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.
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).
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