The Minnesota Vikings hold the No. 3 overall pick in this year's NFL draft.
The speculation has been that the team will address the offensive line by selecting USC tackle Matt Kalil. While Kalil is regarded as one of the best offensive line prospects in recent years, nothing is a guarantee. That said, is drafting an offensive lineman the right thing to do?
This Vikings team is more than one piece away from being a legitimate contender. The team that was one play away from the Super Bowl in 2009 is long gone. In its place is a team looking for an identity.
Picking as high as No. 3 is a quick way to better your franchise right away. Kalil might be able to play at a Pro Bowl level right away, but will that equal more wins for the Vikings? Even if Ponder has some more time, he will still need someone to throw to.
Maybe Minnesota goes another route. They were one of the league's worst pass defenses, especially against the big play. Teams knew they could run their speedy receivers straight down the field and have a pretty good shot at six points. Opposing offenses caught on to this, and burned the Vikings over and over.
Morris Claiborne, a cornerback from LSU, is a lockdown defender for one of the country's best defenses. He is a converted wide receiver who can flat-out cover.
If the Vikings had Claiborne starting at one corner, and veteran Antoine Winfield at the other, they could dramatically cut down on giving up the big play. Having Claiborne in the defensive secondary might take a touchdown per game off the board for opposing teams.
One touchdown less allowed per game would have given the team nine more wins in 2011, and that would have made them 12-4, rather than 3-13. What a difference.
Obviously, Minnesota would need more help on defense than one shutdown corner, but drafting Claiborne may be a good idea.
Who Should the Vikings Draft at No. 3?
On the other hand, having a Pro Bowl tackle is a nice thing to have.
The Vikings will need to address the offensive line issues at some point before the season, but they might not want to do it with the No. 3 pick.
While offensive line prospects tend to hit more than miss, they do miss. Jason Smith (No. 2) has not played much, Robert Gallery (No. 2) is now playing guard and Mike Williams (No. 4) is currently out of football.
So, do the Vikings draft the corner or the tackle? Take points off the board, or solidify your offensive line for your young, franchise quarterback?
Vikings GM Rick Spielman has been deliberately vague when discussing the draft. It would seem Kalil is the safe pick, but Claiborne is intriguing. Having a Champ Bailey-type of cornerback for years to come would help solidify the Vikings pass defense. That would be a big help when playing in the same division as Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.
Which position equals more wins? O-line or cornerback?
There are valid arguments for both sides, but there will be other offensive line options available later on in the draft.
Consider this: Of the 12 teams in the 2011 NFL playoffs, only one had a starting left tackle to be picked in the top 10 and that was former Viking Bryant McKinnie, whom Baltimore picked up when he was cut by Minnesota. The average draft position: 76.
Whatever happens, Minnesota should be able to pick up a difference-maker in this year's draft. Choose wisely, Mr. Spielman.