The recently prevailing attitude that USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil will be the third-overall pick in April's NFL draft got sent for something of a loop recently, and were the Minnesota Vikings to pass on Kalil, then the Cleveland Browns may be presented with a golden opportunity to stockpile draft picks for the second season in a row.
Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press recently wrote that a conversation he had with Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman left him with the impression that the Vikings may eschew drafting Kalil in favor of LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.
The discussion came about because Spielman didn't seem to agree with a column I wrote saying he might be in need of a CAT scan if he passes up Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil with the third overall pick in the NFL draft.
After listening to the Spielman spiel, this much appears certain: If he keeps the third pick and passes on Kalil, Spielman will draft LSU cornerback Mo Claiborne. He raved more about Claiborne than Kalil. With each passing day, the argument builds that Spielman prefers Claiborne.
Should that indeed prove to be the case and the Vikings do indeed pass on Matt Kalil, then the telephone of the Cleveland Browns would likely begin ringing almost instantly with calls from other teams interested in moving up to snatch an elite left tackle prospect.
Such tackles don't grow on trees, and while the 6'6", 305-pound Kalil may not enter the NFL with the sort of "can't-miss" label that accompanied Joe Thomas or Jake Long (both of whom were top three picks), given the number of teams that have a need at left tackle, you most likely wouldn't be able to count the number of teams with serious interest in a Kalil pick on one hand.
Given that the Browns have Joe Thomas locked in at left tackle for the foreseeable future, that leaves the Browns in a very favorable position, as the team could easily then trade down and gain additional draft picks much in the same way they did with the Atlanta Falcons a season ago.
It's true that the Browns desperately need offensive playmakers, and with Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon both available, passing on the opportunity to draft one might be difficult.
However, the Browns seemingly have needs at more positions than you can count, so adding the additional picks might be much more beneficial to the franchise in the long run, especially if the Browns can find a scenario where they could be able to have their cake and eat it too.
For example, the St. Louis Rams, who recently reaped a windfall of picks when they dealt the second-overall selection in the 2012 draft to the Washington Redskins, could badly use improved pass protection for quarterback Sam Bradford, and it's very possible that the Rams might part with some of that windfall to acquire the draft's best offensive lineman.
Were that to be the case, not only would the Browns be able to add additional selections in this and/or future drafts, but either Richardson or Blackmon (if not both) would still be available with the sixth-overall pick, allowing the Browns to also add the offensive firepower they seek.
For what it's worth, Cleveland general manager Tom Heckert left the door open to the possibility of the Browns trading down in April in a recent conference call that was covered by the FOX Sports.
“We feel very comfortable being at four,” Heckert said. “We feel very comfortable moving back and getting more picks.”
Cleveland fans should hope that both Heckert and Spielman are men of their words, because if the latter truly does pass on selecting Matt Kalil, then the former could be presented the chance for some draft-day wheeling and dealing that may be too good an opportunity to pass up.