2011 NFL Draft: Philadelphia Eagles Prospect, Villanova OL Benjamin Ijalana
The Eagles have held a handful of private workouts for offensive lineman so far this offseason. One prospect they hosted didn't have to travel very far. Out of Villanova, offensive tackle Benjamin Ijalana had a private workout with the Birds.
Ijalana was an FCS star at Villanova at the left tackle position. However, there are a lot of questions about where he'll play once he makes it to the NFL. At 6'4" and 317 pounds, some believe that his height isn't exactly ideal for an NFL tackle.
With that in mind, many draft experts think that he could possibly be moved to the guard position by whatever team decides to draft him. In the Eagles case, I believe this is what they would do for a number of reasons.
First, the Eagles are in a unique situation where they are looking for a right tackle to protect the quarterback's blindside. With the majority of NFL quarterbacks being right handed, the left tackle is traditionally the player responsible for the blindside.
Michael Vick is very elusive, but the Eagles still want someone anchoring the right side that Vick can trust, and will keep a pocket together. The Eagles don't want Vick to have to rely on his feet every play.
Another reason I think Ijalana projects as a guard for the Eagles is because of his run blocking ability. Although he's fairly strong against the pass, he's shown that he can be an absolutely dominant run blocker. Also, playing in an FCS school, he hasn't seen the type of pass rushers that some of the others in his draft class have.
I've now mentioned FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) multiple times and I'm interested to see how this plays into the decision-making of different teams around the league.
Last season, the Jets drafted Vladimir Ducasse with the 61st overall pick. Ducasse comes from an FCS school, like Ijalana, and has roughly the same size. Also like Ijalana, Ducasse spent his collegiate career playing tackle, but was mainly projected as a guard in the NFL.
Ijalana may end up in the same boat, having to learn to play both positions. Truthfully, that's never a bad idea, as we've seen Eagles lineman playing multiple positions along the line in the past.
In terms of where he'll be taken, he's projected anywhere from a late first round pick to anywhere in the second round. This isn't a guy I believe the Eagles will be interested in the first round, but I think they'll keep their eye on him in the second round.
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