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

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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.

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65 Responses to “Leslie Frazier says left tackle may not be a “game-changer””
  1. oberg435 says: Apr 22, 2012 11:35 PM

    Leslie says “I might not have a job next year”

  2. jeremywflores says: Apr 22, 2012 11:36 PM

    Damn, they really want Ponder to become the next David Carr.

    Getting Claiborne isn’t a bad thing though, esp with that secondary.

  3. trbowman says: Apr 22, 2012 11:37 PM

    He’s right. Look at the recent history of teams in the Super Bowl, plenty haven’t had good blindside protectors.

    Eli was hit incessantly en route to the Super Bowl last year. The Cards made it to the big game trotting out Levi Brown and Mike Gandy

    And just how much good have Joe Thomas and Jake Long, bless them, in winning games? LT is not the position of importance its made out to be.

    QBs, pass rushers and receivers. Boom.

  4. oberg435 says: Apr 22, 2012 11:39 PM

    to get the ball to a receiver, you need more than a second after the snap

  5. trbowman says: Apr 22, 2012 11:39 PM

    Of course, it’s a little more important to have a good LT when your QB is made of glass like Ponder is.

    And I hear the Vikes like Jeffery. Hey Minny, you don’t need ANOTHER receiver that can’t separate.

  6. philly71198 says: Apr 22, 2012 11:40 PM

    Being a center I respect all my brothers on the line. And thinking a left tackle cannot effect the game is bull. From personal experience I can say that left tackle is the opposite from “not a game changer”. Damn

  7. polarbear71 says: Apr 22, 2012 11:40 PM

    The bust rate for first-round receivers traditionally has been higher than the bust rate for left tackles….ask Jerry Angelo about that one !

  8. southsidebears says: Apr 22, 2012 11:47 PM

    And just how much good have Joe Thomas and Jake Long, bless them, in winning games? LT is not the position of importance its made out to be.

    But Thomas and Long were both asked to protect garbage. If you have your QB of the future then you better protect him. Plus he will be asked to block for AP too.

  9. Deb says: Apr 22, 2012 11:48 PM

    If your quarterback is middlin’ and your defense couldn’t stop Betty White, then no, a great left tackle can’t save the day. But if you’ve got the other pieces in place, that position is everything. I’d rather have a great left tackle than a pair of diamond earrings.

  10. bdoubleoey says: Apr 22, 2012 11:50 PM

    1 of the reasons they r going LT is they droped Hutch, and the only guy they added was a RG who was injured last year, if they dont draft the LT then the oline is worse then last year. thats why, moving Johnson to LG and drafting Matt for LT will make the line better then last year. i think its obvoius they r just running smoke.

  11. backtothebowl says: Apr 22, 2012 11:50 PM

    Darn, there goes about 10 million mock drafts out the window.

  12. cappa662 says: Apr 22, 2012 11:51 PM

    PFT hit it right on the head, left tackles aren’t found in free agency… they are found in the draft.

  13. bpjensen says: Apr 22, 2012 11:52 PM

    I cannot believe the Vikings are over-thinking this so much. Oh wait, yes I can.

  14. raiderinva says: Apr 22, 2012 11:52 PM

    Right now the starting left guard for the Vikings Charley Johnson wants everyone to believe this story.

    Christian Ponder would like to think he was not a reach being taken at the 12th over all pick. Especially since he threw 13 pickles and was sacked 30 times in 10 games.

    In other breaking news from PFT….. If the Vikings do not select Matt Kalil with the 3rd over all pick, Christian Ponder will add his name to the concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL for GP.

  15. thankheavenfornumberseven says: Apr 22, 2012 11:53 PM

    They don’t love Kalil enough to take him no matter what another team offers in a trade, but they will take him if they don’t make a trade.

  16. mlmeier says: Apr 22, 2012 11:56 PM

    @trbowman Teams like the 2007 and 2011 Giants and the 2008 Cardinals succeeded because they had so much ability in other areas that there shortcomings on the o-line were less substantial, and the fact that they had top tier QBs certainly helped their cause. What about a guy like Donovan McNabb, who started sucking the moment he went to teams with bad o-lines?

    I don’t believe in ranking positions by their importance because every position can be a game-changer with the right people. But LT (and o-line as a whole) can make a good team look a helluva lot better.

  17. stairwayto7 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:00 AM

    ALL LIES PEOPLE! This happens every year before the draft and 90% of people fall for it. Owners and coaches throw lines out there and the fish bite! Vikes will take Kalil.

