Spielman: Tackle doesn't have to come at 3

Matt Kalil (Ron Chenoy/US Presswire)

The Vikings are taking a hard look at USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, but there could be other tackle options for them if they trade down.

While most mock drafts have the Vikings selecting USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, general manager Rick Spielman said an upgrade at left tackle doesn't have to come with their third overall selection.

Speaking in several different settings at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Thursday, Spielman repeatedly mentioned his willingness – even his desire – to move back from the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and accumulate extra picks. If that happens, Kalil might not be an option, but there could be other prospects at left tackle, too.

"There are some very good left tackles coming out in this draft, not only Kalil, but there's a lot of other guys that are going to be able to play left tackle in this league," Spielman said. "You want to look at their ability to protect the quarterback's blind side. Does he have the athletic skill set and does he have the feet and does he have the arm length to do everything to make him competitive at left tackle?"

There could be as many as four offensive tackles that are selected in the first round – Kalil, Iowa's Riley Reiff, Stanford's Jonathan Martin and Ohio State's Mike Adams. Adams might even be available when the Vikings pick toward the top of the second round.

With numerous holes on the Vikings' roster to fill, Spielman is weighing the benefits of a blindside protector for 2011 rookie quarterback Christian Ponder vs. getting him more playmakers.

"There's the adage that you go back and forth on – is the left tackle that important or is it more important to have playmakers on offense? Because as your quarterback evolves, he learns the system, he gets the ball quicker out of his hand and all of a sudden that left tackle doesn't need to be a Pro Bowl left tackle. He can be a functional left tackle because the quarterback evolves and he's got playmakers. I just remember Aaron Rodgers and how the media were criticizing their offensive line when Aaron Rodgers took all those sacks his first year as a starter. Now, their offensive line has gotten better, but Aaron Rodgers has also gotten better … and they've got tremendous playmakers around him."

Kalil declared himself the top tackle in the draft, and it's an assessment that most draft evaluators support.

"Kalil is very talented at left tackle. He has all the feet and skillset that you're looking for. He has the arm length. He has the nasty demeanor, the finish, when you watch him on tape, to finish run blocks. I feel he's going to be a very good left tackle in this league as he grows in the position and moves forward," Spielman said.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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