NFL Draft: Minnesota Vikings Add Two Instant Starters

Ryan Boser@Ryan_BoserCorrespondent IIApril 27, 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

With the dust settling on a wild opening evening of the NFL draft, it has become clear that the Minnesota Vikings will emerge as one of the most instantly-improved teams in the league.

The night began with an unexpected twist, as the Browns gifted their first- (No. 4), fourth- (No. 118), fifth- (No. 139) and seventh- (No. 211) round picks to the Vikings for the right to move up one spot to nab Alabama running back Trent Richardson.

General manager Rick Spielman, who'd spent the last two weeks bluffing on Morris Claiborne and Justin Blackmon, was immediately showered with national praise. While he certainly deserves a tip of the cap, he essentially lucked into the catbird seat of a bidding war (between Cleveland and Tampa Bay) over a player the Vikings had no interest in.

At No. 4, value met need and the Vikings got the guy they wanted all along in the 6'7", 305-lb. Kalil. The draft's only surefire left tackle will protect the team's investment in Christian Ponder for the next decade, and will allow Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph the time and space they need to make plays.

As a bonus, the selection also improves the left guard position, as Charlie Johnson will be allowed to slide inside to his more natural role. Kalil wasn't a sexy selection, but he was the right one, and netting extra picks along the way was the best-case scenario.

Almost immediately, rumors began swirling that the Vikings would entertain the possibility of utilizing their extra currency to move back into the first round.

Sure enough, Spielman used the team's 35th (second round) and 98th (fourth round) picks to move into the Ravens' No. 29 slot to select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

On the surface, trading up for a guy who many felt would be available at No. 35 seemed a bit hasty. However, poor safety play is not exclusive to the Vikings—it's a league-wide epidemic. Smith's stock was further elevated by a weak class and a steep drop-off, meaning the trade was probably a necessity if the team was locked in on the strong safety.

At 6'2", 215-lbs., Smith provides the Vikings with a smart, instinctive hard-hitter with blue chip intangibles. He became the team's best safety by a wide margin the moment Roger Goodell called his name. 

It was an adventurous rout, but Rick Spielman & Co. should sleep very well tonight knowing that they've added a pair of low-risk, pro-ready prospects at positions of need.