Protectors Or Playmakers: Where Should The Vikings Be Focused?

ESPN.com NFC North blogger (and former Minnesota Vikings beat writer) Kevin Seifert had an interesting post yesterday concerning our favorite football team and the #3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

We know the Vikings have a shortage of talent in both the wide receiving corps and along the offensive line, both of which could easily be filled with an elite-level prospect at the top of the 2012 NFL Draft. On the offensive line, USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil has done nothing during his Combine workouts today to diminish the impression that he's the best non-quarterback prospect in this year's draft class. The wide receivers will start their positional drills tomorrow, and we'll get a chance to look at Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who is currently atop the board at the wide receiver position.

The question that Seifert is posing is whether or not the Vikings might be better off trying to surround Christian Ponder and/or Joe Webb with big-time playmakers and trying to upgrade the offensive line on a more marginal level than they would be by taking a guy like Kalil at #3 and going with a lower-tier upgrade at the wide receiver position.

The genesis of this comes from what Rick Spielman said recently about the Vikings' intentions with the third overall selection:

"There's the adage that you go back and forth on. Is the left tackle that important or is it more important to have playmakers on offense? Because as your quarterback evolves, he learns the system, he gets the ball quicker out of his hand and all of a sudden that left tackle doesn't need to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. He can be a functional left tackle because the quarterback evolves and he's got playmakers."

I've made my feelings on this subject well-known, as I've said numerous times that I think the Vikings would be crazy to pass on Kalil at #3 overall if he's available. With the rumors flying fast and furious that a team is going to trade up to St. Louis' pick at #2 to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, that would leave Kalil on the board for the Vikings. Unless Minnesota is completely blown away by a trade offer at that point in the proceedings, I firmly feel that Kalil should be the pick in that scenario.

Would it be kind of cool to have a big-time, flashy wide receiver for our young quarterbacks to target? Sure, it would be, and I'm not saying that a guy like Blackmon would be a bad pick at that spot, as he's an immensely talented player. However, in my estimation, "franchise" left tackles are a lot like "franchise" quarterbacks. . .you don't find them just laying around. You have to draft your own and develop them over the long term.

The selection of a guy like Kalil at #3 would be the sort of thing that would have a ripple effect over the entire offense. Not only would it give Ponder or Webb more confidence in the pocket and more time to throw, but it would also open up bigger holes for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, particularly in the event that the former doesn't come back at quite the same level he was at after his torn ACL this past season. Kalil could very well fall into the Jake Long/Joe Thomas "plug them in at left tackle for the next 10-12 years and forget about it" category of left tackles, and one would think that such a player would be more highly valued than another wide receiver would be.

With the potential available in the free agent market this season, as well as the depth of the wide receiver position in the 2012 NFL Draft, I'm of the opinion that Seifert eventually comes to in his post. . .that anything that Rick Spielman might say to try to make people think he's looking in a direction other than Matt Kalil this April is a smokescreen.

What do you folks think?

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