Kiper projects OL help for Bears in draft

Offensive lineman Ben Ijalana started all 53 games during his Villanova career. Michael Bucher/Icon SMI

INDIANAPOLIS -- In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Bears will select Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana at No. 29.

An offensive tackle in college, Ijalana is listed as a guard in several draft publications. He started all 53 games during his Villanova career, despite suffering a sports hernia injury late in the 2010 regular season that required surgery and caused Ijalana to skip the Senior Bowl.

"I had surgery on Dec. 28 so I haven't spoken to any teams yet. I've had MRIs, health exams, you guys [the media] are the first people I'm speaking with today. Because we have a playoff system (Villanova is an FCS school), there were three weeks after the regular season where I couldn't get the surgery. It was a good time, it was over Christmas break, so I just spent a lot of time healing in a basement in New Jersey. So the Senior Bowl, it's a great honor, but it was an option because we had to get after it [the surgery]."

Ijalana helped the Wildcats to a 40-13 overall record and three consecutive playoff appearances.

"Wherever a team wants to put me, I'll play," he said. "I've been playing offensive tackle for the last eight years, but the way coaching is nowadays, you can get coached up at any position on the offensive line. The more you can do the better."

As for the Bears connection, Ijalana pleaded ignorance when asked about being projected going to Chicago.

"At offensive line, no, not really, [he doesn't know anything about the Bears]," Ijalana said. "Going anywhere in the first round is good, I guess. But I have a long way to go."

Click hereInsider to see Kiper's complete mock draft.