Remember the final questions on the SAT? How they were designed to trick you? You'd diligently work at the problem and come up with a solution, and it would match one of the four answer choices listed below the question. And unless you were some super genius, you'd probably have concerns that you were duped by the SAT people - so maybe you either skipped the problem or circled a different answer.
That's what I feel like the Vikings are doing with the third-overall pick. Except this question is much simpler. It would look like this on the SAT:
48. What is 2 + 2?
Unless you're mathematically challenged, you know the answer is B. Hold on, let me check using my Windows calculator... OK, yeah, the answer is B. I can confirm this. The Vikings cannot, however. They're going with D instead of B because they think that this is a trick question.
Despite the fact that selecting USC left tackle Matt Kalil seems like such a no-brainer, the front office is overthinking things by leaking that they're interested in going with LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. ESPN's Adam Schefter is convinced that the pick will be Claiborne (or less confidently, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon), suggesting that there's only a 28.3-percent chance that Kalil will be the choice.
It got worse when a Leslie Frazier quote surfaced Sunday night. The Vikings' head coach opined that left tackles aren't game-changers. This sparked a tremendous amount of feedback on Twitter and Facebook. Here were some of the comments I received:
Michael F: "Ponder should sue Spielman for being such an idiot if he goes otherwise."
Steven L: "I really hope this is a smokescreen, otherwise Frazier is just a moron. Just because a position doesn't score points doesn't mean they don't have an impact. By this logic kickers should go in the first round because team's leading scorers are often their kickers."
Adam P: "This is even stupider than my Chargers not firing Turner every year."
Caleb B: "Well it appears my suspicions are sadly true... Leslie Frazier has been violated by Matt Millen."
David P: "I'm kind of rooting for Minnesota to not take Kalil so I can read Walt bashing them on the site."
Bash them I will, but first I'd like to make a case for why Kalil must be Minnesota's pick at No. 3:
1. Kalil is the Top Consensus Player Available
Let's take a look at where Kalil is ranked on some major big boards compared to Claiborne (as of April 23):
Kalil is the better consensus prospect; only Kiper believes that Claiborne will be the better player. Now, the Vikings have their own big board, and they apparently side with Kiper according to reports. But even if Claiborne is rated higher in their eyes, Kalil is definitely not very far behind. And that brings me to my next point.
2. Vikings Must Protect Christian Ponder
When the quarterbacks started flying off the board last year, general manager Rick Spielman panicked. He reached for Ponder at No. 12. Ponder was taken about 20 picks too early, but the fact remains that Spielman made a big investment in the Florida State signal-caller. He now needs to protect that investment.
The worst anti-Kalil argument that you'll hear is something like, "The Saints, Cardinals and Giants all reached the Super Bowl with mediocre left tackles. You don't need a great left tackle to win in the NFL." That's exactly right. You don't. All you need is a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback like Drew Brees, Kurt Warner and Eli Manning, and you're fine.
Ponder is not Brees, Warner or Manning. He needs a really good left tackle to succeed. Just look at what has happened to lesser-talented quarterbacks who don't have good protection. David Carr's career was ruined, and it seems like Blaine Gabbert is headed in that direction. Ponder is definitely closer to Carr than Brees-Warner-Manning, and he regressed as a rookie because of a hip injury he suffered around Thanksgiving. Charlie Johnson wasn't able to protect his blind side. If the Vikings don't take Kalil, Ponder will undoubtedly get hurt again in 2012.
Frazier said that left tackles aren't "game-changers." He's absolutely correct. They're season-changers. If the quarterback gets hurt, the season is over. But don't take my word for it. Take a look at what happened to another NFC North quarterback whose front office didn't protect him. And Claiborne isn't half the prospect that Ndamukong Suh was. Whereas Kalil-Suh would be a legitimate debate, the Kalil-Claiborne argument is a silly one. Ponder is almost guaranteed to get injured with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Cliff Avril breathing down his neck twice per year.
3. Vikings Run a Cover-2
The whole point of a Cover-2 defense is that you can get away with having inferior cornerbacks. Thus, you can run that defense effectively with B-list corners - players whom Minnesota can obtain in the second and third rounds.
Why would any Cover-2 team select a cornerback this high in the NFL Draft? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
4. Cornerbacks in the Top Three
Do you know how many cornerbacks have been chosen in the top three since 1998? Take a guess.
Zero. The answer is zero.
For a cornerback to break the top three, he would have to be the top prospect at his position in a very long time. Does Claiborne fit that description? No, he doesn't. Otherwise, he would be a top-three player on all of those big boards I listed earlier. Yet, he's not higher than No. 4 on anyone's list.
5. Vikings Shouldn't Listen to Themselves
OK, so maybe Spielman disagrees with everyone and thinks Claiborne is the best cornerback prospect since Deion Sanders. If that's the case, he should stop listening to himself.
Let's look at Spielman's track record since taking over the Vikings' operations in May 2006. He's made a couple of great selections like Adrian Peterson (no-brainer), Percy Harvin and John Sullivan (awesome sixth-round pick). Trading for Jared Allen was also an incredible move. However, the negatives far outweigh the positives. Consider:
Panicking and reaching for Ponder at No. 12.
Spending second-round picks on Tyrell Johnson (bust), Chris Cook (major legal issues), Toby Gerhart (wasted pick).
All but one of his third- and fourth-round selections have been busts (Marcus McCauley, Asher Allen, Everson Griffen; Brian Robinson is the lone exception).
Only one of his Round 5-7 choices has developed into a good starter (Sullivan).
Trading a third-round pick for Randy Moss and cutting him a few weeks later.
Offering big contracts to Madieu Williams (6 years, $33 million), Bernard Berrian (6 years, $42 million) and John Carlson (5 years, $25 million) - all of whom are marginal (at best) players.
If Williams, Berrian and Carlson are worth a combined $100 million, then maybe Claiborne does make sense at No. 3 overall. Only in Minnesota though - where two plus two equals 6,000.