With the 14th game of the season for everyone in the books, 29 of the NFL's 32 teams have four or more wins. As it stands, the most wins the Vikings could end up with is four and, with one more loss in their final two games, the Vikings can finish no lower than the third pick in the draft.
The Vikings and Rams are tied at 2-12, one game ahead of 1-13 Indianapolis. The talk has been that the prize awaiting the Vikings for their dismal 2011 season will be USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil, who announced last week that he would be entering the 2012 draft. However, it may not matter where the Vikings finish – first, second or third – barring a trade or an unforeseen circumstance, they will still end up with Kalil.
Given the can't-miss tag placed on Stanford QB Andrew Luck, he will go No. 1, whether Indianapolis makes the pick or trades it away. As it currently stands, the Vikings are in line for the No. 2 pick because their 2011 opponents have a combined record of 127-97, slightly worse than the Rams' opponents (130-91). While that could be subject to change in the final two weeks, the Vikings would likely be in position to take Kalil regardless.
The Rams could slide in front of the Vikings, since nobody expects them to beat either of their final two opponents (at Pittsburgh Saturday and at San Francisco Jan. 1), but their draft needs likely don't include the top two picks in the draft. The Rams invested in Sam Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick two years ago and have been pleased with the play of left tackle Roger Saffold. Would they go back to the well and take Kalil with the second pick? He's a talent that would be hard to pass up, but not impossible.
The Vikings are tying to avoid being the first 2-14 team in franchise history, but the time has come to take a look at the draft possibilities if they do lose their final two games. When all is said and done, the best thing that could happen to an offense loaded with young talent might be to lose their final two games and add a stud left tackle that could man the position at a high level for the next decade.
After quarterback Christian Ponder has been sacked 28 times in eight starts and hasn't gone a full game with less than two sacks, keeping the 2011 first-round draft pick upright could become the job of the 2012 first-round pick.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.