NFL Draft Preview: USC OT Matt Kalil


Nov 4, 2011; Boulder, CO, USA; Southern California Trojans offensive tackle Matt Kalil (75) during the game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

Name: Matt Kalil

Height: 6-7

Weight: 306

Projection: No. 3 Overall

Matt Kalil disappointed many a Trojan fan this past season when he decided to forgo his season year to enter the 2012 NFL Draft, but he will undoubtedly be USC’s pride and joy for this year’s draft. Kalil will be the first Trojan selected off the big boards, as he is projected to go No. 3 overall to the Minnesota Vikings. He is regarded as the best offensive tackle coming out of the draft this year, and for good reason.

It almost seems as if Kalil was destined for greatness even before he first suited up in cardinal and gold. His father was played pro ball in the ‘80s, and his big brother, Ryan Kalil—who was also an All-American for the Trojans—is currently the starting center for the Carolina Panthers. He even learned what it means to be the best from his mom, who was Miss California in her day. Clearly, nothing less than excellence would be accepted from Kalil, and that is exactly what he gave.

Kalil redshirted his freshman year in 2008, and then served as a backup right tackle for Tyron Smith in 2009. He saw limited action in 11 games (mostly special teams stuff), and recorded his first start against Boston College. During his sophomore year, Kalil really started to show what kind of athlete he would blossom into. He beat out Tyron Smith for the coveted left tackle spot after the departure of Charles Brown, and proceeded to start all 13 games. During that 2010 season, Kalil also got some time on the defensive line with the special teams, and notably blocked a point-after-touchdown against Notre Dame.

That was just the first of many blocked PATs we would see from Kalil over his career.

This past season, Kalil absolutely exploded, giving fans—and scouts—plenty to talk about. He was pivotal to USC averaging 456.8 yards of total offense, as he aggressively and fiercely protected Matt Barkley’s blindsided. The O-line as a whole only gave up an FBS-low eight sacks for the entire season, none of which came from Kalil. And let’s not forget about his stand-out work on special teams; when it came time for the Spirit of Troy to drum up “Block that Kick” on PATs, Kalil got his hands up a number of times and created game-changing plays for the Trojans.

He is exactly the kind of OT a coach would want protecting his QB.

Experts consider Kalil to be one of the most complete tackle prospects to come into the NFL in several years. And it’s not hard to see why, after the Blindside-esque performance he gave this past season. When it comes to pass blocking, he deftly comes out of his stance and patiently waits for defenders to enage with him. He plays with textbook balance and technique according to experts, and is exceptionally good at getting and keeping his hands up, to steer opposing linemen away from the QB. As for run blocking, experts agree that he has the prototype build and strength of an NFL-ready OL (he stands a whopping six-foot-seven and weighs in at just over 300 pounds), and he fires off the snap fluidly. When it comes to going to battle against off-balanced opponents, they better watch out, because Kalil will absolutely destroy them. He has displayed that he is capable of winning one-on-one situations, which is critical to giving his quarterback time to get the ball out of his hands.

While there are still a few minor things scouts say he could work on—like countering elite lateral agility, for example—there still is no doubt that he is the cream of the crop for his position. The Vikings—who are in desperate need of better pass protection for Christian Ponder—can wholly expect more great things to come from Kalil in his professional career.

If he indeed gets picked third overall, Kalil will be the fourth lineman out of USC to be picked in the top-3 of the NFL Draft. Ron Yary (1968), Anthony Muñoz (1980), and Tyron Smith (2011) have all also had the honor. Kalil’s top-3 pick would also make USC the first school with consecutive top-10 selected O-lineman since Texas Longhorns Leonard Davis and Mike Williams in 2001 and 2002.

Be sure to check out the NFL Network’s 2012 NFL Draft coverage, starting at 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Matt Kalil will surely not stay on the boards for long.

For more USC draft coverage, check out our other spots on:

Nick Perry

DaJohn Harris

Rhett Ellison

Chris Galippo

Armond Armstead