Minnesota Vikings Top 5 DTs, CBs and WRs of All Time

Bill Hubbell@@billyhubbellContributor IMay 15, 2013

Minnesota Vikings Top 5 DTs, CBs and WRs of All Time

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    Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has often said that the key to building a successful franchise in the NFL is to draft well and nurture your in-house talent.

    Spielman is coming off of his second Vikings draft as the GM, and in that time, he's added five first-round draft picks to the roster.

    Minnesota had a stellar draft in 2012, picking up Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith, who will be offensive and defensive anchors for years to come. Spielman also drafted Josh Robinson, Rhett Ellison, Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Blair Walsh, all of whom the Vikings are hoping to get big contributions from in 2013.

    Spielman might have upped the ante in 2013, getting three first-round picks: defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings are very high on all three players, and many draft experts thought all three would be gone by the time Minnesota made their first choice.

    Though none of the three have taken an NFL snap yet, they enter into Vikings lore as first-round draft picks. The ceiling for all three players is very high and their contributions will once again go along way towards making Minnesota a Super Bowl contender.

    Here we look at the Vikings that the three 2013 first-rounders will be held up against: The top five Vikings of all time at defensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver.

Defensive Tackle No. 5: Keith Millard

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    With apologies to Gary Larsen, the No. 5 spot on our list goes to Keith Millard, who played for the Vikings from 1985-1990, and was a two-time All-Pro and the 1989 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

    Minnesota selected Millard in the first round of the 1984 draft, but he played one year in the USFL before joining the Vikings. Millard was a dominant force in the middle for five seasons, making first team All-Pro in both 1988 and 1989.

    Millard set an NFL record in 1989 with 18 sacks, the most ever by a defensive tackle. At 6'5", 260 pounds, the muscular Millard was the prototype for defensive tackles in the late 1980s.

    Millard suffered a brutal knee injury in 1990, and although he played parts of several more seasons, he was never again the same player. He finished his career with 58 sacks in his 93 game career.

    Millard was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.

    Alas, Millard's lasting legacy in Minnesota comes from a quote he gave police officers in 1986, saying, "My arms are more powerful than your guns."

Defensive Tackle No. 4: Henry Thomas

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    The Vikings made one of their better third-round picks ever in 1987, when they selected 6'2", 280-pound defensive tackle Henry Thomas out of LSU.

    Thomas anchored the middle of Minnesota's defensive line for eight years, starting from 1987-1994.

    Though it seems crazy now, 280 pounds was absolutely massive at the time, and Thomas played the roles of run-stuffer and pass-rusher equally well.

    Thomas played in 118 games for the Vikings, and he recorded 56 sacks and made the Pro Bowl in back to back years in 1991 and 1992. 

    "Hardware Hank" finished his career with over 1,000 tackles and 93.5 sacks.

Defensive Tackle No. 3: Kevin Williams

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    History is very forgiving to the Minnesota Vikings when it comes to the 2003 draft.

    The Vikings passed when it was their turn to pick at No. 7, and both the Jaguars and the Panthers got their picks in before the Vikings finally used their pick on Kevin Williams at No. 9.

    The Vikings insisted at the time that Williams was the man they wanted, and it's certainly worked out for the best.

    The 6'5", 300-pounder has held down the middle of Minnesota's defensive line since his rookie season, missing only four games in his 10-year career.

    Williams is huge and athletic and has always been an exemplary citizen in his time with Minnesota. A six-time Pro Bowler, Williams has amassed 56.5 sacks with the Vikings and helped form the "Williams Wall" with fellow defensive tackle Pat Williams from 2005-2010.

Defensive Tackle No. 2: John Randle

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    John Randle was nothing short of an NFL offensive lineman's nightmare from 1990-2003.

    The 6'1", 290-pounder out of Texas A&M-Kingsville was a Tasmanian devil in a defensive tackle's body. Randle was the epitome of a "high-motor" player, a guy who never took a snap off in his career and played to the whistle on every down.

    Undrafted out of college, Randle tried out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they cut him, thinking he was too small to play defensive tackle. The Vikings signed him to a tryout and never regretted it for a second.

    Randle played 11 seasons in the middle for Minnesota, racking up 137 sacks and was voted to the Pro Bowl seven times. Randle had double-digit sacks nine times, incredible for a defensive tackle, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010. 

