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Vikings Must Pick Matt Kalil

By Walt - @walterfootball
April 24, 2012

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?

A. 3
B. 4
C. 5
D. 6,000

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):

Big Board
Matt Kalil
Morris Claiborne
Scouts Inc.
Mel Kiper
FOX Sports
Draft Countdown

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.

    What should the Vikings do? Voice your opinion, check out my 2012 NFL Mock Draft or follow me @walterfootball:

    Leave a comment

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    Greg 04-26-2012 10:32 am (total posts: 1)
    20     20

    Remember your "Seahawks need to draft Okung" post? :P
    rob 04-25-2012 10:53 pm (total posts: 1)
    31     18

    You lost me when you called Everson Griffen a bust. If you were to read any of the local coverage, you'd know they're trying desperately to get him more playing time. He just happens to be best suited at positions of strength (where Jared Allen and Brian robison play). But to call him a 'bust'? Way off.
    vikesfan222 04-25-2012 08:19 pm (total posts: 1)
    24     22

    I agree with Thebaskett before trashing on speilman learn your facts. Childress made all draft choices, also i have been a fan of most of our picks, chris cook when playing has shown very good promise, tyrell johnson was a waste ok, but jasper brinkley played well when he came in sidney rice was a great pick (although he left), percy harvin has become a pro, and you are incorrect about gerhart. he has done a lot for our franchise.
    Pa Viking 04-25-2012 07:31 pm (total posts: 1)
    26     21

    Trade with the Jets, get their #1 at 16 take Barron, Alabama at Safety. Would be great for a cover 2. Also get Jets 2nd round this year and #1 pick in '13. 2nd round take a Tackle at #35 and a ILB with the Jets pick. Quick at #67 and some nasty DT with those 4th rounders.
    Thebaskett 04-25-2012 02:46 pm (total posts: 1)
    36     23

    Although I agree about the need to take Kalil, You obviously need a Viking history lesson. Brad Childress had the final say on the roster while he was there. Not Speilman. So anything before last year really goes on Childress not Speilman. Explain how Toby was a wasted pick now that he will get most of the carries for the first half of this season? Everson Griffen a bust? Little early to call that. He is going to get way more snaps this year. And all those big contracts again look at childress.
    Dnking99 04-25-2012 02:16 pm (total posts: 1)
    26     34

    Let's review the writers man crush on his LT pick.

    1. Doesnt matter if Ponder gets hurt or not if the defense cant stop anyone. The Vikes need DB help, not just one but two or three DB's at least. They had the worst pass defense in MN history last year and Allen broke the sack record which means B-rated corners dont work in the cover 2. You have more DB's on the field at one time then LT, more DB's will be drafted then LT's therfore I belive they should take the DB first and still get a quality LT later in the draft.
    Luke 04-25-2012 12:42 pm (total posts: 1)
    23     23

    Spielman had limited control over all of those picks you mentioned, and especially with the deal with Randy. He was VP of personnel, not GM, and the head coach (specifically Childress) had most control over the draft decisions.
    BTS 04-25-2012 12:46 am (total posts: 1)
    124     33

    I only say Claiborne because it does fill a huge need just like left tackle and with guys like Bobbie Massie, Mike Adams, and maybe Johnathan Martin available later to pick or trade up for and guys like Marcus McNeil still availabl in free agency, they can find a solid tackle. Great qb's like Eli and Brees can make up for average left tackles, but a great defense with their run first offense can win Superbowls too, ask Trent Dilfer and the Ravens and Young Big Ben Steelers teams!
    Geoff 04-25-2012 12:05 am (total posts: 1)
    25     28

    I agree that the pick should be Kalil. You say that the Vikings panicked when they picked Ponder. Arent you the same guy who said that Jimmy Clausen was a cant miss qb? Yeah, Im gonna say that you are not the expert you think you are when it comes to projecting the qb position. Adrian Petersen seems like a "no brainer" now, but dont forget how many teams passed on him due to his injury history. Speaking of his injuries, the Gerhart pick is not the wasted pick you seem to think it is. He ran pretty well in AP's absence. What legal issue is Chris Cook facing? Wasnt he acquitted on all counts? Im not being sarcastic here, I'm asking for real. I was under the impression that was the case. I do have to agree on all the rest of the picks though. Its been rough. Im thinking that all this claiborne talk has to be a smokescreen. It may be the most transparent one ever.
    STEWART 04-24-2012 11:59 pm (total posts: 1)
    31     22

    This is spielmans first year in control of the roster, he has not been handling the team since 2006. This dude WALT give out too much bad info for me!
    Tradersbrain 04-24-2012 10:21 pm (total posts: 1)
    21     21

    You just have to think (pray) the front office is blowing smoke, hoping that if another team covets Claiborne, Richardson or Blackmon they will sell the farm to move up. It is so funny to hear the hacks on ESPN demand the Vikes take a corner with the third pick while never directly addressing the issue that a dominant cover corner is not a prerequisite for a successful cover 2 defense.
    HoarseNorseman 04-24-2012 05:22 pm (total posts: 1)
    26     21

    The talk coming from Vikings-land is intended to show the other teams that they are not wedded to Kalil and will consider moving down. The scenario they are hoping for is TB or STL coveting Richardson. Then, the Vikes trade their #3 for the #5 or #6 pick plus a pick at the top of the second round. This would let them still take one of Kalil, Blackmon, or Claiborne in the first round (hopefully Kalil), and then follow that up with two more studs at the top of the second round (e.g., Reuben Randle and a CB or safety).
    tmoneyyo 04-24-2012 04:39 pm (total posts: 1)
    33     21

    @kyleburton... But that is exactly my point. Many of the teams in the league play with an average-above average LT. The browns,rams,redskins,miami...what do they all have in common? They drafted "elite" LT prospects. Have any of them made the playoffs or had above .500 winning percentage since they drafted these players. Frazier is right, this team needs playmakers (CB,WR,MLB,change of pace RB). In recent history shows that drafting "elite" LT prospects has little to no impact on a team. It makes sense if that team has multiple playmakers but the Vikings don't have that. And if Walt is right in saying Adams is falling down draftboards, the Vikes can easily get him at the top of the 2nd, and take CLaiborne or Blackmon. Even Jonothan Martin is falling on draftboards. I would not be suprised if they pick Claiborne/Blackmon and take a LT at the top of the 2nd or trade back in to the latter half of the 1st in one they like is still on the board (Adams,Martin). Kahlil is going to be a great player dont get me wrong but passing on a high production and super talented WR or a playmaking CB for a LT who's run blocking is not complete and is questionable (running the ball is the Vikings strength!). If it is how Walt predicts, and it seems in the past he's been pretty accurate, we should be able to get a 1st round grade LT that falls to the 2nd round at pick 35.
    Funk 04-24-2012 03:47 pm (total posts: 1)
    34     30

    Exactly 189 idiots have voted at this time. Kalil must eb the pick.
    teamleal 04-24-2012 03:22 pm (total posts: 1)
    16     45

    Kalil isn't a complete tackle! Should be picked where Tyron Smith's range was last year! Watch how Tyron is the better pro!!!
    Entire DT, DE, and OT class are overrated!

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