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Updated: April 2nd, 2012 12:33am
Pelissero: Make a deal? Hard to imagine Vikings trading out of top six

Pelissero: Make a deal? Hard to imagine Vikings trading out of top six

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by Tom Pelissero

The situation hasn't changed, only the Minnesota Vikings' chances for having the options general manager Rick Spielman wants.

If the Vikings keep the third overall pick in April's NFL Draft, the prohibitive favorite remains Matt Kalil, the Southern Cal tackle who could protect the blindside for the next decade.

However, if interest in the No. 3 pick heats up over the next 25 days, as mounting speculation suggests it will, the question won't be whether the Vikings consider taking an offer, but just how far they're willing to drop.

As much as Spielman likes the idea of picking up a future No. 1 pick or more, he can't afford to miss out on a blue-chip prospect in this draft either -- especially when there appear to be three at positions the Vikings desperately need to upgrade.

Stanford's Andrew Luck of Stanford and Baylor's Robert Griffin III will be the first two names off the board. A third quarterback, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill, is coming off a solid campus workout that has his name in the top-five conversation as well.

If a market develops for Tannehill, it'd only make sense for Spielman to field offers, with QB-needy teams knowing the Cleveland Browns might pounce at No. 4. The going rate is set high, too, given the price Washington paid to move up for Griffin three weeks ago.

The St. Louis Rams collected two first-round picks and a second-rounder from the Redskins to slide back four spots -- which is one more than the Vikings may be comfortable dropping unless they have other players graded on par with Kalil, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne and Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon.

Indeed, if the Vikings can't convince Cleveland to play defense by flopping to the No. 3 slot, it's hard to imagine them dropping even as far as No. 8, where the quarterback-less Miami Dolphins sit behind the Browns, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Jacksonville.

The Vikings aren't using their top draft pick on a running back. They're not drafting a defensive end. They plausibly could be intrigued by adding the draft's top middle linebacker (Boston College's Luke Kuechly) or nose tackle (Memphis' Dontari Poe), but even those options seem like a stretch in comparison.

Speculation about whether the Vikings prefer Kalil to Claiborne and/or Blackmon misses the point. Odds are the Vikings like all three, but Kalil trumps the others if the Vikings stand pat because he plays a core position and the drop-off is steep to the rest of the field.

It's if the Vikings trade down that Claiborne and Blackmon come into play, and only then if Kalil's off the board. The one scenario the Vikings probably can't risk is a deal that makes them miss out on all three -- unless they've decided Kuechly, Poe or someone else belongs in the same breath.

Kuechly is an intriguing one because he plays a position that's so vital to the Tampa-2 defense favored by Leslie Frazier. But how much does Spielman truly want to marry his most valuable assets to a coach who is in essence working on a one-year deal?

It's at least a two-year rebuilding plan for Spielman, who has made abundantly clear he wants to build through the draft. He needs all the assets he can get -- just not at the expense of landing a very good player with his top pick this year instead of a great one.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
In this story: Leslie Frazier