On Thursday, the Vikings weeks of posturing ended up right back where everyone assumed it began, with them selecting USC left tackle Matt Kalil with their first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.  The only caveat was, after picking up three extra picks, he was selected one spot later than we all expected.

While Rick Spielman had enough media types bamboozled into thinking they might take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, but instead they took the player they likely targeted all along.  Then, they snuck into the end of the first round and selected Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

Following the Draft I will dust off my old “Welcome to the Big Show” features and we’ll look at every prospect selected very closely.  For now, however, I want to provide some instant reaction to the selections and give you an idea for how I feel on each guy.

MATT KALIL

The Vikings expect that they have found themselves a cornerstone for the organization that will be around for at least a decade, protecting quarterbacks and paving paths for runners.

Kalil’s real strength matches well with the weaknesses of the Vikings current tackles.  He is a superb pass protector who utilizes his athleticism and quick feet to ensure that if the quarterback gets hit, it won’t be from his side.  USC often left Kalil by himself and he held up great despite the lack of help.

His run blocking has been pointed out by many analysts as needing improvement, but somewhere along the line “needing improvement” turned into “a huge weakness” within media circles.  The truth is, Kalil’s smaller frame and upright style seldom affected his game negatively in college, and his ability to get to the second and third level in the run game to take on linebackers and safeties far outweighs any negatives.  Sure, he can add some bulk and a little strength (which he probably will) but there is no denying that this kid is an elite prospect as a left tackle.

Left tackle is where he will immediately be plugged in.  With Kalil manning that spot, the Vikings then plan to slide Charlie Johnson inside to left guard, thus upgrading two positions with one choice.

I couldn’t be happier about this pick and while he won’t single-handedly win Minnesota a Super Bowl, he should prove to be a huge step in the right direction for this offense that needs to be built around Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson.

Adam’s Grade:  A+

HARRISON SMITH

The Vikings desperately needed help at the safety position.  If they went into the season with Jamarca Sanford and Mistral Raymond as their starters, well, I just wouldn’t be expecting much… we’ll put it that way.

To me, the top two safety prospects in this Draft were clearly Mark Barron from Alabama and Harrison Smith from Notre Dame.  After that, I felt like there was a great disparity between them and the second tier of safeties.

Barron went to the Bucs very early on in the Draft and the Vikings gave up a fourth rounder to move to the 29th spot from their original second round position and grabbed Smith.  In doing so, they filled a huge need with a very solid prospect.

Smith has a nice, big frame and is known to be kind of a jack-of-all-trades type of player.  The Vikings liked the versatility from what they saw of him at the Senior Bowl.  His athleticism and range should be of benefit to a Vikings secondary that needs some positives added to it.  He truly is a sideline-to-sideline type of player.

Having even played some linebacker in the past, the Vikings surely like Smith’s tackling abilities and physical style of play.  He is at his best when playing downhill and is plenty capable of delivering a jarring hit.  Smith will event present the Vikings with a good ability to blitz on occasion.

Most attractive, however, were the leadership abilities he displayed within Notre Dame’s defense.  He is known as an ultra-competitive guy that is going to give you everything he’s got and then some.

There has been some knocks on his coverage ability, however, which would be why he never was considered a “blue chip” type of player.  His tape reveals some stiffness in his game and his interception totals went from seven as a junior to none as a senior.

Overall, Smith seems like a day one starter, especially for the Vikings.  He has room for improvement, but looks to be like an investment that could be well worth it.  I am looking forward to seeing him matchup against some of those big tight ends in our division.

The Vikings filled a need and got a very promising prospect.  Tough to find many complaints about this one, other than perhaps the fact that they had to trade up to get him.

Adam’s Grade:  A-

14 COMMENTS

  1. Nice coverage of the draft gentlemen, thank you!

    I agree, day one of the draft should be graded high. Time will tell on the outcome, but based on what we know today, these seem to be solid picks.

