Matt Kalil: Minnesota Vikings Make Brilliant Move by Trading Down in Draft

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystApril 26, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Matt Kalil (R) from USC holds up a jersey as he stands on stage with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after he was selected #4 overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Fans of the Minnesota Vikings have been living under a dark cloud of stadium deal negotiations and the threat of relocation for the past few weeks. For a day, at least, the storm clouds have parted—general manager Rick Spielman made a pair of great moves Thursday that sent Minnesota's 2012 draft off to about as good a start as supporters of the team could have imagined.

Spielman's coup began about an hour before the draft, as Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the news via Twitter that the Browns had agreed to send the 118th, 139th, and 211th picks in this year's draft to Minnesota in exchange for moving up one spot in the first round.

Browns deal three late picks to move up one spot in first round, with Trent Richardson the target

— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) April 26, 2012

For a team with any number of needs on both sides of the ball such as the Vikings, picking up additional picks is always a plus. Throw in that doing so cost the Vikings all of one spot and that Minnesota likely knew who the Browns intended to select, and for all intents and purposes Spielman picked up three mid-round picks for free.

All that could have gone for naught, however, had the Vikings then squandered the opportunity they still had to add a true difference-maker to their team. However, Spielman was once again up to the task, and in selecting offensive tackle Matt Kalil of USC, Spielman made the best possible choice for Minnesota with the fourth overall pick.

The Minnesota offensive line was abysmal in pass protection a season ago, surrendering the fifth-most sacks in the National Football League and severely hindering the progress of rookie quarterback Christian Ponder, who spent much of his first season in the NFL running for his life.

Calling 2011 starter Charlie Johnson an average left tackle would be a significant compliment. The 306-pound Kalil was universally considered the top player available at his position in this year's class after not allowing a single sack as a junior at USC, and Kalil will likely be protecting Ponder's blind side from day one in the Twin Cities.

Granted, these moves aren't going to suddenly transform the Vikings into a 12-win team, nor are the Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions exactly quivering in their boots right now. However, when you're mired in the cellar you have to start the long climb out somewhere, and this was an outstanding start to the 2012 draft for the Vikes.

Now if they just get the danged stadium built.