NFL draft preview: offensive linemen

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 19, 2012 - 6:37 AM

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?

THE FRONTRUNNER

Matt Kalil, OT, USC

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.

THE CONTENDERS

Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

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.

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

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.

Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin

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.

THE SLEEPER

Tom Compton, South Dakota

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

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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 100 FINAL
Charlotte 115
New York 80 FINAL
Chicago 111
Golden State 108 FINAL
Milwaukee 95
Oklahoma City 89 FINAL
Utah 94
Denver 114 FINAL
Portland 120
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 FINAL
Carolina 3
Florida 2 FINAL(OT)
Montreal 3
Ottawa 3 FINAL(OT)
Toronto 4
Los Angeles 1 FINAL
Minnesota 4
Columbus 4 FINAL
St. Louis 2
Buffalo 3 FINAL
Colorado 5
Dallas 4 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 73 FINAL
NJIT 78
Notre Dame 66 FINAL
Kentucky 68
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 FINAL
Columbus 1
Portland 1 FINAL
Vancouver FC 2
Colorado 0 FINAL
Houston 0
Seattle 0 FINAL
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 69 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 73
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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