Villanova offensive linemen Ben Ijalana figures to be one of the tougher evaluations for NFL scouts because of the level of competition he faced and the fact he ended the college season with an injury.
The Bills took a closer look at him today on a visit to One Bills Drive. The Bills are going to need to take an offensive tackle at some point in the draft. The question is: When? If they want one who potentially could step in and contribute as a rookie, they probably need to take one by the third round. There are some tackles who figure to be available in the fifth or sixth rounds, but they will be in the project category, like Ed Wang, who the Bills drafted in the fifth round last year.
There's some disagreement about where Ijalana should rank. He's 6-foot-3 1-2 and 317 pounds. He started all 53 career games at left tackle and helped Villanova win the 2009 FCS national title (formerly Division I-AA). His height is not ideal for tackle, but he has good feet and long arms (36 inches). Some teams see him fitting best at guard. Given his background, it seems he's well worth trying at tackle before making him switch.
Scouts would have gotten a good chance to see him against top collegians at the Senior Bowl, but he had to skip the game because of a sports hernia injury. Ijalana is tough. He played with the injury the last six games of the college season. He now is about four months removed from surgery. He was not able to compete at the NFL Scouting Combine workouts or at his college's pro-day workouts. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper had Ijalana going at the 63rd spot, at the end of the second round, in his latest three-round mock draft. The Bills have the 68th overall pick, near the top of the third round.