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Vikings head coach: 'left tackle is not necessarily the game-changer'

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com
Conventional wisdom is that the Vikings will take Kalil but could they go in a different direction? (US PRESSWIRE)

Last week, an unnamed scout called quarterback Robert Griffin III "selfish" and another identified tackle Matt Kalil as having an "attitude problem."

Griffin refuted the suggestion and, really, don't you want your offensive linemen to be nasty? What is indisputable is this: Kalil is the best tackle in the draft and since February, virtually every mock draft had him slotted to go third overall to the Vikings.

The thinking: after franchise quarterbacks,left tackles are the cornerstones of the offense. And historically, that's been true. Last year, the Vikings got their franchise quarterback, Christian Ponder, and now they need to protect him. Or so the story goes.

But head coach Leslie Frazier told Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune something that would've been considered heresy not long ago: “You've got to really weigh your options,” he said. “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.”

Interestingly, that's exactly the point NFLFilms' Greg Cosell made recently. His argument is basically this: of the four "priority positions" -- quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher and shutdown cornerback -- left tackle has become less important because "The elite quarterbacks camouflage and compensate for offensive line deficiencies in many ways. … It's often the case that the quarterback takes care of the impact pass rusher with his advanced abilities both pre- and post-snap." Cosell adds: "In a passing league, it clearly makes sense defensively to do two things: rush the quarterback and cover receivers."

For the Vikings, conveniently a team with needs at wideout and cornerback, that could mean that they're more likely to take wide receiver Justin Blackmon or cornerbacks Morris Claiborne or Stephon Gilmore, and pass on Kalil altogether. Frazier's comments seems to indicate as much. Then again, maybe it's all a ploy -- a little pre-draft misdirection.

Either way, Cosell, an impartial observer, offers up his thoughts on the dilemma facing Minnesota with the No. 3 pick.

"Ponder, entering his second season, is not at the stage in his development in which he can compensate for left tackle, or overall offensive line deficiencies. On defense, they need corners, especially in a division that features (Aaron) Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler. Assuming they have both players graded appropriately, the decision should be between Kalil or Claiborne. It's a fascinating question that speaks directly to the prioritizing of positions in the NFL."

True to his word, Cosell, in his Monday mock draft, had the Vikings taking a cornerback -- South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore -- and Kalil fell to the Cardinals at No. 13.

By comparison, NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang and Dane Brugler have Kalil going third in their mock drafts. And CBSSports.com's four draft experts agree -- Pat Kirwan, Pete Prisco, Clark Judge and Will Brinson all have Minnesota selecting Kalil.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter, and subscribe to our Pick-6 Podcast and NFL newsletter. You can follow Ryan Wilson on Twitter here: @ryanwilson_07.
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