The 2012 NFL draft is finally happening on Thursday. NFL fans around the country can agree that it's about mocking time! Of course, there isn't much drama at the very top of the draft--the top three picks tomorrow night WILL go as follows:
- Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck, QB Stanford
- Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III, QB Baylor
- Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil, OT USC*
* = OK maybe that pick isn't exactly etched in stone yet.
The Minnesota Vikings have done everything short of putting up a giant digital ad in Times Square advertising how they'd like to trade out of the #3 pick in the past week or so. The Vikings thought the Ryan Tannehill Sweepstakes would garner enough interest for them to trade down for a nice ransom of picks and/or players, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Still, General Manager Rick Spielman has said that there are all sorts of teams asking about the team's pick.
You can choose to take Spielman at his word, but that goes against one of the oldest mathematical laws of the NFL draft: the amount of BS coming from front offices is directly proportional to the proximity to draft day. Spielman's claims shouldn't be taken with just a grain of salt--you should take them with an entire bag of Morton's at this point.
So what if nobody offers a good enough trade and the Vikings make their pick at #3? (By the way, hopefully "good enough" for Spielman & company means swapping first round picks plus throwing in two additional picks that are no later than the third round--nothing less.)
The obvious choice is to simply stick with Kalil--it's tough to criticize choosing a left tackle that has the potential to be the anchor of your offensive line for years to come. He's strong. He's incredibly athletic. He has an NFL pedigree--his older brother Ryan plays for the Panthers. I have personally been making the case for Kalil since the 2011 season ended, and my opinion hasn't changed. I still think that Matt Kalil is the best choice by a pretty healthy margin. If the Vikings don't shore up their O-line soon, I'm afraid that young quarterback Christian Ponder will never get a fair chance to develop into a legitimate NFL starter. (I call it DCS--David Carr Syndrome, named after the former Houston quarterback that spent his formative years getting sacked more than anyone in league history.)
But left tackle doesn't make a splash like other positions to do. Leslie Frazier has already said as much. And a splash might be very tempting for a team that's desperately trying to get a new stadium. I think that's why the Vikings are reportedly looking at taking Oklahoma State Justin Blackmon with the third pick.
I also think that choosing Blackmon this early in the draft would be an absolutely horrible decision. Let me spell it out to you as plainly as I can: Justin Blackmon is NOT Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Blackmon is a very good receiver, but he's not in the same tier as the league's elite. He simply doesn't have the size or athleticism to match up with them. Blackmon should be a solid NFL receiver, but I have my doubts about whether he'll ever be a #1 guy.
On the other hand, Morris Claiborne definitely has the potential to be a top cornerback, especially for a team like the Vikings. When you're facing the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, and Brandon Marshall twice a year, you're going to need a solid secondary. Right now, the back line of the Vikings defense is anything but. I would still favor picking Kalil over Claiborne, but I could at least understand picking the outstanding LSU corner. He'd fill one of the team's most glaring needs and wouldn't be considered too much of a reach.
If the Vikings do get an offer they can't refuse to trade down tomorrow night, then they should take it. However, I don't think that such an offer currently exists. Hopefully the Vikes don't over-think things and just go with Kalil.*
* = Or maybe Claiborne. But definitely not Blackmon. But yeah, probably Kalil.
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