  18. Ebrostradamus says: Apr 23, 2012 12:04 AM

    ^ Levi Brown was a top-5 pick

  19. vikingsfanintexas says: Apr 23, 2012 12:07 AM

    If Blackmon is like Michael Crabtree… don’t take him. If he’s Larry Fitzgerald… don’t hesistate.

    If Kalil is like Todd Stuessie… don’t take him. If he’s Anthony Munoz… don’t hesitate.

    If Claiborn is Dewayne Washington… don’t take him. If he’s Champ Bailey… don’t hesitate.

    We fans don’t really know which they are… the Vikings better before they turn in their selection card on Thursday night.

  20. detroitrollin22 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:08 AM

    Personally, if I were the Viks I’d take Claiborne. Megatron, Jennings, and Marshall are all beasts. You need someone to cover them.

  21. thefiesty1 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:11 AM

    Watch them run out of time and not select anyone third. Maybe after the fourth or fifth picks are gone then they can decide.

  22. bigredscouting says: Apr 23, 2012 12:11 AM

    The decision is simple. Take the LT. If you don’t, your giving the QB, that your all in on, a chance to become David Carr 2.0. If the pick is anyone but Kalil, the aftermath of this draft is simple too. The Vikings should fire GM Rick Spielman. If Leslie Frazier is spewing this garbage and believes it, he should be fired too. The Vikings deserve to fail because they continually have proven their front office has no idea what they’re doing.

    It’s not that Claiborne is a bad player. It’s not that Blackmon is bad, although he’s not an elite player. It’s simple, if you want your QB to grow, you need to keep him safe.

    @trbowman All the QBs on the teams that you mentioned weren’t young. They were veterans: Kurt Warner and Eli Manning. With an injured AP and Toby Gerhardt, Ponder needs protection so the Vikings can have some modicum of offense.

    Granted, a great QB making quick decisions can mask some poor offensive line play. Like Aaron Rodgers did the year they won the title. Same for Drew Brees being protected by a LT from Towson. Once again, those guys are the elite of the elite, and veterans of this game. They aren’t 2nd year QBs with a ridiculous amount of pressure on their shoulders, and limited talent around them.

  23. chawk12thman says: Apr 23, 2012 12:17 AM

    Between now and Thursday, read every comment by the teams with a Jaundiced eye.

  24. minnyfan4life says: Apr 23, 2012 12:21 AM

    I wish people would stop using the previous super bowl winners as an example of why you should or should not draft someone…. every team is different with different strengths, weaknesses, and areas of need…. just because a previous super bowl winners didn’t have an all pro left tackle doesn’t mean that the vikings should pass on Kalil because previous winners didn’t have a star LT… LT is probably their biggest need…. probably the best player available is a LT….. it just makes too much sense

  25. eaglesfan247 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:21 AM

    Bad smoke screen, if you don’t take Kalil you won’t have a QB..Simple you draft him and get a WR in the second or third and if you are even thinking of drafting Blackmon with a top 3 pick that is a joke, Floyd is better, Blackmon is not a TRUE #1 WR. Good #2 sounds right, You don’t pass on a talent like Kalil.

  26. fijabbersman345 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:30 AM

    “I can’t breathe with all the smoke in here”

  27. SkeletalDrawing says: Apr 23, 2012 12:31 AM

    Come on PFT – for the people who keep reminding us that nothing is on the level in the weeks before the draft, you are giving waaaay too much credence to this tripe. They are obviously hoping to trade down a few spots, wanting to get Kalil lower (if possible) and get a second or third rounder in the process.

    Any team struggling without a franchise left tackle who says “they aren’t a game changer” is either stupid or has an agenda.

    I doubt Frazier is stupid…

  28. fijabbersman345 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:32 AM

    Also, wanted to say…

    the Vikings “competent” tackle you referenced also showed up to camp weighing over 400 pounds. That shouldn’t be held against them.

    Two, if you’re drafting based on how little the bust rate is, you’re going to draft at the top of the draft year in and year out and you’ll lose your job. You draft the best player on your board unless you have a 1-spot, elite player at the position (ex: the Vikings will NOT be taking Trent Richardson)

  29. jbpanthers says: Apr 23, 2012 12:34 AM

    Vikings offensive line was graded the worst by PFF, I don’t see how they expect Ponder to play at a high-level– or any-other QB for that matter with that line.

  30. iamthorny says: Apr 23, 2012 12:41 AM

    If only for Vikings fans Zygi Wilf realized that Leslie Frazier isn’t a game changer…

  31. uscgiant says: Apr 23, 2012 12:49 AM

    @trbowman you neglected to mention that the teams that you cited as having success with average/below average LT play also had elite QB play.

