Vikings will consider many options with No. 3 pick

Offensive lineman Matt Kalil of USC looks on during the 2012 NFL Combine. (Joe Robbins/Getty...

Offensive lineman Matt Kalil of USC looks on during the 2012 NFL Combine. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images/AFP)

THE SPORTS XCHANGE

, Last Updated: 2:36 PM ET

With the top two picks in the draft pretty well set, quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III in some order, it’s been pretty popular in most circles to assume that Minnesota, with the third overall choice, will pounce on Southern Cal left offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

Such a move certainly would bolster the blindside protection of young starting quarterback Christian Ponder, but also allow the Vikings to move Charles Johnson inside to left guard, probably his better position, as the replacement for Steve Hutchinson, who was released earlier this week.

But a Vikings official insisted to The Sports Xchange that no decision has been made, and that there is still considerable debate about the No. 3 slot.

Although the official didn’t acknowledge it, some of the debate is thought to focus on the team’s crying need at cornerback, and the viability of LSU’s Morris Claiborne in the No. 3 spot. Minnesota ranked No. 26 in defense versus the pass in 2011, and its eight interceptions tied for the league low.

The corner-needy Vikings used eight different starters, and seven different starting combinations, at the position. The team has five cornerbacks on its roster and, after the aging and increasingly brittle Antoine Winfield (158 starts), only Allen Asher (21) has more than eight regular-season starts.

Of course, with Washington dealing up to the second overall spot in the recent blockbuster trade, Minnesota’s third slot could be in play now, although it’s believed the Vikings haven’t had any substantive inquiries yet about it. None are likely to come until closer to the draft.

“But some people here love (Claiborne),” the official said. “I mean really love him.”

After a four-year absence from the top 10, there has been a cornerback chosen among the top 10 guys off the board the past two years. Whether he goes to the Vikings or someone else, Claiborne will extend the streak to two months.

Claiborne is regarded as the most natural corner in the draft. Although he ran in the 4.45-4.52 range at the combine, he plays even faster, and is maybe more technically sound than Patrick Peterson, the former LSU cornerback chosen by Arizona last year as the fifth overall pick. It will be interesting to see if Claiborne runs the 40 at LSU’s pro day on March 22.

There figures to be a strong Vikings contingent in attendance, as there was at the campus workout for Oklahoma State junior wide receiver Justin Blackmon. He met immediately after his workout with coach Leslie Frazier and officials from the team, the first of many scheduled appointments on his tour of NFL facilities in the next six weeks.

 


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