Just think, five weeks from today we’ll all have the Vikings’ final answer. Is general manager Rick Spielman really considering passing on Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil with the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft?

He couldn’t be, could he?

After all, listen to the draft experts and it’s very clear Kalil is as close to a can’t-miss tackle as you’ll ever find in the draft. He’s big. He’s explosive. He has quick feet and uses his hands well.

On top of that, the Vikings have asserted that they would like to reinforce their offensive line to protect developing young quarterback Christian Ponder. And what could be better than securing a smart, athletic, strong beast up front to ink into the starting lineup for, oh, the next 10-12 years?

Yep, on the surface it sure seems like A+B=You’re-out-of-your-darn-mind-if-you-pass-on-Kalil.

Yet Spielman insists he will seriously look at the other side of this coin as well. At the combine last month, he wondered aloud whether championship teams truly require a star left tackle to excel or whether they can still succeed with a functional player there if the offense has real difference makers at the skills positions.

It’s a fair question to consider. And after Spielman began that debate, we looked into it a little deeper by analyzing the starting left tackles for the 12 playoff teams in 2011, uncovering evidence that it’s by no means necessary to spend a high draft pick on the position in order to win.

Now, as stories continue to surface that Spielman and the Vikings could opt to use that No. 3 pick to address a different position -- LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne is in the conversation and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon should be too – we’re providing another set of data that’s worth considering. For those teams who do use top 10 picks on offensive linemen, what kinds of dividends to they usually see? Here’s a quick look at the 23 offensive tackles taken in the top 10 over the past 20 drafts.

The figures might surprise you. Of those 23 tackles, only four posted winning records overall during their stays with the teams that drafted them.

The two best left tackles taken in the past five years? Joe Thomas and Jake Long have been Pro Bowlers since the day they entered the league. Yet they’ve also been on teams with a combined .410 winning percentage and zero playoff wins in their nine seasons combined.

Have a look around at our display. Think it over. Discuss.

We’ve still got another five weeks to analyze the pros and cons of taking Kalil.


Bob Whitfield
No. 8 by Atlanta
Team’s record while he was there: 82-109-1
Longevity: Whitfield played in Atlanta for 12 years, starting all 16 games in nine of those seasons. He lasted 15 years in the NFL, playing 220 career games.
Postseason success with Atlanta: Whitfield was a starter on the 1998 Falcons team that upset the Vikings in the NFC Championship game to reach the Super Bowl. But Atlanta made the playoffs only two other times during his stay there.

Ray Roberts
No. 10 by Seattle
Team’s record while he was there: 22-42
Longevity: Roberts played 127 games during his NFL career with 116 starts. After four seasons in Seattle, he played his final five years for the Lions.
Postseason success with Seattle: The Seahawks did not make the playoffs during Roberts’ four seasons there.


Willie Roaf
No. 8 by New Orleans
Team’s record while he was there: 57-87
Longevity: Roaf enjoyed a Hall of Fame career during his 13 seasons in the league, reaching the Pro Bowl 11 times. After nine years in New Orleans, he finished his career in Kansas City.
Postseason success with New Orleans: Roaf played in exactly two playoff games with the Saints – a 31-28 win over the Rams in 2000 followed by a 34-16 loss to the Vikings in the division round the following week.


Tony Boselli
No. 2 by Jacksonville
Team’s record while he was there: 62-50
Longevity: Boselli played 91 games over seven seasons for the Jaguars and was an All-Pro for three consecutive years from 1997-99. He was selected in the 2002 expansion draft by the Texans but never played a game for Houston.
Postseason success: Boselli helped the Jaguars make the playoffs for four consecutive years from 1996-99. Jacksonville advanced to the AFC Championship game in 1996 but lost to New England.


Willie Anderson
No. 10 by Cincinnati
Team’s record while he was there: 76-116
Longevity: Anderson was sturdy for 13 seasons, the first 12 with the Bengals. He played 195 career games and started 184 of them. He went to the Pro Bowl four times.
Postseason success: During Anderson’s 12 seasons in Cincinnati, the Bengals played one playoff game, a 31-17 loss to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season.


Orlando Pace
No. 1 by St. Louis
Team’s record while he was there: 92-100
Longevity: Pace played 12 seasons with the Rams and finished his career with a one-season stint in Chicago. He made 165 starts in his 169 career games and made the Pro Bowl in seven consecutive seasons (1999-2005).
Postseason success: The Rams made the postseason five times and went 7-4 in playoff games during Pace’s tenure there. He was the anchor of an offensive line that helped St. Louis win Super Bowl XXXIV. The Rams also made it to Super Bowl XXXVI.

Walter Jones
No. 6 by Seattle
Team’s record while he was there: 102-90
Longevity: Jones played his entire 12-year career with the Seahawks and started 180 games. He made the Pro Bowl in nine of his final 10 seasons.
Postseason success: Seattle made the playoffs six times and won four postseason games, including two victories following the ’05 season that sent the Seahawks onto the Super Bowl.


