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Vikings trade, then opt for positional value

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Posted April 26, 2012 @ 9:08 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The stories will say that the Vikings selected their left tackle of the present and future in Matt Kalil, but that’s only part of the story. A big part, but not the whole deal.

Kalil was the Vikings’ guy almost since January, and though the team really did like CB Morris Claiborne and WR Justin Blackmon, the smokescreen that new GM Rick Spielman cast the past few months has been masterful.

Spielman, in his first draft as the guy with the Vikings, played his hand extremely well. When he sits back and looks at what he accomplished by swapping picks with the Browns and adding three more choices — knowing Spielman as we do — he’ll probably kick himself for not also getting the Browns’ third-rounder.

But he shouldn’t. Spielman won.

There was a chance to move down again. Spielman was on the phone again in the 10 minutes between the first trade and when the Vikings were back on the clock at No. 4. The illusion of the Vikings still perhaps preferring Claiborne was there, and Spielman could have gambled that he could trade down again and still get Kalil.

But he reeled it back in, likely because there wasn’t enough sweetener in any deal to feel comfortable. And because they had the franchise left tackle the Vikings wanted all along … right in front of them. Plus, with those extra picks (fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks), the Vikings can address their myriad needs. Don't scoff: Bet on them getting at least one decent player with those three picks. Spielman is banking on his scouts having done their homework and his own judgment. So far, it looks like a sound bet.

As trades were flying all around the NFL, a movement Spielman kicked off, he did the smart thing and stood pat. No reason to get cute.

And that’s fitting with Kalil because he’s not a sexy pick, per se. What he is: a rock-solid left tackle in a draft class that is woefully short on them. If you draft Christian Ponder (and his history of injuries), you have to protect him. If you have Adrian Peterson locked up long term, you have to block for him.

I’ve said all along that the Vikings might regret passing on CB Morris Claiborne with the pick because of who — Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler — plays quarterback in the division. But the scheme the Vikings run, predominantly the Tampa-2 zone, requires strong corners to reroute receivers and be quick in short areas. They don’t need to run fast and play up on receivers. That seems to be what Claiborne was meant to do.

All Kalil was meant to do was lock down pass rushers. We don’t talk a lot about Joe Thomas in Cleveland, but he’s a quiet force — and usually when we don’t talk about tackles, it means they are doing something right. Kalil is cut from the same cloth. This was a pick the Vikings felt they had to make because of both the positional value of left tackle being more important than corner but also because Kalil is very good at what he does.

And so, it appears, is Spielman. He's off to a very good start.

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