    An elite QB can mask sub-par line play, while Long and Thomas cannot compensate for the terrible QB play on their respective teams.

    I think we can all agree that Ponder isn’t anything close to resembling an elite QB.

  32. cobibones13 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:52 AM

    They treated LT like an after thought last year and look where it got them. They cut McKinnie for being overwieght, had no plan in place after that, and their team struggled while Ponder had a bad rookie season.

    Peterson might not be 100% at the beginning of the season, and with no LT they seem to want Ponder to fail.

    Hopefully they’re just doing a terrible job at bluffing that they’ll take someone other than Kalil. No one’s buying it, and if they’re serious then their turning their franchise into a luaghingstock.

  33. jollyrob68 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:55 AM

    Take Kalili or Richardson. No telling what you have in AP with the injury and playing on field turf. Then trade a 2nd & AP to get back into the first round to a team that plays on grass. Say The Steelers. Yes, I think they’d take that gamble.

  34. daryllh says: Apr 23, 2012 1:09 AM

    I think we can all agree that Les Frazier isnt the most intelligent coach out there.

  35. 4thquartermagic says: Apr 23, 2012 1:27 AM

    Total smokescreen by a team that isn’t as bad as people think.

    Jurys out on Ponder but Peterson and Harvin are studs. Jared Allen is a beast and the D is solid.

  36. brewtalviking says: Apr 23, 2012 2:07 AM

    Explain to me why we pay Jarrad Allen so much if the left tacke is not a game changer.

  37. calbsure says: Apr 23, 2012 2:34 AM

    Riddle me this than Coach Frazier, how does a game changer such as a WR get the ball in their hands when the QB is running for his life or flat on his back. How does a RB get past the line of scrimmage when he is hit in the backfield right after the hand-off or there is no hole. You say your building a team, then build from the front up. If not Kalil, then hopefully you have decided on the next best option at LT during the draft and you take home a treasure trove of picks. Weigh options you say? Well you maybe weighing yours by the mid-season.

  38. hnrqoliv says: Apr 23, 2012 2:35 AM

    Smoooooooke Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen

  39. theallegedone says: Apr 23, 2012 2:56 AM

    I’m a huge Vikings fan. And I read all the posts and no matter which player you’re leaning towards, they all make sense. My thoughts are go with Blackmon. Percy Harvin is too short to be a #1 receiver. He’s better suited in the slot because of his speed and durability. We need a big #1, and Blackmon provides that. He can catch the jump ball and spread the field.

    Don’t get me wrong, Kalil does sound like a very good pick, and I understand when people say “you have to take Kalil. It doesn’t do any good if nobody can protect your quarterback”. That’s a great theory, but another theory is, if you have another downfield threat, teams can’t afford to put 8 in the box. They can do that now with 5’10 Percy out there and A.P. in the backfield. But when you have A.P. in the backfield, 2 downfield threats and 2 great blocking tight ends in Rudolph and Carlson, you don’t really need a “shutdown” tackle.

  40. piratefreedom says: Apr 23, 2012 3:26 AM

    Drew Bledsoe: got to 30,000 yards like he was Dan Marino then as Bruce Armstrong faded so did Drew despite being being in what is usually a QB’s prime years.

    Bledsoe is probably an extreme example with his fantastic arm and second rate pocket presence but I think most QB’s are substantially better with an elite LT

    Not having an elite LT was certainly a huge game changer for the Pats in the ’90s

  41. larrydavidstern says: Apr 23, 2012 3:52 AM

    He’s right. As a Browns fan I wanted them to draft Adrian Peterson the year they drafted Joe Thomas. Thomas has been great, but where has it gotten them? You need playmakers.

  42. aussie61 says: Apr 23, 2012 5:07 AM

    With the 3rd pick in the NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings select…..Pinnochio!!

  43. mangoldbond says: Apr 23, 2012 5:31 AM

    C’mon….this has smokescreen written all over it

  44. couldntthinkofaname says: Apr 23, 2012 5:31 AM

    Man, it’s just at the point where you can’t take anything anyone says for real. It’s just, yeah yeah……

    As much as I love the draft, it’s gotten to the point where it just needs to get here.

  45. thegonz13 says: Apr 23, 2012 6:24 AM

    Your QB has to be upright to get the ball to a gamechanger…

  46. dumplingsrbrown says: Apr 23, 2012 6:36 AM

    All a smokescreen of purple haze….. lure in a trade…dangle a little bait…. Dolphins might bite.

