The Minnesota Vikings are among the 2012 NFL Draft's early winners after completing a trade down with the Cleveland Browns and still getting the opportunity to take USC left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 4 overall.
The Vikings then made the right choice by taking Kalil with the very next pick.
While Minnesota faces a division with elite quarterback-receiver combinations in Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers-Greg Jennings), Detroit (Matthew Stafford-Calvin Johnson) and Chicago (Jay Cutler-Brandon Marshall), the NFC North also features a number of feared pass-rushers, too.
The Packers have All-Pro linebacker Clay Matthews, the Lions throw a combination of Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril at quarterbacks and the Bears have one of the top defensive ends in the NFL in Julius Peppers. All three franchises have been linked to first-round pass-rushers in this draft, too.
With no real answer at left tackle on the Vikings' roster, Spielman made the smart choice in taking a player that could be a 10-12 year starter on the left side of the offensive line. Kalil will be counted on to keep 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder upright for next season and beyond.
Ponder was hit far too often last season, and the Vikings obviously want to avoid that scenario recurring in 2012 if the quarterback is to progress into a winner at the NFL level.
The Vikings also received picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds from the Browns, which will only help speed up Minnesota's current rebuilding project.
Overall, the Vikings get a high grade for their handling of this decision.
Minnesota risked nothing by moving down with Cleveland, but gained everything by stockpiling picks in this draft and getting a Pro Bowl caliber tackle in Kalil.
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