Throughout this disaster of a Minnesota Vikings season, I’ve read numerous articles, tweets, blogs, and comments that a franchise left tackle is exactly what the Vikings need in the 2011 NFL Draft. A football forum that I’m a member of recently had a very interesting discussion on the importance of a great left tackle, and I thought it was a good lead into the debate that fans will have over who to take #2 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft
While I wholeheartedly agree that the Vikings need to upgrade their offensive line at multiple positions, I’m here to tell you that a franchise left tackle leading to success is absolutely a luxury rather than a necessity. I think the Vikings are much better suited taking LSU stud corner Morris Claiborne over USC left tackle Matt Kalil.
Let’s take a look at the past six Super Bowl winners and their left tackle situation:
2011 – Green Bay Packers – Chad Clifton – Clifton isn’t a bad player but any means, but he’s definitely not a Pro Bowl caliber tackle at this point in his career. And the Packers seem to be doing just fine without Clifton this year, using mostly Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod in his place.
2010 – New Orleans Saints – Jermon Bushrod – Raise your hand if you knew what a “Jermon Bushrod” was before reading this article. Oh, you remembered his name because he was the guy that played against Jared Allen in the NFC title game? Good for you. Now let’s remember that the Saints won the Super Bowl despite their Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown tearing his ACL.
2009 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Max Starks/Marvel Smith – Both of these guys have been solid players in their career, but they’re not elite. Marvel Smith was on the edge of retirement for this Super Bowl. By the way, Arizona’s left tackle was Mike Gandy at the time.
2008 – New York Giants – David Diehl – He’s probably the best out of the guys that have been discussed in this post, making the All-Pro team in ’08 and the Pro Bowl in ’09. But would you put him in the Joe Thomas/Jake Long/Ryan Clady/D’Brickashaw Ferguson elite class? No.
2007 – Indianapolis Colts – Charlie Johnson – As a Vikings fan, if this doesn’t prove my point, I don’t know what else to tell you. I will say that Johnson was adequate for the Colts playoff run, particularly in the run game, which ironically is probably the only reason the Colts made that playoff run in the first place.
2006 – Pittsburgh Steelers – Marvel Smith – Again, I talked about Smith earlier. Interesting to note that Max Starks was the right tackle for this team as well. Smith was a pretty good tackle in his prime, but he certainly was not elite.
So, if you consider Thomas, Long, Clady, Ferguson, and possibly Jason Peters as the elite tackles in the NFL today, you have to ask yourself two questions:
1. Does Matt Kalil project as an elite NFL left tackle? if yes, he can be considered for the No. 2 pick. If no, he’s probably more of a mid first rounder. I think he’s very good, and that he has Pro Bowl potential, but I think the Vikings have far more pressing needs. I don’t know about you, but I’m fairly certain the Vikings don’t have a single NFL caliber defensive back playing currently with Antoine Winfield on IR and Chris Cook with his hands around his girlfriend’s neck (allegedly, of course). I was a member of the crowd for the Vikings/Broncos game, and it was painful to watch Deymarius Thomas dust Cedric Griffin on multiple occasions.
2. Does a franchise left tackle really matter? In my opinion, no, it doesn’t matter. It’s far more dependent on the play of the quarterback. In today’s NFL, the quarterback is far and away the most important position in professional sports.
As we have seen with Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger, it’s more important to have pocket presence in your quarterback as it is having an elite left tackle. These guys know how to move in the pocket, avoiding the rush for a split second to get a pass off or simply scrambling for a first down if you’re Rodgers or Big Ben.
So when you’re complaining towards people who make mock drafts that the Vikings absolutely HAVE to have Matt Kalil, remember that the last six Super Bowl winning left tackles have not been elite and that they simply don’t need to be in order to be successful. There are other, more important components of an NFL team that could use an elite player at their position.