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Lunchbreak: Former Ohio State OC Weighs in on Elflein

Four months before third-round draft pick Pat Elflein packed his bags and headed to Minnesota, one of his former coaches did the same thing.

In January, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator Ed Warinner left his position with the Buckeyes to accept a job from Golden Gophers Head Coach P.J. Fleck, who hired Warinner as the offensive line and run game coordinator at the University of Minnesota.

Warinner visited a Vikings organized team activity practice at Winter Park Thursday. While there, he spoke with *Star Tribune *columnist Sid Hartman about Elflein and what he brings to the Vikings.

"Extremely tough, physical player, great work ethic, love of the game," Warinner told Hartman. "And just a high-intensity, high-energy guy; very coachable as well."

Warriner called Elflein, who played both guard and center at Ohio State, "the most versatile guy we had." He went on to say that he anticipates Elflein having a "bright future" at center but also believes he could slide outside to guard if needed and also perform well.

Another aspect Warriner spoke highly of was Elflein's character.

"He does the right thing," Warinner told Hartman. "He motivates other guys to work hard, he's a solid person on and off the field. [You'd be proud] if you had a son that grew up like him, or you'd want him to marry your daughter. Those are the kind of things you'd say about him. And he's a good motivator because people like him and because of his energy and his work ethic. People are attracted to follow his lead."

Orr: Vikings among 3 possible playoff contenders in NFC North

The offseason has already been full of early predictions for the 2017 season.

Conor Orr of NFL.com recently joined in on assessing teams' outlooks for the upcoming season. He created a list that ranked "the tightest divisional races of 2017, based on some way-too-early guesses."

Orr believes that all four teams in four different divisions – AFC West, AFC South, NFC East and NFC South – could be potential playoff teams, ranking those divisions 1-4. The AFC West topped Orr's list, as he opined that the Chargers, Raiders, Chiefs and Broncos could each bank 10 wins in 2017.

According to Orr, the NFC North is the sixth-most competitive division as the league stands now. While he said that Green Bay, Detroit and Minnesota are all potential playoff teams, he believes only the Vikings and Packers can hit the 10-win benchmark. Orr said it could come down to the season's final stretch for the border rivals. He wrote:

One midseason stretch has the Packers going to Minnesota, then returning home for a game against the Saints, a bye week and a visit from Detroit. After that, a road game against the Bears. By that Nov. 12 matchup, the Packers will have gotten both games against the Bears out of the way, along with a difficult road game in Minneapolis. Should they come out of this stretch thriving, it's going to be tough for the Vikings […] to make up a lot of ground with an end-of-season slate that includes games at Detroit, at Atlanta, at Carolina, vs. Cincinnati and at Green Bay.

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