Friday, July 3, 2015

Matt Kalil

Matt Kalil admitted that he was keeping an open mind regarding where he might end up being drafted and also where he might end up living.

“I think that I had an idea that’s where I might end up,” Kalil said Thursday night. “But the way the draft works, and especially right now, all these trades going down and everything, I was trying to keep open-minded.”

He also said he was relieved to see his cell phone light up once the Vikings were on the clock after the team indeed dropped backwards one spot in a trade with Cleveland.

“Out of all the visits I took,” Kalil continued, “Minnesota was the only place where I could really see myself living and spending the next 10 years and finishing out my football career there. I knew some people that went to Minnesota and a lot of players that played there. They said there’s no other place like it, especially the fanbase that Minnesota has — it’s probably the best in the NFL. So, as soon as I was picked there, I knew I was going into a great place and a great team as well.”

Way to pander Matt, way to pander.  We don’t mind, especially with our team’s future hanging in the balance from a relocation standpoint.

Kalil seemed like a humble yet confident guy in his introductory press conference, and I for one am glad to have him on our team.

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-

Rick Spielman proved a man worthy of being an NFL General Manager in his first appearance to the Vikings war room with that title.

He has been laying the ground work for months.  Telling anyone that would listen that he liked tackle Matt Kalil, receiver Justin Blackmon, and cornerback Morris Claiborne equally.

It was really a matter of simple math.  The Vikings had the third pick.  The Browns and the Bucs were sure to be candidates for the services of Trent Richardson, whom Spielman’s staff probably rated high enough to make him confident other teams rated equally as high, and the Browns were picking at four while the Bucs were at five.

By identifying three players that he supposedly graded exactly equally, and publically declaring so, he was sending a signal that he would be willing to trade backwards as low as the five spot and still be guaranteed a player from the top of his board.

The public statements were probably never aimed at the Bucs or anyone else.  Instead, the Browns were targeted from the get-go as Spielman had likely been targeting Kalil all along as many expected.  However, by stating the three players publically, the seeds were planted and the Browns couldn’t help but wonder if Spielman was serious.  If he was, then the Bucs could jump up and grab Richardson right in front of them.

There was risk involved in any of this subterfuge for Spielman, as he knew any picks he could milk out of the Browns were just a bonus as he would still be able to grab his man, Kalil.  In fact, Kalil will now be at a slightly lower salary slot which should help the salary cap situation a tiny amount over the next four years.

To me, the coolest part of all of this is just how much Spielman was then able to milk from the Browns after he sufficiently swindled them into moving up.  By moving back one space in a no-risk move, the Browns gave the Vikings an additional fourth rounder (#118), a fifth rounder (#139), and a seventh rounder (#211).  Not only does this provide the Vikings with the potential for more draftees, but it gives them added firepower to move up and target specific players they have a high value on.

According to the old Jimmy Johnson trade chart, which can be view at our trade chart page, the Vikings gave up 400 “points” by sliding back this one spot.  They, in fact, gave up nothing though because they still got the guy they wanted.  In return, the Vikings got those three picks which have a total value of 102.5 points.

In the more modernized “Harvard Chart” the Vikings only gave up 24.4 points while gaining a total value of 188.6 points from the other three picks.  It is debatable as to which chart is the most valid following the new CBA, but there is little arguing that the Vikings got something for nothing out of this deal.

Spielman was grinning from ear to ear at the presser following the Kalil pick, relishing the fact that his performance not only tricked the media but also tricked the Browns into thinking he was such a wild card.

“I didn’t undersell anyone,” Spielman said regarding his pre-Draft tactics. “I just said I like all three players.”

And that is all he had to say.

The Vikings entered Thursday with ten picks.

The first five picks weren’t even made yet and he had 12 picks left, drafted a guy he thinks will be a heck of a left tackle, and upgraded his left guard position in the meantime.

Well done, sir, very well done!

I’ll break down the trade up that came later in round one shortly.

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We’ve been saying it a while here at Vikings Territory: The Minnesota Vikings will select offensive tackle, Matt Kalil. Well, that’s exactly what they did. With the third pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Matt Kalil, USC. And, to sweeten the deal, the Vikings were also able to scare the Browns enough to swap picks with us and amass some later picks in the draft.

If Kalil turns out as projected by almost everyone, the Vikings left tackle position will be solidified for many years to come.

We have to give Rick Spielman and the Vikings staff some credit here for orchestrating an outstanding first round thus far.

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