  47. dawsonleery says: Apr 23, 2012 6:45 AM

    The way of drafting Left Tackles in the top 5 is becoming out dated. The NFL is changing so much with so many different schemes. Top pass rushers don’t just lineup at one spot anymore, guys like Ware, Matthews, Suggs, Peppers, those guys line up all over the field. Sometimes even at DT. So why invest so much into the LT spot? Its becoming out dated thinking that way. Look at the teams who have recently won a Super Bowl. Giants, Packers, Saints Steelers, Colts… None of these team have elite LTs. Get a real QB and he will make things happen. Drafting a LT high is so overrated. In today’s NFL you just need to be solid upfront, that’s it. You don’t need the next Orlando Pace anymore. Its not the way the NFL is. building a franchise around a LT will not work, just look at Cleveland.

  48. sportsmeccabi says: Apr 23, 2012 6:51 AM

    Left tackles are the guys who prevent game changers from making that game changing play. The Vikings play in a division with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, and the Lions numerous defensive lineman, you need that guy who can stop them. Matt Kalil is the best offensive line prospect in a while, he forced Tyron Smith, a pro bowl talent, to play right tackle because he was so good. If they don’t take Kalil, this entire regime needs to fired.

  49. lombardihero says: Apr 23, 2012 6:55 AM

    All a Smoke Screen and if it was not I would have to say Zip It Frazier or your fired..

  50. countyk66ers says: Apr 23, 2012 7:23 AM

    With the new rules that protect the QB from head shots and late hits you can get by with OK left tackles. With Peterson wearing down they should go for Richardson.

  51. theytukrjobs says: Apr 23, 2012 7:38 AM

    It is absolutely true that having the best WR, RB, QB, DE, or CB in the league is a bigger advantage than having the best LT in the league. But there are two very important factors that go along with that.

    1) Elite left tackles are more of a sure thing in the NFL. The odds of Kalil being a bust are much lower than Blackmon looking at recent history. (Not to say they are a sure thing though, they are not). And really Kalil is more exceptional at his position than Blackmon or Claiborne.

    2) Left tackles are like air. You don’t really notice them until you don’t have one. Last season the Vikings really noticed their left tackle situation on certain plays. (though I would argue that their guard play was worse, as they yielded a push up the middle virtually ever pass play)

  52. ubummer says: Apr 23, 2012 9:00 AM

    Left tackles do not excite the public to get a stadium deal done.

    Flashy wide receivers do.

    Remember, we’re talking about people who elected pro wrestler Jesse Ventura for governor and comic Al Franken for the US Senate.

  53. sportsfuhnatic says: Apr 23, 2012 9:07 AM

    Moronic coach. Anyone that knows football and is a real fan of the game will tell you that O-line is just as important as any position that scores…because in fact if you have no O-line, you don’t score. Left tackle being one of the most important, covering the blind side, as most QBs in the league are right-handed throwers. Ask Eli, Rodgers or Brady how “game-changing” his O-line is to him.

    That said, I never think a team should take an O-lineman as their 1st overall draft pick. You can still get decent talent on the 2nd or 3rd day of the draft.

    So while they shouldn’t be picked first, they should be picked and they “game-change” plenty.

    -Signed
    Former LT turned TE

  54. ernie ernie says: Apr 23, 2012 9:08 AM

    The Vikes are taking Blackmon or taking extra picks from someone not to. They need a lot of bodies and are fishing for a sucker right now. Kalli is not their choice. They draft for speed and always have. Playmakers score points.

  55. phishead1313 says: Apr 23, 2012 9:19 AM

    Draft week smoke and mirrors,lol.

  56. gdeli says: Apr 23, 2012 9:33 AM

    same guy that picked mcnabb when we all saw he couldn’t play in d.c. Then he thinks he can play here? what was behind that decision? desperation?

  57. nflfollower says: Apr 23, 2012 9:40 AM

    Don’t forget, the steelers played in the super bowl with a LT named Scott who was a late round pick and Detroit lions castoff. Teams playing for the super bowl very often do so with much less than stellar tackle play.

  58. diehardtwinsfan says: Apr 23, 2012 10:00 AM

    I hope this is a smokescreen, because anything short of a trade down with Miami or Cleveland would be absolutely foolish. Drafting Kalil improves LT and LG as Johnson moves over that way, and the left side of the line suddenly goes from below average to well above average.

