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Leslie Frazier says left tackle may not be a “game-changer”


As the Vikings continue to consider their options with the third overall pick in the draft, there are growing indications that they may not be taking left tackle Matt Kalil.

Unless they’re trying to make someone picking lower in the top 10 believe that the Vikings may take a player that team covets, like receiver Justin Blackmon or cornerback Morris Claiborne.

“You’ve got to really weigh your options,” coach Leslie Frazier told Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Because the philosophy [in the NFL] has always been to get the game-changer. And left tackle is not necessarily the game-changer. Usually game-changers are the guys who can score you points. Receivers. Quarterbacks. So what are we measuring that left tackle against? It’s a loaded debate.”

But here’s the thing. It’s hard for the quarterback and the receiver to change games if the left tackle isn’t stopping the right defensive end/outside linebacker from hitting the quarterback when the quarterback can’t see it coming. And it’s not as if competent left tackles readily can be found in the lower rounds of the draft.

Last year, the Vikings dumped their competent left tackle, and they struggled without one.

Because the Vikings used the 12th overall pick on quarterback Christian Ponder in 2011, Frazier’s quarterback/receiver/game-changer remarks arguably suggest that the Vikings are trying to decide between Matt Kalil and Blackmon. And while the two receivers taken among the top six picks in 2011 (A.J. Green and Julio Jones) could make it easier to justify using the third overall pick on Blackmon in 2012, the bust rate for first-round receivers traditionally has been higher than the bust rate for left tackles.

That’s the most important factor for the Vikings as the 2012 draft approaches. Regardless of the position, they need someone who will suit up and play, and play well. If they can still get that someone by sliding down a few spots and also pick up an extra pick or two, that’s even better.

That may be precisely what they are trying to do.