|Is Matt Kalil still the choice in Minnesota or are the Vikes posturing for a trade? (Getty Images)|
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.
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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.
• Pitt cornerback Antwuan Reed, a two-year starter for the Panthers, probably helped himself by running under 4.5 on some scouts' watches at the Panthers' pro day. Reed, who measured under 5-10 at the combine (5-9 3/4, 188), and is not considered especially fast, ran a disappointing 4.63 in Indianapolis. Some scouts had him at 4.47-4.48 in his campus audition, plus he moved well and closed on the ball with some explosion. Reed had an uneven college career, but might now be able to sneak into the low rounds, or perhaps be a priority free agent. One personnel evaluator said Reed was "about the same as, maybe a little better than" another former Panthers' standout cornerback, Aaron Berry, an undrafted free agent in Detroit in 2010, who missed all but one game his rookie year with a knee injury, but started three contests in 2011.
• Tailback Trent Richardson and safety Mark Barron, the consensus No. 1 prospects at their respective positions, have begun "specifically preparing" for the individual workouts for NFL scouts, according to a spokesman at CAA, which represents the two players. The former Alabama standouts, both work out at the API complex in Phoenix, were unable to take part in the Crimson Tide's pro day activities as they continued to rehabilitate from injuries.
• Of all the "small school" cornerback candidates this year, and there seems to be a ton of them, it appears Asa "Ace" Jackson of Cal-Poly may have distanced himself a bit from the pack. Jackson is a sub-4.5 guy with solid instincts and decent, albeit not great, size. He tracks the ball well, is solid in his backpedal, and and seems to be making a steady move up draft boards.