With their beloved team sitting at 1-6, most Vikings fans have already begun looking ahead with an eye toward re-tooling the roster in the offseason, specifically via next year's draft. That's why Vikings fans should be sure to tune in tonight for the nationally-televised college football game between the Stanford Cardinal and USC Trojans – but not for the reason you might think.
No, this has nothing to do with the "Suck for Luck" campaign, which is currently all the rage in the markets with the worst NFL teams. I don't think the Vikings are going to suck badly enough to land the No. 1 pick (i.e. Stanford's once-in-a-generation quarterback Andrew Luck) with such horrible teams as the Dolphins, Colts, and Rams currently ahead of them in line.
While you can certainly feel free to enjoy watching Luck play quarterback tonight (ABC at 7 p.m. CT), the player Vikings fans should be scouting instead is USC left tackle Matt Kalil.
Yeah, I know, scouting an offensive lineman isn't nearly as sexy as scouting a quarterback, but I'm trying to be both realistic and optimistic on behalf of Vikings fans. The Vikes will still have to be pretty bad to have a chance of drafting Kalil because by all accounts he is the best offensive line prospect in this year's draft. And it's not particularly close.
The name should sound familiar. His older brother Ryan is a Pro Bowl center for the team the Vikings will play Sunday, the Carolina Panthers. Ryan was a second-round pick of the Panthers in 2007 and has been to the Pro Bowl twice since then. He currently snaps the ball to Cam Newton, who was the top overall pick in this past spring's draft.
And while I fully expect Luck to be a better quarterback than Newton (yes, he's that good), those in the know fully expect younger brother Matt to be better than big brother Ryan. That's saying a lot.
Indeed, Matt Kalil will be a highly-coveted pick in the draft next spring according to nationally-recognized NFL Draft expert Shawn Zobel, who I spoke with today before sitting down to pound out this blog entry. On Shawn's web site, DraftHeadquarters.com, he calls Kalil a "top-five overall prospect."
I asked Shawn for more details, and here's what he told me:
"Kalil is as polished of an offensive tackle prospect as we've seen enter the draft in the past five years. He's on the level of where Jake Long and Joe Thomas were when they were coming out of Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively. Kalil offers a terrific combination of size, strength, and athleticism for an offensive lineman. He projects as a franchise left tackle capable of protecting the blind side of his quarterback for the next 10-15 years."
Does that sound like someone the Vikings and their fans might have some interest in? I know Christian Ponder's answer.
In order to turn their ship around, the Vikings are going to need at least three of the four basic building blocks of most successful NFL teams. Most importantly, they need a very good quarterback… which they hope they will eventually have in Ponder. I'm not breaking any news in suggesting the NFL is a quarterback-driven league.
Secondly, they need an end or outside linebacker to pressure the quarterback, which they clearly have in NFL sack leader Jared Allen. Another basic building block is a very good cover corner or even shut-down corner (of whom there are very few in the world -- none on the Vikings' current roster).
And lastly they need a stalwart, lights-out left tackle to protect that quarterback. That's Kalil.
Drafting Kalil would absolutely give the Vikings a building block. It would lock down one of the five most important positions on their team for the next decade.
So forget about "sucking for Luck," Vikings fans. If your team wins only a few more games this season they will be in pretty good position to add Kalil to their team in the draft. He's the guy Vikings fans should be eyeballing. He's the player Vikings fans should be campaigning for. Should we call it the "Reel for Kalil" or the "Keel for Kalil" campaign? I'm not sure which I like better, so I'll as VikesCentric nation to chime in below with the slogan they like best.
Share your comments below. "Keel for Kalil" or "Reel for Kalil"? Or something else I'm not clever enough to have thought of?
Bo Mitchell is VP of content at SportsData and co-host of the Fantasy Football Weekly radio show on Saturday mornings on KFAN 100.3 FM.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell
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