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The Newest Vikings: Matt Kalil

Kalil: "I'm going to Minnesota! I'm totally going to Minnesota!" #22: "You're. . .crushing. . .me." (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Kalil: "I'm going to Minnesota! I'm totally going to Minnesota!" #22: "You're. . .crushing. . .me." (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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With their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the fourth overall selection, the Minnesota Vikings selected USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

By now, everyone is aware that Matt's brother, Ryan Kalil, is an All-Pro center for the Carolina Panthers, but the Kalil family bloodline in professional football runs even deeper than that. The patriarch of the Kalil family, Frank Kalil, was a center for the University of Arkansas, and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 11th round (298th overall) of the 1982 NFL Draft. He never played in the NFL, instead opting to spend two seasons in the United States Football League. He spent the 1983 season with the Arizona Wranglers and the 1984 season with the Houston Gamblers.

Matt Kalil red-shirted in 2008, and saw mostly special teams duty in 2009, though he did get a start at right tackle in USC's Emerald Bowl appearance against Boston College. The next season, he won the job as USC's starting left tackle, beating out Tyron Smith for the spot. I want to stress that for a moment.

Tyron Smith is a pretty damn good offensive lineman. He was good enough to be a top ten pick in the NFL Draft (the Dallas Cowboys selected him 9th overall in 2011). While he was good enough to be a top ten NFL Draft choice, he was not good enough to play left tackle for the USC Trojans, because he couldn't beat out Matt Kalil for the job. That should give everyone an indication of just how ridiculously talented Matt Kalil is.

Kalil started at left tackle for the Trojans for two seasons. In 937 pass plays over those two seasons, he allowed zero quarterback sacks and zero quarterback pressures. He was the winner of this year's Morris Trophy, an award that is given to the Pac-12's (and previously Pac-10's) best offensive and defensive linemen. The thing that makes the Morris Trophy different is how it's awarded. . .the starting offensive linemen in the conference vote for the defensive award winner, and the starting defensive linemen for the offensive award winner. Apparently the Pac-12's defensive linemen were so honored to get thrashed by Matt Kalil that they gave him an award, which is pretty cool.

His athleticism benefited the Trojans' special teams, too, as Kalil blocked two extra points and two field goals on the season. One of the blocked field goals came against the Minnesota Golden Gophers, and the second came in the first conference game in the history of the newly-formed Pac-12, as Kalil blocked a potential game-tying field goal against Utah.

(Yes, not the greatest video, but it's the only video of the play that YouTube has available.)

Kalil really was the best and smartest pick the Minnesota Vikings could have made at the #4 overall spot in the 2012 NFL Draft. Yes, the argument for LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne was a compelling one, but for a team that gave up one of the highest sack totals in the NFL in 2011 and has a young quarterback they're attempting to develop, Kalil was the smart choice. He was really the only tackle in this year's class that can start immediately on the left side without having to do an internship at right tackle first.

Kalil's presence will move last year's starter at left tackle, Charlie Johnson, inside to left guard. . .a move that had apparently been discussed since Week 3 of the 2011 season. Don't get me wrong, Charlie Johnson is definitely a starting offensive lineman in the National Football League. . .he just isn't a starting left tackle. Now, thanks to the Vikings taking Matt Kalil, he doesn't have to be. This will go a long way towards solidifying the Vikings' offensive line, with Kalil and Johnson teaming with the rapidly improving John Sullivan. The right guard battle between Geoff Schwartz and Brandon Fusco (who the team appears to be very high on) will be one of the more intriguing battles of camp, but regardless of who wins, the Vikings' offensive line should be much improved over 2011.

I'm very happy that the Minnesota Vikings took Matt Kalil at the top of the 2012 NFL Draft. I'm even happier that they got three extra draft choices for the privilege of doing so. Outstanding job by the Minnesota Vikings and Rick Spielman with this selection.