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Vikings have need at receiver but Kalil remains logical choice at No. 3

Minnesota Vikings’ quarterback Christian Ponder (R) passes under pressure from Seattle Seahawks defensive end Alan Branch (L) in the quarter of a pre season game on August 20, 2011 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. UPI /Jim Bryant

Over the past week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has been adamant that USC left tackle Matt Kalil is not a lock to go to the Minnesota Vikings at No. 3 in next week’s draft. But logic dictates otherwise.

According to Schefter, Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, and Notre Dame wideout Michael Floyd are the players that the Vikings are “strongly debating” taking with the third overall pick. All four prospects would make sense based on Minnesota’s needs, but out of that group Kalil sticks out like a sore thumb.

The Vikings must build around quarterback Christian Ponder and while they could certainly help him by adding a playmaker at receiver, the left tackle position must be addressed. The Vikings could get by at wideout with Percy Harvin and Michael Jenkins, but to return to the field next year with Charlie Johnson penciled in at left tackle would be a mistake. Johnson struggled mightily in pass protection last year and wasn’t much better as a run blocker either. It would be difficult for Ponder to make strides in his second season if he has defenders constantly at his backside.

It’s difficult to find left tackles in the middle rounds that are ready to start right away. It makes more sense for the Vikings to snag Kalil at No. 3 and then target a receiver like LSU’s Ruben Randle in the second round if he were to fall. The wide receiver position is deep in this year’s draft. Offensive tackle, meanwhile, is not.

Schefter is the most plugged in NFL reporter in the league and there’s always legitimacy to his reports. But you have to wonder if GM Rick Spielman is putting a spin on things trying to draw interest in the No. 3 pick. If the Vikings trade down, they could acquire multiple picks and fill multiple needs in the first couple of rounds.

But at the end of the day, the Vikings need help now and I believe Kalil will ultimately be too good to pass up at No. 3.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Vikings not sold on Matt Kalil at No. 3?

A Minnesota Vikings fan buries his head during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 14, 2011 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers won 45-7. UPI/Brian Kersey

Colts? Andrew Luck.

Redskins? Robert Griffin III.

Vikings? Matt K…

Well, maybe not.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on SportsCenter today that he doesn’t believe USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil is a lock to be the Vikings’ selection at No. 3 in this month’s NFL draft, “by any stretch.”

This is noteworthy because a) Schefter is one of the most plugged in reporters in the NFL, if not the most plugged in reporter, and b) Kalil has seemingly been a slam-dunk to the Vikings at No. 3 for the past month. Schefter appeared on NFL Live later in the day and said Minnesota was eyeing three players with the No. 3 pick: Kalil, Justin Blackmon and Morris Claiborne.

It has been reported that the Vikings would like to trade down, acquire more picks and still land an impact player later in the first round. But just like I’ve stated with the Browns (who also may want to trade down), which team is going to trade up and for whom would they trade up for? Trent Richardson is a hell of a prospect but running backs are becoming less and less valuable in a pass-heavy league. Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile is the next best quarterback prospect after Luck and Griffin but I don’t think he’s worthy of a top 5 pick.

I don’t see a team willing to move up for Blackmon, Claiborne or Kalil either. Thus, short of the Colts and/or Redskins shocking everyone by not taking Luck and/or Griffin, I firmly believe teams like the Vikings and Browns will be hard pressed to move out of their spots.

If the Vikings do pass on Kalil for Blackmon (we’ll use Blackmon for the sake of this example), then it’ll be interesting to see what St. Louis does at No. 6. Kalil could essentially fall into their laps and given the issues the Rams had up front last year, they’d almost have to pull the trigger on the best left tackle in the draft.

Browns seemingly hold the draft fate of the Bucs and Rams in their hands

Alabama Crimson Tide’s Trent Richardson runs for a touchdown against the LSU Tigers in the fourth quarter during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans, January 9, 2012. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

If the top 3 of the 2012 NFL Draft goes the way many expect, then the Browns hold the fate of the two teams selecting directly behind them.

It’s safe to assume that the Colts will draft Andrew Luck with the top overall pick and that the Redskins will select Robert Griffin III at No. 2. And while GM Rick Spielman has tried to drum up interest in cornerback Morris Claiborne, chances are the Vikings will take offensive tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3.

But once the Browns are on the clock at No. 4, everything gets a little less predictable.

Cleveland could stand pat and take running back Trent Richardson (whom I selected for the Browns in my first mock draft), receiver Justin Blackmon, or Claiborne. If Minnesota somehow passes on Kalil, he becomes an option for the Browns at No. 4, even though they’re already set at left tackle with Joe Thomas. (Cleveland still needs a right tackle and it may be difficult for the Browns to pass on the opportunity to pair an intriguing talent like Kalil with a five-time Pro Bowler in Thomas.)

The Browns could also trade the pick, which might ultimately be in their best interest. If they can pull off a trade with Miami at No. 8 and still land Richardson, then Cleveland wins. That’s the Browns’ best-case scenario right there.

But the key is whether or not some team will want to trade up and if they do, whom would they target? Many believe that Richardson is an Adrian Peterson-type prospect, but running backs have become increasingly less valuable in a pass-heavy league. And while the Dolphins and maybe even the Chiefs could trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, is he a top 5 prospect? Better yet, is he the type of franchise signal caller that teams would want to part with a first-round pick for? If the Dolphins stay pat at No. 8, they could feasibly get Tannehill there and not have to part with any picks in order to move up.

Thus, we’re back to the Browns and their options at No. 4. If they take Richardson, then the Rams would be ecstatic because that means Blackmon would likely fall to them at No. 6. If the Browns take Claiborne, it’s a realistic possibility that the Bucs will take Richardson at No. 5 because whom else would they take? They need defensive line help but Quinton Coples and Melvin Ingram both have question marks, and they’d be reaching for a DT like Fletcher Cox or Michael Brockers. If Cleveland selects Blackmon, then you’ll probably see St. Louis attempt to trade down or if Richardson is there, the Rams may tab him as Steven Jackson’s replacement.

Either way, it all starts with the Browns at No. 4. They’re the first piece of the domino.

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