    I get the love of Claiborn given the talented wide outs in the North, but no one talks about the talented defensive ends in the North, and I’d argue that the talent there is probably a bit better than the wideouts… The Vikes are lucky to have one of them in Allen, but Suh and Peppers are no slouches either and can reak havoc…

    I get the need for help at the corner. I do, but protecting Ponder and Peterson should be the top priority. Personally, (assuming no trade down), I’d draft Kalil and hope Janoris Jenkins falls to their number 2 pick. That helps solve both issues and it is a very likely scenario. They can move Winfield to safety, where I think he would dramatically improve the play there. Like Kalil, this would provide signficant upgrades to two positions of dire need.

  59. rexryanschoolofpodiatry says: Apr 23, 2012 10:14 AM

    Offensive lineman are OVERRATED! The league allows them to get away with holding on nearly every play because it helps protect the QB’s. Here is a good article on the subject.

    http://nflfilms.nfl.com/2012/04/12/cosell-talks-whats-at-a-premium/?module=HP11_hot_topics

  60. vikemike257 says: Apr 23, 2012 10:28 AM

    Keep it simple stupid, the CBs and WRs class this year is one of the deepest of all-time, You play a cover 2 defense where a shutdown CB is not what you need. You get Kalil, take Harrison Smith in the 2nd, and WR in the 3rd and take a guy like Denard or best available CB in the 4th. Picking Kalil with your first pick is like getting 2 guys for 1, cause you can bump Charlie Johnson into G where is a much better player. You can get all the playmakers you want but if your “franchise” QB is knocked out or running for his life every play, all you have is really talented guys standing on the football field. DRAFT KALIL!! LTs are only found in the draft for a reason

  61. bucwild05 says: Apr 23, 2012 10:53 AM

    Buccaneers, trade up to that spot to jump over Cleveland, and take Richardson. Vikings will still get their Left Tackle 2 picks later, everyone but Cleveland and Blount are happy!

  62. fcrwo01 says: Apr 23, 2012 12:31 PM

    No one is trading up for Tannehill, Richardson or Claiborne. They might as well starting negotiating a contract with Kalil and get it over with.

  63. vikefan says: Apr 23, 2012 1:19 PM

    pure bluff smoke screen, hutch is gone and there is no one on roster to replace him, they r only bluffing to get someone to bite to come up & pick reciever, it may not be a flashy pick but if he’s a great cover for your 2 flashy picks (aka peterson & ponder) you have to take him. his is rated better than his panther center brother & a glaring position of need for team. they simply r trying to trade down 2 or 3 spots

  64. drewski24 says: Apr 23, 2012 2:27 PM

    67… That’s the total number of touchdowns ALL Vikings quarterbacks combined have thrown since 2007, not counting Favre’s magical 2009 season. In creating that godawful statistic, Steve Hutchinson, a pro-bowl left tackle IN HIS PRIME, was blocking the blindside. Even in when Favre threw 33 TDs in ’09, he was still sacked 34 times. How are the Vikings avoiding a repeat of these statistics by essentially re-creating the same team simply by changing the name of our pro-bowl tackle. I don’t know about you guys, but as I watch in envy as nearly every mediocre quarterback throwing at least 20 touchdowns/season nowadays, I don’t say to myself ‘wow- look at that left tackle’. AP will have 1000 yds and 10+ TDs behind any line so using Khalil as a tool in both the running and passing game is a useless excuse. We literally have a receiving core that would be cut from most other NFL teams. And don’t even try to tell em that Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins are valid backups. Hell- even Percy Harvin should only be considered a solid #2 WR and simply isn’t dependable enough to do work day-in and day-out. Vikings need a big target that a 2nd year QB can depend on… Blackmon

  65. brewdogg says: Apr 23, 2012 2:30 PM

    Is this really so hard to figure out? Let me break it down a little for you…..

    If Tampa wants Richardson bad enough, they will jump the Browns for him. This is a no-lose situation for the Vikings, because the Browns won’t be taking Kalil. They can take whatever the Bucs are willing to give and be happy about it.

    The other possibility is that the Vikings have decided they lose little by taking Riley Reiff instead of Kalil. I’m not sure I agree with that assessment, but if that is the case, then they are dangling the potential for Blackmon in front of teams that pick after the Rams. However, trading behind the rams with a team looking to Blackmon would virtually ensure that Kalil goes to the Rams, leaving the Vikings with Rieff.

    Of course, considering the way Spielman has handled FA, he may have his sights set on trading way down and getting Jonathan Martin in the late teens or early twenties. Or perhaps he is looking into trading back into the first round to get Martin, and that is why he would consider Claiborne or Blackmon with the #3.

    Whatever the plan, we will know in about 80 hours.

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