Chris Samuels
No. 3 by Washington
Team’s record while he was there: 70-90
Longevity: Samuels lasted 10 years and played in 141 games for the Redskins. He made the Pro Bowl six times.
Postseason success with team that drafted him: The Redskins made the playoffs in 2005 and ’07 but one only one postseason game and never reached the conference championship game during Samuels’ time there.


Mike Williams
No. 4 by Buffalo
Team’s record while he was there: 28-36
Longevity: Williams lasted four years with the Bills then spent one season each in Jacksonville and Washington.
Postseason success with Buffalo: The Bills did not reach the postseason while he was there.

Bryant McKinnie
No. 7 by the Vikings
Team’s record while he was there: 74-70
Longevity: In nine years with the Vikings, McKinnie made 131 starts and was a mainstay up front. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009. After being released last summer, he played all 16 games in 2011 for the Ravens.
Postseason success with Minnesota: The Vikings reached the playoffs in three of McKinnie’s nine seasons and had a 2-3 record in those games. They almost reached the Super Bowl after the 2009 season before suffering a devastating overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC Championship game.

Levi Jones
No. 10 by Cincinnati
Team’s record while he was there: 48-63-1
Longevity: Jones spent seven seasons with the Bengals and finished his career in 2009 with the Redskins.
Postseason success with Cincinnati: The Bengals lost their only playoff game with Jones on the roster, a 31-17 stumble against Pittsburgh in January 2006.


Jordan Gross
Drafted: No. 8 by Carolina
Team’s record while he’s been there: 72-72
Longevity: Gross has made 135 starts in his nine seasons in Charlotte. He’s made the Pro Bowl twice.
Postseason success: As a rookie, Gross helped the Panthers reach the Super Bowl where they lost to New England. Two years later, Carolina was back in the NFC Championship game. They’ve won five of their eight playoff games in three postseason appearances during Gross’ nine seasons.


Robert Gallery
No. 2 by Oakland
Team’s record while he was there: 33-79
Longevity: Gallery played his first seven seasons in Oakland before playing last year in Seattle. He’s played in 104 games during his eight years in the league.
Postseason success with Oakland: The Raiders never reached the playoffs.


D’Brickashaw Ferguson
No. 4 by the New York Jets
Team’s record while he’s been there: 51-45
Longevity: Ferguson hasn’t missed a start in six seasons with the Jets and has made the Pro Bowl the past three seasons.
Postseason success: New York has reached the playoffs three times in Ferguson’s six seasons and reached the AFC Championship game in consecutive seasons in 2009 and 2010.


Joe Thomas
No. 3 by Cleveland.
Team’s record while he was there: 28-52
Longevity: Thomas hasn’t missed a start in five seasons with the Browns and has made the Pro Bowl all five seasons.
Postseason success: The Browns have yet to reach the playoffs.

Levi Brown
No. 5 by Arizona
Team’s record while he’s been there there: 40-40
Longevity: Brown hasn’t missed a start over the past four seasons and has played in 77 games during his five years in Arizona.
Postseason success: The Cardinals made the playoffs after the ’08 and ’09 seasons and advanced to Super Bowl XLIII with Brown aiding a prolific passing attack.


Jake Long
No. 1 by Miami
Team’s record while he’s been there: 31-33
Longevity: Long has played in and started 62 of Miami’s 64 games over the past four seasons. He’s made the Pro Bowl in all four seasons.
Postseason success: Miami went 11-5 when Long was a rookie in 2008 but lost its playoff opener 27-9 to Baltimore.


Jason Smith
No. 2 by the Rams
Team’s record while he’s been there: 10-38
Longevity: Smith hasn’t lived up to expectations, hampered by injuries and inconsistent play. He’s played 29 games with 26 starts in his first three seasons.
Postseason success: The Rams have yet to reach the playoffs.

Andre Smith
No. 6 by Cincinnati
Team’s record while he was there: 23-25
Longevity: Smith has started 19 times and played in 27 games in his first three seasons.
Postseason success: The Bengals have reached the playoffs twice in the past three seasons but lost their postseason openers both times.

Eugene Monroe
No. 8 by Jacksonville
Team’s record while he’s been there: 20-28
Longevity: Monroe has played 45 games and started 42 during his first three seasons.
Postseason success: The Jaguars have yet to reach the playoffs.


Trent Williams
No. 4 by Washington
Team’s record while he’s been there: 11-21
Longevity: Williams has played in 24 games and started 23 during his first two seasons.
Postseason success: The Redskins have yet to reach the playoffs.

Russell Okung
No. 6 by Seattle
Team’s record while he’s been there: 14-18
Longevity: Okung has made 22 starts in his first two seasons with the Seahawks.
Postseason success: After sneaking into the playoffs with a 7-9 record in 2011, Okung helped Seattle upset New Orleans in the wild card round. The Seahawks lost the following week at Chicago.


Tyron Smith
No. 9 by Dallas
Team’s record while he’s been there: 8-8
Longevity: Smith started all 16 games as a rookie last season.
Postseason success: The Cowboys did not reach the playoffs in 2011




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