    One note on Mensural Raymond and other rookies who get thrown into the fire in year one. We expect way too much. The tendency to grade a player as a flop in year one is rough. Especially last year, the rookies had little time to prepare for the season ahead.

    AK, this comment isn’t speific to anything you said in your posting, rather a hope that in year two Raymond begins to show he can actually play safety at the NFL level and that we may be better off at safety than perhaps we think. Freds can only hope!

    Ole, your a damn kook. Freds had a few good laughs looking at the replay comments of the live chat last night.

    • Disappointed in your lack of effort last night Freds. A comment or two from your Droid would have at least shown you were trying. I was trying to find someone to celebrate with when I finally got home and on the chat, but alas, everyone had already celebrated. We got our man, good to see some sign of common sense and long range thinking in the brain trust, heh?

    • I hear loud and clear on Raymond, Freds. I would love nothing more than to see Raymond (actually, every Vikes player) turn into a stud and be a long term solution at his position. A guy like Raymond, with the tough life he has had through no fault of his own, is always going to be someone I cheer for.

      The truth is, however, he showed me nothing last year to believe he is the short term solution at the position.

  2. One of the best 1st rounds the Vikes have had in recent memory. Great job by Spielman on getting 2 outstanding players and addressing needs at the same time and still have 10 picks in the bank for the next couple of days. Bravo!!!!!!

  3. I really liked both picks and also agreed with both traded. If someone told me that we would’ve picked up Kalil and Smith while also picking up 2 extra picks, I would’ve called them crazy

    • So the people who have been calling Spielman crazy are therefore correct! I agree, Brendan, could not have expected more than what we got last night. While we all have our opinioins of Mel Kiper, I heard this morning that he called the Vikings one of the three winning teams in last night’s draft. I have much more confidence in Adam’s opinion than Mel’s, who seems to be more interested in talking than in actually saying anything.

      • Coach, I admitted in one of my earlier posts that I have been highly critical of Spielman. I give props when props are due though. He played the 1st round beautifully and the team is much better after day one. He may be crazy, but he may be crazy like a fox. I just hope he doesn’t rest on what he has accomplished so far and over think the rest of the draft and take unnecessary risks.

        • I totally agree, Norse. This was a great night, but only his performance over time will truly mean anything. All we can do is sit back and see. Assuming we stay out of the picture until round three, this is when the nuggets of gold can be found or lost. Go get ‘em, Rick.

  4. Right on! Adam and Brett left little openings for us to bash them! That’s for sure! Adam- can you hire another writer who sucks so Freds, myself, and others can pull some jokes out our hats? J/K

    I’m all over the board as far as my opinion, which means nothing, about the draft so far. I think Kalil will be fine, always did. However, I wonder how much worse Reif will be. Could they have picked Claiborne and still got Reif, or Martin? Maybe they didn’t have that chance and did the absolute best they could. We’ll see Reif enough to grade this one over the years. Harrison? Should be a good NFL player. I feel that’s all that can be said of him so far. Regardleess, good to see the team improve and you guys ripping up the blogosphere!

    • “Hire” As in PAY!?!?

      We’re going to need you guys to click those ads about 6,000,000 more times and we can start to think about it, haha.

      • I click a couple every time I come on, Adam. I know how the bills are paid. They don’t count how long you stay on the ad, do they?

        • Ha, so you are the one!

          Much appreciated, Coach! I believe as long as the page loads fully before you click out we get credit. Don’t do it too much, though, or else they catch on :)

          Again, we don’t want to come off as beggars or anything, but it is much appreciated :) It’d be nice to at least be able to eventually buy Mrs. Warwas and Mrs. Anderson something nice for putting up with us ignoring them for the entire month of April :)

  5. As a voice of experinece on that topic, Adam, let me recommend against a nice pair of Viking earrings. Apparently not everyone shares the perception of “nice” on an equal basis. They do, however, double as an effective pair of accent pieces over a sheet of pegboard in one’s workshop.

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