Morris Claiborne is a great player, but he doesn't belong in Minnesota. Matt Kalil does.
For weeks, it has seemed that there's been an assumption that the Vikings would take the USC left tackle with their No. 3 overall selection in the NFL draft. Now, just hours before the first round commences, the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi tweets that maybe it isn't so:
Minnesota seems focused on Claiborne and getting a tackle in the second round...not sure I agree— Michael Lombardi (@michaelombardi) April 26, 2012
Vikings fans have been banking on getting Kalil in the first round. He's the smart pick. He's far and away the best left tackle on the board and maybe even the best overall since Joe Thomas entered the league in 2007.
Kalil is perhaps the one player in this first round who could totally transform the Vikings' offense—and not just in the short term. Kalil is a motivated, intelligent, athletic prospect who would anchor the offensive line for years. He is the epitome of a safe pick for the Vikings.
Claiborne is the opposite.
He's the best shut-down corner on the board, but in no way does he fill the Vikings' biggest need. Claiborne does have excellent ball skills and instincts but had some injury concerns in 2010, and the consensus was that if Minnesota didn't take Kalil, it would take wide receiver Justin Blackmon.
Last season, the Vikings had one of the worst passing defenses in the league, a problem Claiborne would obviously mitigate in 2012. But they also had the No. 18 offense, and with a young and inexperienced quarterback in Christian Ponder, it is absolutely essential that they acquire a solid left tackle who can bolster the line and offer the kind of protection he needs to be successful.
Even if the Vikings wait to take a tackle in the second round, they will fail to get anyone who is anywhere near as skilled as Kalil. They'll be passing up on one of the best prospects to come around in recent memory, and they'll regret it for years to come.