Offensive tackle is finally a position that the Vikings aren't hurting at. It took a long time, but after a decade of Bryant McKinnie and (insert journeyman's name here) on the right side, Minnesota finally has a solid pair of bookend tackles in Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. Kalil had a fantastic rookie year, but went through a bit of a slump last season, yet the long term prognosis for him is bright. Loadholt cashed in on a big payday just as free agency was starting last year. He's still not the best pass blocker, although he's getting better, and he is solid as a run blocker.
Yet...even though Loadholt was one of the best statistical tackles in the game according to Pro Football Focus in 2013, and Kalil is a supremely talented prospect, you kind of get the feeling that Kalil might not be big enough to be a long term answer at LT, and Loadholt is one season removed from going back to being a turnstile as a pass protector.
Why Robinson or Matthews?: Because you can't have enough good offensive linemen, and drafting either of these guys will give the Vikings two things: the best offensive line in football, arguably, and as much depth as anyone in the NFL. It also gives the Vikings options in case Kalil or Loadholt falter.
Why they'd be perfect for the Vikings: The last time the Vikings had really solid bookend tackle was in the late 90's, with Todd Steussie and Korey Stringer (RIP, Big Man). And as good as those two guys were, it only lasted for a couple seasons. By 2001, Steussie was in Carolina, and Stringer was in Heaven, punishing a blocking sled for Woody Hayes and guarding the Lord's blindside on gameday (hey, He might be left handed, you don't KNOW). In 2002, the Vikings drafted Bryant McKinnie to man the left side, and had a string of 'meh' guys on the right. Players like Chris Liewinski, Nat Dorsey, Mike Rosenthal, Marcus Johnson, and Ryan 'Oh My God He Was Drafted Three Rounds Too Early' Cook have rolled through the right side with stunning regularity. Loadholt stopped the turnstile in 2009, but his performance has been, at best, uneven.
Robinson and Matthews are 1 and 1A in terms of offensive tackle prospects, and I think either of these guys are worthy of a top ten pick. I'm not going to sit here and tell you I've specifically watched them play, nor am I going to dazzle you with the revelation I've watched hours of film. I haven't. These guys are left tackles, and they're both really good, according to everyone, so let's agree that both of these guys have the pedigree to be franchise left tackles for a decade, okey doke?
Now, I'm going to be the first guy to admit that if any one of The Big Three quarterbacks, Khalil Mack/C.J. Mosely, or Sammy Watkins are on the board along with these two guys, and the Vikes go in this direction, I'm going to be stunned. However, if we go back to the Nightmare, Kobayashi Maru scenario we talked about in the C.J. Mosley post, could you talk me into Robinson or Matthews at eight?
Actually, yeah. Yeah you could. Matt Kalil's sophomore season was as troubling as his rookie season was encouraging, and he's never going to be a big guy. Yes, 'big guy' is soooo relative when we're talking NFL left tackles, but when you consider 6'6" and 330 is more the rule than the exception, a guy that is 'only' 305 pounds might have a long term issue playing left tackle at the NFL level. Both Robinson and Matthews are big dudes, as Robinson is 330, and Matthews is closer to Kalil's size.
Drafting either one of these guys gives the Vikings flexibility and insurance. Let's assume Kalil continues to struggle, and the Vikings have drafted Robinson/Matthews. What would preclude the Vikings to move a struggling Kalil inside to left guard, and putting Matthews/Robinson at LT?
Let's flip it around. Let's say Kalil regains his 2012 form. You either have quality depth for both tackle positions, or you can take Matthews, for example, and put him on the inside. When you add in John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco, and Loadholt, you've got what I think is a top five line. Adrian Peterson would go off, and whoever the quarterback would be would have, at least on most plays, one of the best pockets in the league.
'But Ted', you're thinking to yourself, 'what if Loadholt perfects his 'LOOKOUT' pass blocking technique, wouldn't he make an awesome guard?'
No, I don't think he would. I don't know if you guys have ever seen Phil Loadholt up close, but he is, without a doubt, one of the biggest human beings walking the planet. He's listed at 6'8", 343 pounds, and I would bet he would look down in a showdown with The Big Show. His height precludes him from being an effective guard, because he would block the interior passing lanes. Seriously, it would be almost comical. No, Big Phil's going to stay at tackle, and if he has a year like he did last season, he'll be fine. If he falters, Matthews or Robinson could step in.
I know this is the toughest case to make so far, and I understand that the chances of the Vikings drafting either of these two guys are slim. But if you're going to go purely with the best player available strategy, and all the other guys we think will be on the board aren't, it's not a stretch to make the case that Greg Robinson or Jake Matthews will be said best player available.
And even though tackle is a position of strength, you can't have too many good linemen. And these guys...these guys are good.