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Vikings hint they prefer Morris Claiborne to Matt Kalil

Morris Claiborne

LSU’s Morris Claiborne holds the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s most outstanding defensive back during the College Football Awards show in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

AP

With Andrew Luck slated to go first overall to the Colts and Robert Griffin III second to the Redskins, the Minnesota Vikings are effectively on the clock, with the third overall pick in the NFL draft. Unlike the Colts and the Redskins, the Vikings aren’t making it obvious who they’ll pick. But they are offering some hints.

Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press writes that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman is talking like a man who isn’t as high on USC left tackle Matt Kalil as everyone seems to think, and that Spielman has been hinting that he’d draft LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne over Kalil with the third overall pick.

If the Vikings were to pass on Kalil, that would be a surprise. Virtually every mock draft has the Vikings taking Kalil third overall. But Claiborne, who won the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in college football last year, is widely regarded as the best defensive player in the draft, and he’d be a solid choice at No. 3 as well.

The reality, however, is that unlike the Colts and the Redskins, the Vikings simply aren’t going to tip their hands, and any information coming out of Minnesota right now has to be considered part of an attempt to drive up interest in trading for the third overall pick. The Vikings want to keep other teams guessing about whether Kalil, Claiborne or Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon will get past the third pick because they hope one team that falls in love with one of those players will give them a package of picks for the third pick, just as the Falcons gave the Browns a package of picks for the right to draft Julio Jones last year.

If the Vikings don’t get that package and stay put, Kalil is still the favorite to go third. But Spielman is letting the word to get out: He also likes Claiborne.