In past years, when we've talked about the NFL Draft and how it concerns our favorite football team, they've generally been far enough down in the proceedings where there's actually some pretty spirited debate amongst the mock draft writers out there as to who the Minnesota Vikings should select in the first round. See, that's great for folks like me who are constantly looking for things to write about concerning the Vikings and what the team should do going forward.
This year, there really is no such debate.
The most obvious pick for the Vikings in 2012 is USC offensive lineman Matt Kalil, who is generally regarded as the best non-quarterback in this year's draft and who the Vikings will have the opportunity to grab after quarterbacks go off the board with the first two picks. But how obvious a pick is he?
Well, thanks to the folks at the DC Sports Report Mock Draft Database. . .and if you're not checking that thing regularly, you need to be. . .I've developed a bit of an answer. They have so many mock drafts that, in the interest of my sanity, I limited myself to looking at mocks that have been updated in the last two weeks. That gives us a total of 102 mock drafts, with levels of expertise ranging from the folks at the SB Nation mothership and CNN-SI to people who are just individual folks doing this for kicks and giggles.
Of those 102 mock drafts, the number that they have listed that show the Minnesota Vikings drafting somebody that isn't named Matt Kalil with the third overall pick is. . .drum roll. . .seven. That's 7. Or, to put it into percentage terms, 6.9% of all of those mock drafts think the Vikings should pass on the big O-tackle from USC at #3. Let's take a look at some of the reasoning.
One of these drafts has the Vikings taking Kalil, but in a different manner. The folks from a site called Skinny Post, for example, have the Vikings swapping with the St. Louis Rams at #6, with the Rams taking Blackmon and the Vikings having Kalil fall into their laps at the sixth spot. I think that, if the Vikings somehow pass on Kalil at 3, he would fall into the Rams' laps anyway, and that the Rams would even be more inclined to trade up for Kalil than they would be for Justin Blackmon. Stranger things have happened, but I do disagree with that take slightly.
Go with me here. Owner Ziggy Wilf will want to make a splash following a disastrous 2011 campaign. The Vikes need a new stadium and showing they can get the next Randy Moss to play in it will go over big with local politicians. OT Matt Kalil is listed here in many mocks, but I guarantee that the Vikes are looking to land a big fish to help out QB Christian Ponder. Percy Harvin and Blackmon would make a devastating combo reminiscent to Cris Carter and Moss.
Herein lies the problem I have with picking Blackmon. . .and this is not to single out this one particular site, because their viewpoint is as valid as anyone else's. I'm just rebutting here. But if you're going to use the #3 pick on a wide receiver, he'd damn well better be Randy Moss. Or Calvin Johnson. Or Larry Fitzgerald. And that just isn't the vibe I get from Justin Blackmon. Sure, he was great last season for Oklahoma State, but there were two wide receivers that went in the top six picks of the 2011 draft. . .and I don't think Blackmon would have gone ahead of either of them had he been draft-eligible.
It takes a special wide receiver to be selected in the top 3 picks of an NFL Draft. I don't think Justin Blackmon is one of those receivers. Hey, if I'm wrong about that, I'm wrong. I just see Blackmon as a good NFL receiver, not an "oh my goodness let's give up the farm for him" receiver, that's all.
The National Football Authority is in the Claiborne camp, and again the reasoning makes sense.
In a pass-first league you gotta have top talent in the secondary, and the Vikes need that more than they need a left tackle since the Packers have a slew of WRs to defend, the Bears now have and the Lions have the man known only as Megatron.
Again. . .makes sense. Claiborne is a very good player, and the Vikings do have a massive need in the secondary. Nobody can logically argue against either of those points. However, it appears that NFA makes the assumption that Claiborne would step in and be a "lockdown" sort of guy right away. I really don't think that would be the case, particularly in the Tampa-2 scheme the Vikings seem to be committed to, which doesn't really call on the corners to play a lot of man coverage and give them an opportunity to make a lot of big plays. Claiborne, I think, would start out as a nickel corner at best (behind the returning Antoine Winfield and Chris Cook). Kalil, on the other hand, would step in and start protecting Christian Ponder's blindside right away.
We here at DN, for the most part, have long held that Matt Kalil is the best pick the Minnesota Vikings could make at #3 overall in the draft. I'm not sure if anything is going to dissuade us. . .or, at least, myself. . .from that viewpoint prior to April 26.