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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
DraftWatch: Vikings' judgment of Matt Kalil

By Kevin Seifert

Bob Sansevere's column provides us with another instance of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman going out of his way to suggest that he is far from certain to draft USC tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 3 overall pick in the April draft.

Matt Kalil
Matt Kalil is one player the Vikings will consider with their first-round draft pick.
Last month, Spielman on multiple occasions noted how important it is to surround a young quarterback with playmakers, and fill in at left tackle as needed. More recently, Spielman asked Sansevere to name the starting left tackles of the past two Super Bowl champions and apparently talked up LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

I judged the first instance to be blatant draft posturing, and the second might well fall into the same category. But let's take a closer look and make sure we all understand why Kalil is the presumed pick at No. 3 rather than Claiborne, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon or even Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

First off, it's true that the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI with a replacement left tackle, David Diehl, who took over during the season for an injured Will Beatty, a second-round draft pick in 2009. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV with left tackle Chad Clifton, a second-round draft pick in 2000 and two-time Pro Bowler. For good measure, we should note that the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers advanced to the title games with Matt Light and Jonathan Scott starting at left tackle, respectively. Light was a second-round pick in 2001 and is a four-time Pro Bowl player; Scott was a fifth-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2006.

That cross section of history allows Spielman to make an obvious point: There is no step-by-step manual for building a championship team, other than having a good quarterback, and a contending team does not necessarily need an elite left tackle. But to me, the argument for Kalil is not so much that he plays left tackle but that he is widely assessed -- at least by media draft analysts -- to be the third-best player in the draft.

The Vikings shouldn't target Kalil just because he is a left tackle, nor should they zero in on Claiborne because they are thin at cornerback or Blackmon because they want a downfield threat for quarterback Christian Ponder. The only relevant question is who the best player is.

So we will give Spielman some leeway here. I still think his public statements lend themselves more to posturing than honest assessments. But if he and his scouts truly judge Claiborne or Blackmon or even Richardson as a better prospect than Kalil, then by all means they should draft that player and put up that evaluation to stand the test of history.

If that's the case, however, you can only hope that Spielman will have made a position-neutral decision. At such a high spot in the draft, it seems like splitting hairs to debate which position is more valuable. The only choice at No. 3 is to take the best player. The media consensus suggests it's Kalil, but the media has been wrong before.