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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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    Chris 04-23-2012 10:54 pm (total posts: 1)
    24     111

    I pick Blackmon because I'm a Lions fan and would look forward to beating Minnesota twice a year with a worse pick then Kalil or Claiborne. But he's a "GAME CHANGER"
    Ryan K 04-23-2012 09:16 pm (total posts: 1)
    13     13

    Matthew, your opinion is valid but easier said than done. Every team after the Redskins would loved to trade down if they could, especially the teams with Pick #3-7. There aren't many suitors out there, especially since the Redskins just set the bar very high. They will be stuck with the pick and have to make a choice.
    Matthew 04-23-2012 09:01 pm (total posts: 1)
    48     22

    Walt, I generally enjoy the site, but there is one HUGE piece that you are missing in this whole deal. Teams that select offensive lineman (most often left tackles) in the top ten of the NFL either stay the same as far as quality of team goes, if not, then they get worse. It is befuddling how you could not even consider such a crucial piece of evidence that Kalil is perhaps not the best option for the Vikings. Whether he was ranked higher on "some major big boards" than Claiborne is completely moot. In fact, it may be the most useless piece of information that you presented in this article. What you need to look at is, literally, how much better the team as a whole can be. Let's say that you have the best starting LT in the league, but the rest of your team is mediocre. Obviously, the LT is not going to turn the team into a major success, and that is a proven fact. So, why shouldn't the Vikings attempt to trade down, get more picks, and build the team up? You don't need a star left tackle to win a super bowl, as evidenced by the 2011 champs having one of the worst staring tackles in the league. Yes, I agree, LT is an important part of success. But it is not the only part, and there is a ton of value to be had by trading down. That's just my 2 cents, and like I said, I still enjoy the site and am an avid reader.
    Kalil 04-23-2012 08:20 pm (total posts: 1)
    15     15

    is weak and how can walt have a "big board" when he doesnt watch film
    FlatField 04-23-2012 08:06 pm (total posts: 1)
    111     106

    This is from the same guy who gave the Lions a B grade for choosing Suh over Okung and berated the Redskins for passing on Jimmy Clausen. Stop acting like you know so much more than guys who get paid millions to do what you do for free.

    That said, this is all probably the Vikings' way of trying to bait someone into a trade.
    Matt (Alaska) 04-23-2012 07:52 pm (total posts: 1)
    83     14

    I was in agreement with your article until you got to the last section. Many of those guys you list are not busts or bad Spielman decisions, These were the worst:

    Everson Griffen is not a bust, the biggest problem is how to get him on the field more. Many want him on the field more than Robison.

    The Randy Moss debacle was 100% on Childress, that is well documented. The fact that you even mention Spielman in that saga is very telling on how familiar you are with the team...
    Walt doesn't always makes sense... 04-23-2012 07:37 pm (total posts: 1)
    103     167

    If Spielman thinks Claiborne is the next Deion Sanders, then he should take him. I personally think that Ponder was the worst QB selected last year, by far.

    I watch Ponder personally lose games year after year at FSU, so no matter whom they take, it will be a freefall for them with Ponderless at QB.

    Walt wrote a 6000 word dissertation on why Jimmy Clausen would be the next best QB too. You have been wrong before too.
    Common Sense 04-23-2012 07:34 pm (total posts: 1)
    14     12

    Everson Griffen is a 4th round bust? Thats a laugh! Anyway, barring a trade, Kalil needs to be and will be the pick. This reeks of smoke!
    Robert 04-23-2012 06:55 pm (total posts: 1)
    24     14

    To me this is ridiculous they must pick Kalil but then heck this is why they are picking at no. 3
    Ndamokung Suh` 04-23-2012 06:40 pm (total posts: 1)
    71     31

    This is stupid. Everyone knows that Morris should be the pick. The only smart statement is that Claiborne isn't half the prospect I am.
    Matt 04-23-2012 06:32 pm (total posts: 1)
    74     74

    I dont know. I think Claiborne makes sense. The NFL is pass happy. Granted you need protection for Ponder, but the Vikings have a void, not a need at corner. THey need two starters. Facing Rodgers, Stafford, and an improved Bears offense twice a year doesnt help matters. I dont blame them if they select Claiborne. Apparently I am in the vase majority
    Mad Humpy 04-23-2012 06:26 pm (total posts: 1)
    21     13

    I have been a Vikings fan my whole life. If they don't pick Kalil, I hope they move to LA so I can pretend I never liked them.
    Wesley C 04-23-2012 06:17 pm (total posts: 1)
    44     12

    This article makes me feel like the Vikings are NOT going to take Kalil Thursday night. Does anyone else remember Walt writing "Lions Must Take Russell Okung" 2 years ago? 04-23-2012 06:02 pm (total posts: 1)
    14     13

    general or widespread agreement?
    Marc 04-23-2012 05:55 pm (total posts: 1)
    77     15

    Corey Chavous at has Kalil ranked #4 and Claiborne ranked #10. He even has Kirkpatrick rated higher than Claiborne.

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