How important is a left tackle in a team's long-term success?
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman has gone out of his way on several occasions to suggest that left tackle might be a lower priority than offensive playmaker when the team selects third overall in next week's NFL draft.
It goes against conventional thinking and raises the suspicion that Spielman is simply trying to drum up trade partners by keeping the teams behind him guessing. The truth will be revealed soon enough, but most people aren't buying it because, well, most people still think the Vikings will select Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil.
Considered the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft, Kalil is a perfect fit at a perfect time in Minnesota. The Vikings pulled the trigger on a young franchise quarterback when they selected Christian Ponder 12th overall a year ago. But then they jettisoned veteran left tackle Bryant McKinnie, the ninth overall pick in 2002, and turned his vital job over to Charlie Johnson, a free agent that the Colts didn't even try to re-sign.
Pairing Ponder and Kalil together now could allow them a decade or more to grow together. It would also enable the Vikings to further strengthen a rebuilt offensive line by sliding Johnson to guard, where he's better suited to play.
The Vikings' level of success in the near future depends on Ponder's development. It doesn't take an expert to figure out how Kalil could help in that process.
"Give him time to throw," Kalil told the Star Tribune on Sunday. "Honestly. It's that simple. It's about making that quarterback feel more comfortable in the pocket, that he can trust that he can get that extra read and get that extra second knowing he's not going to be getting hit from behind or speared in the back. I think a quarterback's confidence is everything."
Spielman has said a "functional" left tackle might have the same value. But will he prove it by passing on Kalil?
He's 6-7, 306 pounds and is already considered to have the strength and agility of an NFL- caliber left tackle. Universally considered to be the best available player after quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III.
Could be an option at left tackle if the Vikings opt to trade down. But don't go too far, Vikes. Reiff won't stay on the board for long. He's a 6-6, 313-pounder who also has the technique and look of a bona fide NFL left tackle.
Could be the third Cardinal to go in the first round after Luck and left tackle Jonathan Martin. DeCastro (6-5, 316) is considered a punishing run blocker with a nasty side. And he went to Stanford, so he can pass block, too.
The Badgers' 6-5, 314-pounder is considered the top center available. He's a probable second-round pick, but might slip into the first round. The Ravens (No. 29) could use him at guard until Matt Birk retires.
A graduate of Rosemount High School, Compton started all four years at South Dakota. The 6-5, 314-pounder, a first-team All-America in the Football Championship Subdivision, is considered a late-round project.
Today is Day 4 of the Star Tribune's position-by-position preview of the NFL draft April 26-28 in New York City.
Today: offensive linemen
|Detroit - LP: J. Mantiply||4||FINAL|
|NY Mets - WP: C. Torres||5|
|Cincinnati||1||Top 7th Inning|
|Los Angeles||8||Top 7th Inning|
|San Francisco||9||Top 8th Inning|
|Chicago WSox||0||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Kansas City||10||Top 6th Inning|
|Seattle||4||Top 8th Inning|
|Colorado||0||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Oakland||4||Top 6th Inning|
|LA Lakers||7:00 PM|
|Miss Valley St||75|
|Evansville||46||2nd Half 8:50|
|Northern Ill||6:00 PM|
|Bowling Green||6:00 PM|
|Central Mich||6:00 PM|
|Morehead State||6:30 PM|
|Coll of Charleston||7:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||8:00 PM|
|Loyola Marymount||10:30 PM|
|(21) George Washington||77|
|(3) South Carolina||58|
|East Tenn St||66|
|(2) Notre Dame||77|
|(9) Arizona State||67|
|Miss Valley St||51|
|(18) Texas A&M||60||2nd Half 1:18|
|Cincinnati||62||2nd Half 7:23|
|Saint Josephs||33||2nd Half|
|UCLA||13||1st Half 11:13|
|Santa Clara||4:30 PM|
|Virginia Tech||5:00 PM|
|(7) Florida State|
|Rhode Island||6:00 PM|
|North Florida||6:00 PM|
|(20) Fla Gulf Coast|
|Kennesaw St||6:00 PM|
|USC Upstate||6:00 PM|
|Saint Peters||6:00 PM|
|(13) Princeton||6:00 PM|
|(15) North Carolina||7:00 PM|
|San Jose St||7:00 PM|
|Utah State||8:00 PM|
|(8) Oregon State|
|New Mexico||8:00 PM|
|(12) Kentucky||8:25 PM|
|(11) Miss State|
|San Diego State||8:30 PM|
|Texas Tech||8:30 PM|
|Boise State||9:00 PM|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm||X||10-6|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm||X||30-28|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm||X||30-12|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm||X||19-3|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon||X||34-6|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon||X||30-7|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon||X||20-9|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm||X||41-28|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm||X||42-10|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon||X||17-3|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon||X||17-16|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon||X||19-13 ot|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon||X||29-26|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon||X||21-13|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon||X||24-21|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon||X||31-13|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon||X||30-24 ot|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||3:25 pm||X||16-14|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon||X||37-35|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon||X||13-9|
Poll: Who is doing the best job coaching a Minnesota pro sports team?