The most important player for the Minnesota Vikings’ offense is a player who most fans dislike: Matt Kalil.
Drafted fourth overall in the 2012 NFL draft, Kalil quickly made a name for himself, paving the way for Adrian as he ran for 2,097 yards. Kalil made the Pro Bowl his rookie season, and the Vikings thought they had their left tackle of the future.
Much to the Vikings’ dismay, however, Kalil has regressed since his rookie season and many fans are calling for him to ride the bench. Here are Kalil’s Pro Football Focus player grades throughout his career:
- 2012 – 82.3
- 2013 – 71.4
- 2014 – 43.8
- 2015 – 68.4
Kalil is not a once-in-a-generation talent like Adrian Peterson, nor does he lead the team like Teddy Bridgewater. The reason Kalil is number 1 on this list is simply because there is no depth behind him.
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If Kalil were to miss any significant portion of this season, the Vikings have no realistic option to turn to.
Austin Shepherd is a young player who didn’t take advantage of the opportunities presented to him last year. In 34 snaps played, Shepherd received a player grade of 50.3. Although 34 snaps is a very limited sample size, the low player grade is still concerning.
Jeremiah Sirles is a player who the Vikings traded for last September. In 2014, when Sirles was a rookie in San Diego, he earned a player grade of 72.3. There is a reason the Vikings gave up a draft pick to acquire him, and he has shown flashes in training camp, so there is always a chance he develops into a starting left tackle.
T.J. Clemming is another possibility, but he struggled last season at right tackle, so it’s difficult to project him doing well on the left side.
Shepherd, Sirles, and Clemmings are young, promising players, but as of now, they are not ready to protect Teddy’s blindside. Luckily for Minnesota, Matt Kalil has not missed a game in his four-year career.
If fans get their wish and somebody besides Kalil is starting at left tackle, it’ll be time to bring back our favorite phrase: “Well, there’s always next year!”.