This week we've been taking a closer look at who the Draftniks around the interwebs are projecting to the NFC North teams in the first round. Monday, we looked at the Lions, Tuesday was the Bears' turn and Wednesday we did the Packers.
To keep it consistent, I'm still using the same group of analysts from the prior pieces.
They are the following: Todd McShay and Mel Kiper, Scott Wright of Draftcountdown.com, Wes Bunting of National Football Post, Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Shawn Zobel from Draft Headquarters, Bleacher Report's very own Sigmund Bloom, Chad Reuter of NFL.com and Walter Cherepinsky of Walter Football. As before, all of the links above go to the analyst's mocks, save Kiper and McShay, who are both behind the ESPN pay wall.
We're going to do this a tad differently today though because across the board, the experts have one choice: USC OT Matt Kalil.
So rather than posting the same reaction over and over and over again, I figure I'll throw out some of the takes by the experts, give you my thoughts and see what some other scenarios the experts might see happening.
Wright on the pick:
One area that must be addressed is the offensive line, particularly left tackle where Charlie Johnson was a major disappointment after signing as a free agent. USC OT Matt Kalil is the reason that his former teammate Tyron Smith, who was the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys, was relegated to playing the right side in college.
Bunting on the pick:
Quarterback Christian Ponder has shown flashes in year one, but he needs to stay healthy. Therefore, bringing in the top offensive tackle prospect in the draft who has a chance to mature into a Pro Bowl-caliber lineman seems like an easy selection at three.
Kiper on the pick:
This is one more I'm going to stick with. We know Minnesota needs an upgrade at left tackle, and Kalil is that rare rookie who doesn't need to spend some time on the right side. I think he can start his NFL career at left tackle and hold the position down, even though he'll face some serious competition in terms of NFC North pass-rushers. This pick is about giving Christian Ponder a chance to be successful.
Reuter on the pick:
Rumors abound about the Vikings eschewing conventional thinking to pick receiver Justin Blackmon or cornerback Morris Claiborne over a potential franchise left tackle in Kalil. Although those possibilities exist, quarterback Christian Ponder needs to have a reliable blind-side protector—and the team won't find one later in the draft.
As you can see, two themes quickly emerge: Kalil can be an elite left tackle, and the Vikings must protect Christian Ponder better.
It appears to be a lock, though most of the analysts point out some alternative.
As Reuter says, there have been rumors that the Vikings will go with LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon instead of Kalil.
Of course there are also the rumors of the Vikings trading down—they've certainly made it known they would listen to offers.
McShay has one scenario he thinks could happen.
The ideal situation for the Vikings would be to get a blockbuster trade offer—likely from a team looking to get ahead of the Cleveland Browns and draft Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill—that keeps them in the top 10 and adds another first-round pick. That would allow them to get an offensive tackle such as Iowa's Riley Reiff or a receiver such as Notre Dame's Michael Floyd and address another need later in the first round.
However, Bloom disagrees that it's likely in his explanation of the Kalil pick:
No one will take the bait to trade up ahead of Cleveland for Ryan Tannehill, so the best left tackle in the draft is the Vikings "consolation."
I agree with Bloom, although McShay is right—best case scenario is getting more picks and yet grabbing a tackle in the top 10.
The Vikings are in a great spot, though, as they can wait for a good offer, but if it doesn't come, end up with a franchise left tackle for the next decade.
I'll end it with this quote from Walter Cherepinsky which probably sums up what most Vikings fans will be feeling:
Spielman's praise of Morris Claiborne was a smokescreen. Cover 2 teams don't pick cornerbacks in the top three. That would be very, very stupid.
I don't agree it would be stupid, but at this point, it might be surprising.