5 Most Overrated Minnesota Vikings in Franchise History
With the 2013 NFL draft in our rear-view mirror, the anticipation for success from top prospects has already begun to build.
There is often a tendency to project performance of a player even before he sets foot on the practice field.
Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman selected three first-round selections in this year's draft—Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Cordarrelle Patterson—who now face the pressure to live up to high expectations and contribute to the team almost immediately.
Before any of the new Vikings players can be assessed, it's only fair to first give each the opportunity to prove themselves on the field, often requiring up to three years of playing time.
For example, quarterback Christian Ponder enters his third year in Minnesota and may have his final opportunity to demonstrate whether a first-round selection (12th overall) was justified in the 2011 draft.
While the jury is still out for Ponder, judgment shall be handed down to former Vikings players who simply did not live up to the hype when joining the team.
Criteria to qualify as an overrated player includes joining the team—whether through the draft, free agency or via trade—with incredibly high expectations and failing to deliver at the level anticipated.
Dishonorable mentions are included at the end of the article.
5. RB D.J. Dozier (1987-1990)
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D.J. Dozier was drafted by the Vikings in 1987 with the 14th overall pick. He had an impressive college career with Penn State and finished with 3,227 yards and 25 touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
However, when Dozier put on a Vikings uniform, he was unable to live up to the expectations that included getting Minnesota over the hump as a Super Bowl-contending team.
In the strike-shortened season of 1987, Dozier started three of the nine games he played (not counting games with replacement players) and managed just 257 yards. He was able to punch in five touchdowns, providing some optimism for the following season after the Vikings lost to the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship Game.
Unfortunately, Dozier would only have two touchdowns in 1988 and zero during his final two years in Minnesota. The former Nittany Lion finished with 643 rushing yards for the Vikings before playing one year with the Detroit Lions.
4. DE Erasmus James (2005-2007)
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Erasmus James joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2005 after being selected with the 18th overall pick from Wisconsin. He posted 124 tackles in three seasons as a Badger, including 25.5 for loss and 18 sacks.
Following a 2004 season in which the Vikings' defense finished 18th in rushing yards and 12th in sacks, the team was looking for an outside presence to replace defensive end Lance Johnstone and join 2004 first-round pick Kenechi Udeze.
Instead, James had an injury-plagued career in Minnesota and finished with 30 tackles and five sacks. Considering the medical concerns with James after sitting out all of 2003, the Vikings clearly overrated their draft prospect and mistakenly invested a valuable first-round selection.
James played one final year with the Washington Redskins in 2008 before leaving the NFL. He pursued a career in law enforcement and signed with the New Mexico Stars of the IFL, but later was convicted of felony battery after failing to attend anger management classes.
3. RB Darrin Nelson (1982-1989, 1991-1992)
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Darrin Nelson illustrated the results of poor performance coupled with high expectations well before D.J. Dozier was drafted in 1987 in the Vikings' second-failed attempt at finding a star running back.
Nelson was drafted with the seventh overall pick in the 1982 draft, notably ahead of future Hall of Fame running back Marcus Allen, who was selected with the 10th overall pick by the Los Angeles Raiders.
With the tenure Nelson enjoyed in Minnesota, you would think his rushing numbers would justify his roster spot, but the top-10 draft pick exemplified mediocrity throughout his NFL career.
From 1982-1986, the Vikings ranked in the bottom half of rushing offenses every year. Even in Nelson's best statistical performance in 1985—893 yards and five touchdowns—the team finished second-to-last in rushing.
2. WR Troy Williamson (2005-2007)
There's getting it wrong in the NFL draft and then there's really getting it wrong. The Vikings managed to completely miss the mark on both of their first-round selections in 2005.
Troy Williamson ranks among the worst draft selections in franchise history and the search for a consistent No. 1 wide receiver continues to this day.
Williamson was supposed to replace the traded Randy Moss, who was entering the latter part of his career and becoming a distraction in Minnesota.
After running a 4.32 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, the receiver out of South Carolina began climbing draft boards, which apparently included the Vikings rating him as a top-10 prospect. Notable receivers drafted after Williamson included Roddy White and Vincent Jackson.
The main problem with Williamson's game was his hands. He continuously frustrated onlookers with dropped passes to the point where it became clear his days in the NFL were numbered.
Over three seasons, Williamson totaled 17 dropped passes, with 11 coming in 2006 on just 37 receptions. His career would officially flame out after two seasons in Jacksonville where the once highly regarded receiver posted just eight receptions.
1. RB Herschel Walker (1989-1991)
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As previously highlighted with the first-round selections of Darrin Nelson and D.J. Dozier, the Vikings' running game was in considerable need of an upgrade during the 1980s.
Enter Dallas Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, who would mastermind a trade involving star running back Herschel Walker that left the Minnesota Vikings in shambles for years to come and made the Cowboys a legitimate dynasty of the 1990s.
Vikings general manager Mike Lynn was so convinced that Walker was the missing piece to a Vikings' Super Bowl that he traded five players and eight draft picks, including three selections in the first round and three in the second round.
Minnesota received Walker and four draft picks, none of which were higher than the third round.
After a breakout season in 1988 where Walker rushed for 1,514 yards as a Cowboy, he would never record a season with more than 825 yards in Minnesota.
As a result of the draft picks acquired by Dallas, the team landed standouts such as Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland and Darren Woodson.
This one trade is linked to the Cowboys' three Super Bowl championships in the 1990s, which also saw the Vikings lose four straight NFC Wild Card Games in the decade.
Few players have ever been as highly rated as Walker by Lynn. The players and draft picks traded away far outweigh the damage of one first-round bust in the NFL draft.
WR Bernard Berrian, DE Derrick Alexander, OT Bryant McKinnie, RB Michael Bennett
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