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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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    teamleal 04-24-2012 03:21 pm (total posts: 1)
    16     43

    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!
    teamleal 04-24-2012 03:20 pm (total posts: 1)
    30     39

    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!
    Sl1m 04-24-2012 01:59 pm (total posts: 1)
    13     20

    Where is option D? You know, the one for picking Trent Richardson?
    Sickboy 04-24-2012 11:36 am (total posts: 1)
    10     11

    Kalil should be the pick. Vikes aren't that stupid.

    Btw, great julius peppers video, hope he beats the s&it out of Luck at opening game too.
    Brendan 04-24-2012 08:46 am (total posts: 1)
    83     89

    You're completely spot on with everything except the fact that Everson Griffen has been a bust. He's still only 24 and has been developing into an impact player. The Vikes are looking for creative ways to get him onto the field, cause when he's playing, he makes an impact. I'd also say last years 4th round pick Christian Ballard is going to turn into a decent pro and a steal in the 4th. Could push for a decent amount of playing time next season.

    That all being said, Speilman is a complete moron though and not someone that should be trusted with a franchise
    JohnnyD 04-24-2012 03:24 am (total posts: 1)
    15     18

    Maybe they know someone wants Claiborne and they would like to move down and grab extra picks, that would be all right. I give Speilman the benefit of the doubt, if they pick at three, they take Kalil. If they passed on Ponder they would be taking RG3
    teamleal 04-24-2012 01:59 am (total posts: 1)
    56     38

    Kalil is overrated!!! Same with the entire offensive tackle class!! This guy is not a complete player yet!! Should be picked more around where Tyron Smith was picked!! Even though Tyron is the better pro!! Mark my words!!
    Xosder 04-24-2012 01:30 am (total posts: 1)
    15     29

    I vote Claibourne...but then again Im hoping Kalil falls a bit and makes trading up from 13 to ~7 more feasible.
    Kyle Burton 04-24-2012 01:26 am (total posts: 1)
    16     16

    tmoneyyo, You can't use as evidence against picking Kalil only six teams having elite left tackles--there a limited number of "elite" players to begin with. The Vikings have added nothing of note to the offensive line, corners, or receiving corpse, so free agency has zero play in this decision. Kalil is the best LT prospect since Joe Thomas, a surefire Hall of Famer already. He's an elite prospect with similar potential, tremendous pass protection technique and savvy, and possess currently a skill set similar to D'Brickashaw Ferguson--meaning, a superior pass-blocker, an average strength run-blocker. The latter is easily improved, as exemplified by Freguson, should not cap Kalil's worth or potential, which exceeds that of his Jet counterpart. Blackman is a very good prospect, as is Claiborne, but no evaluates them with that type upside-immediate impact combination. Kalil fits the biggest need and is the superior prospect.
    Cory R 04-24-2012 12:57 am (total posts: 1)
    15     16

    Man I've written shorter papers making about making a harder decision LOL this is legit!
    regular visitor 04-24-2012 12:49 am (total posts: 1)
    36     21

    I agree in every accounts the quality of Kalil and yet for some reason this article reminds me about the notorious article about picking up Jimmy Clausen over Sam Bradford.

    tmoneyyo 04-24-2012 12:09 am (total posts: 1)
    48     44

    With the whole failed drug test deal Mike Adams recently, as Walt has it, he will fall to the second round. I believe he does fall to the second too. With that said the Vikings can possibly afford to pick either Claiborne/Blackmon at #3. Picking Mike Adams in the second round is a huge steal and I dont think Speilman will care about the failed drug test (he took Harvin in the 1st despite his failed drug test). My fellow fans of Minnesota...Chill out on Matt Kahlil. He isn't Joe Thomas nor is he the best LT prospect to be in the draft. We need a LT but we could easily pick up one in the second. Let me remind you our 2nd round pick is very high and there will be 1st round talents that fall out of the 2nd round, I'm sure a Tackle will be there. Only like 6 teams in the league have a All-Star LT and it goes to show teams can win just fine with an average-above average LT. It won't be the end of the world. I can guarantee we will win more games if we pick Blackmon or Claiborne at 3 and then a LT at 35. Passing up on big playmakers doesn't seem like a good option at this point. Two months ago I would have said pick Kahlil but as everything unravelled over the past few months and needs are filled through FA and trades, Kahlil is not the best pick right now for the Vikings.
    mook77 04-23-2012 11:50 pm (total posts: 1)
    32     15

    I agree with most of your article, except the fact that Everson is not a bust. He's a freakish athlete and once he can see the field more, his talents will be noticed.
    Shaun 04-23-2012 11:32 pm (total posts: 1)
    56     25

    Can't wait till Emmitt does a Walter mock draft, Cover two teams simply don't take corners at #3, but cover 2 teams will take them at 5, it that would make more sense. The Vikings are not even a base Cover 2 team. Frazier even said they would run Cover 1, if they had a CB capable of pressing.
    Quincy the Sheep 04-23-2012 11:08 pm (total posts: 1)
    16     12

    Let's look at the last QB to win a Super Bowl. Eli Manning. Crap o-line, but he is able to coordinate his guys to slow down pass rushers long enough to give him enough time to deliver. He can get rid of the ball despite picking himself up after every play. He's a veteran who has spent decades learning to do this stuff.
    Now let's look at Ponder. Does he have the ability RIGHT NOW to succeed without protection? No.
    While Joe Smith doesn't make the Browns any better, he gives Colt McCoy the greatest chance to succeed. To win, you either need a great QB, or a great team around a crappy one like Trent Dilfer. Ponder can't mask his line's faults yet, and he'll get demolished if he tries. With time to throw and AP, it's a halfway potent offense.

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