Minnesota Vikings: 10 Best Draft Picks in Vikings History

Tyler EssigContributor IIIApril 9, 2012

Minnesota Vikings: 10 Best Draft Picks in Vikings History

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    With the 2012 NFL Draft right around the corner, Vikings fans finally have something to look forward to after an abysmal 3-13 season.

    In order for Minnesota to have a quick turnaround, the Vikes will need to be able to draft a player to make an immediate impact this season. 

    The No. 3 pick is the highest draft pick they have had since the 1968 season, when they took a future Hall of Fame tackle.

    This slideshow features the Vikings' 1968 draft pick and the nine other greatest draft picks in Minnesota Vikings history. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Joey Browner, 1983, Rd. 1, Pick 19

    After two years of playing cornerback and starting nine games, the Minnesota Vikings made a great decision in 1985 to start Browner at the strong safety position. 

    From 1985 to 1990, Browner was a Pro Bowler all six years and was a first team All-Pro three times. The 1987 season may have been his most impressive when he started only 12 games, yet still recorded a career high in interceptions (six).

    Joey finished his Vikings career with 37 interceptions, which was good for fourth in Minnesota history.

    Matt Blair, 1974, Rd. 2, Pick 51

    It took a few years on the bench for this linebacker prospect out of Iowa St. University to start to make his presence felt on the Vikings. From the the 1976 season to the 1984 season, Blair was a fixture at the left side linebacker position, starting in 122 of his 126 games during that span. 

    Blair even had a span from 1977 to 1982 when he made six consecutive Pro Bowls and was a first team All-Pro in 1980.

    Chuck Foreman, 1973, Rd. 1, Pick 12

    Foreman was a major contributor to the Vikings' offense right from the get-go. In his first six seasons, Chuck averaged 241 rushes and 944 rushing yards per season, as well as 53 receptions and 485 receiving yards. He even led the NFL in receptions, with 73 in the 1975 season.

    In only eight seasons in the NFL, Foreman was a Pro Bowl participant five times and was a first team All-Pro once in 1975.

    Robert Smith, 1993, Rd. 1, Pick 21

    Robert Smith is currently the Vikings' all-time leading rusher with 6,818 yards, despite playing only eight seasons in the NFL and retiring at the young age of 28.

    Smith retired after the 2000 NFL season, in which he had 295 carries, 1,521 yards, seven touchdowns and a 5.2 yards per carry average.

    He finished his career with two Pro Bowl appearances and averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

10. Matt Birk, 1998, Rd. 6, Pick 173

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    Matt Birk is probably the biggest steal in the Vikings' draft history. With their 6th round pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Minnesota selected the 6'4", 300 pound center out of Harvard. 

    Birk became the full time starter for the Vikings in the 2000 season and never looked back. In 2000, the second-year pro started all 16 games and made his first of six Pro Bowl appearances.

    In seven of Birk's eight seasons as a Minnesota Vikings starter, he started all 16 games in every season except one. He was the face of the Vikings o-line until he signed with the Baltimore Ravens after the 2008 season.

9. Adrian Peterson, 2007, Rd. 1, Pick 7

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    If it weren't for a broken collarbone in his final year at Oklahoma, Peterson would have never fallen into the Vikings' lap at the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft.

    When his career is all said and done, AP will be much higher on this list. After five seasons in the NFL, Peterson has been to the Pro Bowl four times and was a first team All-Pro twice. 

    He led the league in rushing in his second pro season with 1,760 yards and led in touchdowns the following year with 18. Adrian was on his way to another 1,000-plus yard season before he tore his ACL and MCL in a week 16 win over the Washington Redskins.

    Up to this point in his career, All Day already has the Vikings' all-time record in touchdowns with 64, yards per game with 92.5 (second best is Robert Smith with 69.6), and is only 66 yards away from being Minnesota's leading rusher.

8. Kevin Williams, 2003, Rd. 1, Pick 9

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    Kevin Williams has been starting for the Vikings since day one of his NFL career. In his rookie year, he started out with a bang, with 37 tackles and 10.5 sacks.

    In his second season, he ended with 11.5 sacks, which was good enough for sixth in the NFL that season.

    The 2004 season started out a seven-year span that saw Williams go to six Pro Bowls and be named to five first team All-Pro teams. He was his most dominant when he was teamed up with Pat Williams to form the one of the most feared defensive line tandems, nicknamed the "Williams Wall" from 2005-10.

    The 54.5 sacks that he has accounted for currently rank him 21st among all active players, and he also has four non-offensive touchdowns in his career, ranking him 23rd among active players.

    Williams has only missed four games in the past nine seasons for the Vikings, and coming into his age-32 season he hopefully will have a few good ones left in him. 

7. Carl Eller, 1964, Rd. 1, Pick 6

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    Once Carl Eller was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the 1964 NFL Draft, there were high expectations for the defensive lineman.

    Most Minnesota football fans already knew Eller from his contributions to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team. He helped lead the Gophers to a Big Ten Conference Championship and National Championship in the 1960 season, and he was also a two-time All-American.

    With the Vikings, Eller continued his dominance as a part of the ferocious defensive line group known as the "Purple People Eaters." 

