With the 43rd pick of Pride of Detroit's 2011 NFL Mock Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Villanova offensive tackle Ben Ijalana. Ee Oulo is serving as the Vikings' general manager, and his reasoning for the pick is below.
At this point the best way to ensure success for the new QB Christian Ponder is to help bolster an anemic OL. The biggest need on the line might well be at LT. Bryant McKinnie is a bum, but a 2009 Pro Bowl bum that might garner some trade value at the worst. Phil Loadholt has struggled, and although he does deserve a chance to compete for the starting gig on the left side, he will likely reside on the right. Beyond that the depth is quite poor. On the interior of the line the C position is in huge need of quality upgrades, but yet there is at least some mediocre depth. At guard there is some youth and potential, but no real depth. Yes, the line is a mess!
Enter Ben Ijalana from Villanova! The Vikings are lucky to have this agile mauler with solid range available to them at this pick. Ijalana was dominant in college but only played at the I-AA level, so he is not as proven as those taken thus far in the draft. I consider him one of the top LT prospects this year and at worst project him to be a dominant guard. He's a bit raw with technique, and his limited exposure hasn't placed him in the mainstream discussion in the mock community, which is the Vikings' gain today. If Ijalana isn't able to catch on to the NFL pace fast enough to come in at LT, I'm sure he'll be able to push Chris DeGeare to the bench at LG for a while. I have great faith that Ijalana will become the force of the Vikings line for years to come.
The biggest downside to picking a QB and then an OL with the first two picks is it's done nothing to help the secondary next to the aging Antoine Winfield. That's the acceptable cost of the great value added to the offense with this mock, though. If this mock were to continue into further rounds the secondary would have to be weighted heavily in any BATFAN consideration.
Check out the 2011 Pride of Detroit Community Mock Draft tracker for a look at all of the picks.