2012 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Kalil Will Be Protecting Christian Ponder

With the third pick in SB Nation's 2012 NFL mock draft, the Minnesota Vikings select USC OT Matt Kalil.

The top of our mock draft continues to go about as we expected. The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins selected QBs Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, respectively, and the Vikings follow suit with Kalil, the top offensive tackle in the draft.

The Vikings are working with 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder at quarterback so it makes sense to establish a cornerstone left tackle to keep his jersey clean. SB Nation's Vikings blog, Daily Norseman, explains the pick:

With the highest pick the team has had in a quarter-century, the Vikings find themselves in a position to take the best non-quarterback prospect in the 2012 NFL Draft, whoever they deem that prospect to be. It just so happens that the three biggest areas of need for the Vikings - cornerback, wide receiver, and offensive tackle - intersect with three blue-chip prospects in Morris Claiborne, Justin Blackmon and Matt Kalil. With the team being in a prime position here, they might be able to trade back and accumulate some more picks for their rebuilding process, but if they do stay here, Kalil is the smartest play, in my opinion.

The Vikings have some youth in their secondary and at wide receiver that they could potentially develop, but the one thing that we know for sure is that the Minnesota Vikings absolutely, positively can not go into the 2012 NFL season with Charlie Johnson as their starting left tackle. The Vikings have placed their future on the shoulders of Christian Ponder (and/or Joe Webb for the "true believers" out there), and they're never really going to know what they have in either of those quarterbacks if they have to scrape themselves off of the turf at the rate they did in 2011. Kalil would immediately be the starter at left tackle, moving Johnson to one of the guard spots and improving two spots on an offensive line that was woefully deficient in 2011. Kalil showed in his time at USC that he was head and shoulders above every other offensive tackle prospect in the nation, and some of the experts have him graded the same (or higher) as current Cleveland Browns' offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who has developed into one of the NFL's elite left tackles. Not only would this serve to protect Ponder, it would also help to open holes in the running game for Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, particularly if the former is slow in coming back from the torn ACL that he suffered on Christmas Eve against the Washington Redskins.

While Blackmon or Claiborne would be a fine pick for the Vikings as well, the ripple effect of improvement that Kalil would have on the Minnesota offense makes him too good to pass up with the third overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

For more analysis of the pick, visit Mocking The Draft. SB Nation's Browns blog, Dawgs By Nature, is now on the clock with the fourth pick.

Matt Kalil 2012 NFL Draft Profile (via sbnnfl)

For more NFL draft news on the Vikings, visit Daily Norseman and SB Nation Minnesota. And click here to follow SB Nation's NFL bloggers mock draft.

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