Matt Kalil: Heavier isn't always better

When we last checked in with USC left tackle Matt Kalil, he had shown up at the NFL scouting combine at a svelte 306 pounds spread out over his 6-foot-7 frame. He discussed plans to "bulk up" to around 310 pounds but made clear he was never going to be one of the hulking 330-pound monsters many of us associate with elite left tackles.

I caught up with Kalil over the weekend as part of his work with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, where he spent some time setting future conditioning goals and overhauling his nutrition plan. He said he weighed in at 310 or 311 pounds at all four pre-draft visits he made over the past few months, including one with the Minnesota Vikings, and said he might approach 315 pounds by the time the 2012 NFL regular season begins.

But to give you an idea of the type of metabolism Kalil has, nutritionists have designed a daily 6,500-calorie diet to maintain whatever weight he lands on throughout the season. For context, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends 2,000 calories per day for many age groups, but athletes typically need more and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has consumed 12,000 during some training activities.

"I probably don't look like I weigh 310 pounds because I'm so tall," Kalil said. "But how much you weigh is overrated sometimes. Obviously you can't be 268 pounds and block a 300-pound defensive end, but I don't think [the difference between 310 and 330] is going to mean as much in my situation. I believe it's more about how you work on your trade and improving as a player, which I'm trying to do every day.

"You look at Joe Thomas [of the Cleveland Browns] and he's 311, 312 pounds. Jordan Gross [of the Carolina Panthers] is 303 or 305 pounds. In this line of work, it's about how strong you are and how good your technique is as much as how much you weigh."

Indeed, at 306 pounds during the combine, Kalil put together arguably the most impressive workouts of any offensive lineman. As we noted in February, most of his speed work qualified as the second-best scores at the combine.

Why are we spending so much time discussing Kalil's seemingly thin frame? Because there really isn't much else to pick at him about, a reflection of how universally he's considered the best non-quarterback prospect in the draft. It's also why almost no one has bought assertions from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman that a left tackle might be a lower priority than offensive playmakers or even cornerbacks at the top of the draft.

Based on what I can tell, it would stun the NFL from top to bottom if the Vikings draft someone other than Kalil at No. 3, regardless of the skills of Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne.

A trade market could materialize for those who want assurance they can draft Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and Kalil could be off the board if they Vikings move down far enough. Otherwise, Kalil and the Vikings appear to be in the final stages of engagement before the big ceremony April 26. Kalil has visited the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills as well, and he is taking what amounts to a forced neutrality on his landing spot.

"Crazier things have happened I guess," he said. "You can never really expect where you're going to go, and it's probably the wrong mindset to be set on a certain team. So I'm open-minded and working on staying in my routine until the draft starts."

Kalil has one more week of routine before leaving for New York City and draft festivities. And that gives us 11 more days of noise before what sure seems inevitable finally happens.