Southern California offensive lineman Matt Kalil poses for photographs with loved ones after being selected as the fourth pick overall by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round of the NFL football draft Thursday at Radio City Music Hall in New York. / Jason DeCrow/AP
The Minnesota Vikings nabbed their franchise offensive tackle and a safety during the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday while collecting a slew of draft choices along the way.
The Vikings took the first step toward bouncing back from last year’s turbulent 3-13 campaign by selecting USC left tackle Matt Kalil with the fourth overall pick, roughly an hour after swapping their third overall pick with Cleveland.
The Browns moved up one spot to ensure nobody stole potential franchise running back Trent Richardson while Minnesota added Cleveland’s fourth- (118th overall), fifth- (139th) and seventh-round (211th) picks, along with the fourth selection that brought in Kalil.
The Vikings held 13 picks at one point before parlaying their second- (35th) and fourth-round (98th) selections to move back into the first round in a trade with Baltimore and select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 29th pick.
After releasing starting guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, the 6-foot-6, 306-pound Kalil gives the Vikings a key component in rebuilding an offensive line that allowed 49 sacks last season — tied for fifth-most in the league.
“I think it’s a great deal for both teams,” said Minnesota General Manager Rick Spielman when addressing the media. “They have an extremely talented running back, something they were missing up there and we were able to go get our guy and accumulate some picks, so I think the deal worked out for both us and Cleveland.”
Widely considered the top offensive line prospect, Kalil has a strong football pedigree. His father, Frank, is a former college center and Buffalo Bills draft choice. Kalil’s older brother, Ryan, is a former national champion at USC and a Pro Bowl center for the Carolina Panthers.
Considered a reliable and dependable pass protector, Kalil started all 12 games at left tackle for USC this past season en route to winning the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy, given to the conference’s top offensive lineman as selected by defensive linemen.
It’s a move the Vikings hope will aid the maturation of 24-year-old starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was the team’s first-round pick last season.
“Having a guy like Matt Kalil really gives us a cornerstone for a number of years,” said Vikings coach Leslie Frazier in his news conference with Minnesota media. “With a young quarterback like ours, you’re really trying to surround him with the best supporting cast. This gives us a great chance of getting that starter now with our left tackle being solidified for a number of years.”
Bears go with McClellin
The Bears snagged Boise State defensive end/linebacker Shea McClellin with the 19th pick, nabbing the 6-foot-3, 260-pound pass rusher many pegged as a possible fit with the Packers.
Initially projected as a third- or fourth-rounder, McClellin saw his stock rise continuously while adding 12 pounds from the Senior Bowl to the NFL combine. A three-year starter for the Broncos, McClellin recorded 130 tackles, 33 tackles for loss, 20½ sacks and forced five fumbles.
He played in a number of formations and positions for the Broncos last season and led the team with seven sacks. The Bears view him as an every-down player with his versatility giving the team a variety of new ways to utilize top defensive playmakers like Julius Peppers.
“We’re very excited about Shea in terms of his all-downs ability,” said Chicago GM Phil Emery in his news conference with the media. “This is an all-downs football player, including special teams. This is a four-down player and our special team coaches gave him a blue-level grade as a special teams player. We’re excited about him for several reasons. He’s got really quick feet and hands as a pass rusher, and natural hips as a pass rusher.”
Lions select Reiff
The Detroit Lions continued to improve their offense while addressing one of their primary needs with the selection of Iowa guard Riley Reiff with the 23rd pick of the first round.
Despite re-signing reliable veteran left tackle Jeff Backus, Reiff gives the Lions a young prospect to develop after starting all 13 games at left tackle for the Hawkeyes this past season en route to first-team all-Big 10 Conference honors.
The 6-foot-5, 303-pound native of Parkston, S.D., has outstanding size to overcome average arm length and has shown the versatility to move inside to guard when needed.
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