Vikes take Kalil at No.4EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings moved down in the draft and still found their man, taking massive left tackle Matt Kalil from USC on Thursday night to give their young quarterback some protection.
By: Associated Press , Worthington Daily Globe
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings moved down in the draft and still found their man, taking massive left tackle Matt Kalil from USC on Thursday night to give their young quarterback some protection.
“Wow. This is pretty good,” a smiling head coach Leslie Frazier said.
The Vikings traded their third overall pick to the Cleveland Browns for the fourth overall selection and added three more picks to their collection in the process.
With quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III already spoken for, the Vikings held the early key to the draft and made the first of many deals. Cleveland came after it, first talking about a swap earlier in the week. In addition to switching spots in the first round, the Browns sent selections in the fourth (118th overall), fifth (139th) and seventh (211th) rounds to give the Vikings a whopping total of 13, fuel for later in the weekend in case there’s a player or two they can’t wait for to fall to them.
The calls came, general manager Rick Spielman said, a couple of hours before the draft began. The Vikings refused to move below the fifth spot, so as to ensure they’d be able to take either Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne or Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. They asked Tampa Bay about switching, but the Buccaneers didn’t want to move up. They went down instead, from the fifth slot to the seventh.
So after all the months of speculation and rumors, both legitimate and shams, the Vikings wound up with the player they were widely projected to take all along — the player they’ve clearly wanted for a while and one who will give Christian Ponder beef on his blind side. Spielman insisted the team had Kalil, Claiborne and Blackmon graded equally, but the Vikings saw a special player in Kalil after watching him in person, meeting his family and spending time with him in various places over the past few months.
Plus, this draft is deep in wide receivers and cornerbacks. Plenty of them will be around later. Elite left tackles are also rarely available as free agents, making the top of the first round the ideal place to get one.
“It all worked out, and I really couldn’t picture myself any other place,” Kalil said, describing the relief of seeing a Minnesota area code appear on his phone as the Vikings prepared to pick him.
Long arms. Big hands. Tall frame. Mobile body. Strong bloodline. Hard worker. Nasty streak. Those are the prevailing descriptions of Kalil, a bearded, imposing-looking guy whose older brother, Ryan, is a Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers. His father, Frank, once played in the USFL.
“He has all the ingredients,” Frazier said.
Kalil needs to muscle up and develop a better finishing technique when he’s run blocking and hold his ground more consistently against bull-rushing defensive ends. The one knock against him in the obsessively detailed world of NFL pre-draft scouting is lower-body strength. But Lane Kiffin, his head coach at USC, called that criticism unfair because of how tall and athletic he is.
“You don’t want to sacrifice weight for speed,” Kalil said, repeating advice from his father.
Kiffin, who was raised in Minnesota himself, said on a conference call with Twin Cities reporters that Kalil has already purchased a Ford truck.
“That’s what you’re getting. He’s not going to get a sports car. Just a good o-lineman,” Kiffin said.
The Vikings haven’t selected in the top three since 1968, when they drafted offensive tackle Ron Yary first overall. Yary, another USC product, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 6-foot-7, 310-pound Kalil left college after his junior year, giving the Vikings an obvious upgrade for their offensive line. Charlie Johnson, the left tackle last season, will move to left guard. John Sullivan is set at center and Phil Loadholt is established at right tackle, leaving a competition at right guard — Geoff Schwartz, Brandon Fusco, Chris DeGeare and Joe Berger are all capable of playing there.
The offensive line was hardly one of Minnesota’s biggest problems last year, but this is an important area to shore up if Ponder is going to be able to develop and stay healthy. Kalil not only will instantly improve a critical position, but he ought to be able to block the league’s best defensive ends and outside linebackers one-on-one without needing chip help from a tight end. That frees John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph to focus more on running routes and catching passes, to give Ponder more options up the field.
“We never helped him,” Kiffin said. “Sometimes you take it for granted that you have a left tackle you never have to worry about.”
There will be growing pains, of course, as Frazier reminded.
“I think Jared Allen going against him every day is going to help school and educate and hopefully make that process go quicker,” Spielman said.
But Kalil isn’t lacking confidence.
“When I left USC, I think I was ready to take on this role,” Kalil said.
Tags: proMore from around the web