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Matt Kalil vs. Luke Kuechly: A 2012 NFL Draft Retrospective

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The Vikings are terrible. We get it, you get it, and it seems most of the team gets, despite players still holding out hope that they're going to turn it around.

We don't know if they're ACTUALLY holding out hope, but what else can they say to the media?

Speaking of hope, how great does a middle linebacker sound right now?

Well, with Carolina's defense shutting down a Minnesota offense that was actually top-five in the league in points coming in to the week, it's hard to ignore the centerpiece of that defense, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Kuechly had seven tackles against the Vikings, and in case you didn't notice him is his rookie year of 2012, he led the NFL in tackles with 164 while also snatching two interceptions and recovering three fumbles, on his way to AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Kuechly went ninth in the 2012 NFL Draft two offseasons ago, after receiving AP All-American honors three times, while also collecting the Bronko Naugski Award as the nation's top defensive player, and the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.

That same draft, Minnesota had the third pick before trading down one spot and selecting USC left tackle Matt Kalil.

Minnesota's offensive line was lights out last year, blocking for what amounts to, considering the circumstances,the best performance by a running back in NFL history.

As good as the offensive line was last year, it has been equally horrendous this year, with specifically Kalil drawing criticism in the early going.

There aren't a whole lot of measurable stats out there regarding offensive line play, so breaking down Kalil since the beginning of the year is tough.

That being said, as a whole the line has been brutal, too many times putting Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and the run game in bad positions.

How much of that is Kalil? Generally your best pass-protector is your left tackle, and while The Purple have only given up 14 sacks, right around the middle of the league, it's been all too obvious that QBs have been under intense amounts of pressure too often.

Kalil could end up being an All-Pro for years, but with the condition of the defense (31st in the league in yards allowed), was taking him over a pro-ready Kuechly the right choice? At the moment, it certainly doesn't look that way.

For the record, the other picks between Kalil and Kuechly were WR Justin Blackmon, CB Morris Claiborne, S Mark Barron, and QB Ryan Tennehill. Whether those four were better options is a different argument for a different day, but with Kuechly leaving town Sunday with a W, this seemed as apt a time as any to use our 20-20 hindsight to go back and wonder aloud what might've been.

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