    Starting with the 1968 season, the Vikings along with Eller started to dominate. Over the next 11 years, Eller helped lead Minnesota to 10 NFL/NFC Central Division Championships, and they made it to four Super Bowls.

    In that span, Eller went to six Pro Bowls and was a first team All-Pro selection five times. This led to him being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

6. Randy Moss, 1998, Rd. 1, Pick 21

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    Luckily, off-the-field issues allowed Randy Moss to free-fall to the Vikings with the 21st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.

    Randy Moss turned Minnesota into one of the most feared offensive teams in the NFL during his tenure with the team.

    His enormous talent was very evident from his first game, when he scored two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year Award and to break the rookie record for receiving touchdowns, with 17.

    Over his seven-year career in Minnesota, Moss made the Pro Bowl five times and was a first team All-Pro three times. He also ranks No. 2 on the Vikings' all-time list for receptions (587), receiving touchdowns (92) and yards (9,316).

5. Ron Yary, 1968, Rd. 1, Pick 1

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    After a prolific career at USC, the Vikings decided to make Ron Yary the No. 1 overall pick of the 1968 NFL Draft. This made Yary the first offensive lineman selected with the top pick in draft history, and it took 29 years for it to happen again, when Orlando Pace was selected by the St. Louis Rams in the 1997 Draft.

    It was not until his second season that Yary broke into the starting lineup, but after that he became a fixture at right tackle for the Vikings franchise. Over the next 12 seasons, he started every game for Minnesota except two in 1980.

    From the 1971 to 1977 season Ron was most dominant in his career. He was a Pro Bowl selection all seven years and was a first team All-Pro for five of them. His dominance was a major part of the Vikings' three Super Bowl appearances during that span. 

    Ron Yary was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2001.

4. Chris Doleman, 1985, Rd. 1, Pick 4

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    The smartest decision the Vikings made with this Pittsburgh prospect was to move him from outside linebacker to defensive end. 

    What Doleman turned into was a sack machine for Minnesota. In his 10 years with the Vikings, Doleman is the second all-time sacks leader for the Minnesota franchise, with 96.5 sacks.

    In 1989, one of his eight Pro Bowl seasons, he set the Vikings' single-season franchise record in sacks, with 21. That record held up until last year, when Jared Allen beat the record with 22 sacks.

    He outperformed that season in 1992, when he was the Defensive Player of the Year by recording 14.5 sacks, 64 tackles, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception returned for a touchdown.

    His stellar 15-year career led him to be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. 

3. Alan Page, 1967, Rd. 1, Pick 15

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    Like Eller, Alan Page was another important piece of Minnesota's prolific "Purple People Eaters" and a major part of four Super Bowl teams for the Vikings.

    After just his second year on the ballot, the former superstar defensive tackle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988. 

    According to unofficial statistics, Page amassed 173 sacks, 28 blocked kicks and 23 fumble recoveries over his 16-year career. In 1971, he played so well that he picked up both the Most Valuable Player Award and the Defensive Player of the Year Award. He picked up a second Defensive POY Award in 1973.

    Page was also elected to the Pro Bowl nine consecutive times from 1968-76 and was a first team All-Pro six times as a Minnesota Viking. 

2. Fran Tarkenton, 1961, Rd. 3, Pick 29

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    In the first game of Minnesota Vikings history, Fran Tarkenton, a rookie quarterback from Richmond, Virginia threw for 250 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Chicago Bears.

    What Minnesota football fans saw that day was no fluke, as Tarkenton went on to throw for 33,098 yards and 239 touchdowns in his 13 years for the Vikings, which are both still franchise records.

    Following the 1966 season, Tarkenton was shockingly traded to the New York Giants. After playing five seasons in New York, he was again traded, this time back to Minnesota.

    In his second stint with the Vikings, Fran led the them to three Super Bowls in 1973, 1974 and 1976. Despite not making the Super Bowl in 1975, it may have been Tarkenton's best year as a professional. It was one of his nine Pro Bowl selections and his only selection as a first team All-Pro. That year he led the NFL in completions (273), attempts (425), completion percentage (64.2) and touchdowns (25).

    Tarkenton retired as a Viking after the 1978 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. At the time of his retirement, he held NFL records for career completions (3,686), passing attempts (6,467), yards (47,003) and touchdowns (342).

1. Randall McDaniel, 1988, Rd. 1, Pick 19

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    Randall McDaniel made an immediate impact, playing in all 16 games his rookie season and starting in 15 at left guard for the Vikings. 

    After his first season, McDaniel went on to be one of the most dominating left guards to ever play the game. He was selected to a NFL record 12 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1989-2000. Also over that time span he was voted as a first team All-Pro player seven times.

    During McDaniel's illustrious career, both with the Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he helped pave the way for six different 1,000 yard rushers and protected five 3,000 yard passers.

    In the record-breaking 1998 season for the Minnesota offense, the 6'3", 276 pound guard was the leader of the Vikings' offensive line that allowed Vikings running backs to average 5.6 yards per carry and McDaniel, himself, only gave up 1.5 sacks all season.

    McDaniel retired after the 2001 season and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.