The Vikings earned the third overall pick in the draft, thanks to a 3-13 record. They could be heading down the same path they did 44 years ago, when another three-win season (3-8-3, to be precise) gave the Vikings the first pick in the 1968 NFL draft.
They took left tackle Ron Yary from USC. A seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro (and a Hall of Famer), Yary played the tackle position for the Vikings for 14 seasons.
It’s less the connection to Yary, who as several of you pointed out played right tackle for the Vikings, and more the reality of the left tackle position that has the Vikings once again looking seriously at another USC left tackle, Matt Kalil. “Usually, there are no left tackles in free agency,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said this week, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “If they’re that good, they are usually not [available] out there.”
He’s right. And with left tackles having a lower bust rate than most other positions, it makes sense when holding a high pick to seriously consider the best of the left tackles that the NCAA has produced for a given year.
Especially if you don’t have a good left tackle. Which usually is one of the reasons why a team is drafting so high in the first place.
Many believe that the Colts will select quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick, that the Rams will trade the second selection to a team that will pick quarterback Robert Griffin III, and that the Vikings then will choose between Kalil and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon. But while the performance in 2011 of receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones could make a team more inclined to use a top-five pick on Blackmon, the safer course will be to take Kalil and look elsewhere for help at receiver.
The left tackle position is sufficiently important that the Vikings exhibited extreme patience with Bryant McKinnie, giving up on him only after he showed up for camp in 2011 grossly overweight and out of shape. (The Ravens are glad that he did.) Now, the Vikings have a chance to take care of the left tackle position for the next decade.
Receivers come and go. When it comes to having a team that is competitive on an year-in and year-out basis, a cornerstone left tackle is almost as important as a quarterback. So expect the Vikings to take Kalil.
Unless, of course, the USC grad who coaches the Rams decides that he can’t pass on Kalil.