With the Indianapolis Colts having the top overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft seemingly on lockdown already, the battle is ongoing for the right to draft the first non-Andrew Luck player on the board this April. If the season were to end today, the Vikings would, indeed, have the second overall pick in the draft.
It has widely been assumed that the Vikings would grab USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil with that high first round selection. . .which makes it a bit disappointing that rumors are swirling that the 6'6", 295-pound junior is planning on returning to Southern Cal for his senior season. It's not a move that would make a lot of sense to me, personally. . .if Kalil declares for the draft, he's a top three selection and an instant millionaire, but I'm not Matt Kalil, so I don't know what else he's taking into consideration.
Now, we've been saying all year that the Vikings have three major need areas going into the 2012 draft: offensive line, wide receiver, and secondary. The consensus, as of now (and I realize a lot can change between now and the combine) is that there is one uber-elite prospect at each of those positions. Kalil is the consensus best offensive lineman in the draft, the top wide receiver on the board is Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, and the best cornerback on the board appears to be LSU's Morris Claiborne. There are a couple of solid offensive line prospects in Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Iowa's Riley Reiff. . .but you don't take "solid" at #2 overall. You're looking for spectacular.
One thing that could help the Vikings is the fact that, depending on who declares, this could be a very heavy quarterback-heavy top of the draft. CBS Sports, who is the source of the Kalil rumor linked above, has three quarterbacks in the top six on their "big board". Luck is the consensus #1 overall pick, and we've known that for a long time, but Kalil's USC teammate, Matt Barkley, and the amazing Robert Griffin III from Baylor are also in the top six, to say nothing of guys like Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, and Christian Ponder's successor at Florida State, E.J. Manuel. All six of those quarterbacks appear in the top 50 on CBS' big board, and a good combine or pro day performance could jump them up the board as well.
Oh, and of those six guys, only Tannehill is a senior. . .the rest of them are juniors. Again, it depends on who decides they're coming out. But if enough of them come out and the Vikings can find themselves a trading partner that is crazy for one of those quarterbacks, they could trade down for extra picks and get one of the two offensive tackles I mentioned earlier.
Kalil is the easy pick for the Vikings if they end up at #2 overall and he decides he's entering the draft after all. But if he's not there, what do you suppose the Vikings should do?