th. We could pick up a player like Pouncey at the 14th spot, and still get a guy like Ijalana in the second round. Don’t laugh. If we pick up a second rounder to move back, he might still be there for our second second rounder (there are that many good players in this draft).
    My dream is that Cam Newton is available at the 9th spot, and the Vikings trade us their first and third to move up and get him. Then, there’s someone else available at the 12th position (say Gabbert, or Cameron Jordon or Quin.) which allows us to pick up another pick to move back a few more spots, and still end up with someone like Pouncey in the middle of the first round.
    The more I drink, the more I think it could happen.

  9. Ty–I really doubt Ijalana will be available in the second round for Dallas. It’s a shame he won’t be working out today at the Combine.

    JC–Not sure what is up with the site, but let me know if it continues….I haven’t been able to find the source yet.

  10. JC–I have Sherrod behind Smith, Castonzo, Ijalana, and Carimi, but ahead of Solder. I think he’s a second-round talent who will go late-first.

  11. Starred–I think most of your assessments are right on. I don’t think anyone will trade up for Watt, but Miller and Green are studs who will draw interest. I would be thrilled with Pouncey/Ijalana, particularly if the Cowboys can get a FS prior to the draft.

  12. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Starred – agree w/ you and JB: trading down twice to mid-late teens finally would be ideal. However, I also agree w/ JB in the Ijalana won’t be there in the 2nd round at pick #40. W/o 2 1st round picks, the Boys will have to decide who they want more between Ijalana or Pouncey.

    Personally, I’d take Ij in that he’s more versatile (he projects to at least 3 of the 4 line positions – everything but C and LT). While Pouncey projects to either G or C position, there are other good centers out there in O’Dowd, Wiesnewski and Kirkpatrick and most of the good tackles might be gone. Good tackles are almost always harder to find than guards or centers.

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