Craig: Cornerback Claiborne could fill Vikings' worst gap

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2012 - 7:12 AM

Sure, Matt Kalil is the safe pick and Justin Blackmon is intriguing, but a historically bad secondary needs immediate help.

We've all said it at some point during this mind-numbing and seemingly endless NFL draft buildup.

"Matt Kalil," we've said, "makes the most sense for the Vikings."

But as my teenage daughter would say, "Really? ... Seriously?"

I've picked the Southern California left tackle in two mock drafts and could make it 3-for-3 at No. 3 on Thursday. But it still doesn't make better sense to me than Louisiana State cornerback Morris Claiborne. Especially now that General Manager Rick Spielman claims the Vikings have "exactly the same grade" on Kalil, Claiborne and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon.

Don't get me wrong. Kalil would be an excellent pick at a position of need for a team that hasn't taken an offensive lineman in the first round since 2002.

But let's revisit the 2011 season while counting the ways that Claiborne, a defensive playmaker at the team's biggest position of need, is the one who actually makes better sense.

1. Despite a league-high 50 sacks, the Vikings allowed opponents to post a 107.6 passer rating. That's second-worst in NFL history behind only the 0-16 Detroit Lions of 2008 (110.9).

2. The Vikings tied a franchise record for fewest interceptions (eight) while setting an NFL record for consecutive games without a pick (nine). Opposing quarterbacks completed 72.1 percent of their passes (212 of 294) for 2,647 yards, 27 touchdowns and no interceptions between Oct. 9 and Christmas Eve.

3. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Chicago's Jay Cutler went 5-0 against the Vikings while completing 72.3 percent of their passes for 1,457 yards, 13 touchdowns, no interceptions and an average passer rating of 125.3.

4. In a 42-20 victory at the Metrodome on Dec. 18, Saints quarterback Drew Brees became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards (412) and five touchdowns while completing 80 percent of his passes (32 of 40). And he did it while sitting out the final 12 minutes.

5. In a 26-23 overtime victory at the Metrodome on Sept. 25, Stafford erased a 20-0 halftime deficit by completing 22 of 30 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns.

6. In a 33-27 victory at the Metrodome on Oct. 23, Rodgers completed 17 of 20 passes in the first half. The only incompletions: two drops and one spike to stop the clock.

7. In a 35-32 victory at the Metrodome on Dec. 4, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, of all imperfect passers, came within nine points of reaching the perfect passer rating of 158.3. He went 6-for-9 for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. His targets were so ridiculously wide open, Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams told reporters after the game, "Shoot, you guys might have been able to hit those receivers."

8. An already pass-happy NFC North got pass-happier when the Bears traded for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

Left tackle is an important position that's difficult to fill with an elite player. But it's not like there was a weekly jailbreak of pass rushers pouring past Charlie Johnson last season. On the flip side, there was a weekly jailbreak of wide-open receivers romping unchaperoned through the Vikings secondary.

The Vikings have since added Chris Carr and Zack Bowman in free agency. They will also get Antoine Winfield (injury) and Chris Cook (legal issues) back this season.

Frankly, that's not enough to dismiss Claiborne. Not in this division.

"Mo Claiborne is maybe one of the more talented corners I've seen come out in a long time," Spielman said. "And you look at the quarterbacks we play and the receivers that we play in this division, to have a shutdown corner also is intriguing."

Considering how much detail goes into stacking Spielman's draft board, it's hard to believe him when he says all three players are "exactly even." The Vikings should take whichever player they have ranked higher, regardless of position.

Thinking the Vikings should pick Kalil because they might not get another chance to pick a left tackle this high in the future is foolishly ignoring the recent past and just how historically awful the secondary was in 2011.

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 100 4th Qtr 4:06
Sacramento 88
Milwaukee 72 3rd Qtr 0:03
LA Lakers 65
Oklahoma City 71 3rd Qtr 4:56
Portland 67
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 3rd Prd 13:10
Anaheim 2
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close