Defensive Tackle No. 1: Alan Page

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    You see the Vikings first-round pick Shariff Floyd pictured here, Floyd was the first of three Vikings first-rounders in the 2013 draft.

    The Vikings also had three first-round picks in the 1967 draft, and with the third of those, they chose defensive tackle Alan Page out of the University of Notre Dame.

    What they got in return for their pick was one of the best defensive tackles to ever play the game.

    Page was the heart and soul of the "Purple People Eaters," the Vikings dominant defense that played in four Super Bowls. In his career Page unofficially recorded 148.5 sacks and had 22 fumble recoveries along with three touchdowns and three safeties.

    Page made the Pro Bowl nine straight seasons, from 1968-1976, and in 1971, he became the first defensive player to ever be named NFL MVP, and he remains one of just two defensive players to have won the award.

    Page was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988.

Cornerback No. 5: Nate Wright

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    It's not a very storied history of cornerbacks that rookie Xavier Rhodes is walking into with the Minnesota Vikings. If he's as good as advertised, Rhodes could find himself rising up the charts in Vikings history very quickly.

    Pictured here you see Drew Pearson, the Dallas Cowboys great, whose name is anathema to Vikings fans, as he pushed off of Nate Wright in the NFC playoffs to score the famous "Hail Mary" touchdown that led the fourth-seeded Cowboys over the 12-2 and top-seeded Vikings.

    That play aside, Wright had fantastic career for Minnesota. The 5'11", 180-pounder out of San Diego State played 126 games for the Vikings and finished his career with 34 interceptions.

    An integral part of the "Purple People Eaters" of the 1970s, Wright was an athletic man-to-man corner who the Vikings usually trusted to cover the opponent's top receiver. 

    Wright was voted a member of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.

Cornerback No. 4: Carl Lee

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    Though not the best player ever drafted out of Marshall by the Vikings, Carl Lee ranks among the best players the Vikings ever found in the seventh round.

    The Vikings drafted the 5'11", 180-pounder in 1983, and he played in every game but seven over the next 11 seasons for Minnesota.

    Lee was a tough player who ended his career with 31 interceptions, including a career-high eight in 1988, when he was a first team All-Pro.

    Lee played in three Pro Bowls in his time with the Vikings and amassed almost 800 tackles in his career.

    He was both a dependable cover guy and tough against the run in an era when the Vikings seemed to go through countless cornerbacks.

    He was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010. 

Cornerback No. 3: Ed Sharockman

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    Pictured is Xavier Rhodes, the most recent cornerback drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

    The first cornerback Minnesota ever selected was Ed Sharockman. Sharockman was part of the Vikings original draft class of 1961 and played with the Vikings for 12 seasons, from 1961-1972. 

    The 6'0", 200-pounder out of Pittsburgh was steel-town tough and picked off 40 passes in his career.

    Sharockman was a part of four division championship teams and started in Super Bowl IV. His three interception returns for touchdowns is still tied for the Vikings record.

    Sharockman is third all-time on the Vikings interception list and was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.

Cornerback No. 2: Antoine Winfield

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    The Minnesota Vikings parted ways with Antoine Winfield this offseason, but Winfield will go down as one of the best defensive players to ever wear the purple.

    Always a leader by both his performance and his attitude, Winfield was a pro's pro in that he always showed up to play, and he always played the game the way it was meant to be played.

    The Vikings signed Winfield as a free agent after the 2004 season. Winfield had played five excellent years with the Buffalo Bills, but his career really took off as a member of the Vikings.

    Winfield has 27 interceptions in his career and well over 1,000 tackles. Winfield was named to three Pro Bowls with the Vikings, making it every year from 2008-2010.

    Ultimately, his numbers might not be gaudy enough to make the Hall of Fame, but Winfield was certainly one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL during his career.

Cornerback No. 1: Bobby Bryant

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    The Vikings struck gold in the seventh round of the 1967 draft, taking cornerback Bobby Bryant out of South Carolina.

    After watching much of his rookie campaign, Bryant started the next 12 years for the Vikings and was an integral part of the dominant Purple People Eaters of the 1970s.

    Bryant led the Vikings in interceptions four different times and was also a dangerous return man. Just 170 pounds, Bryant was a charismatic figure on those Vikings teams, often playing injured. He always seemed to come up with crucial interceptions or blocked kicks just when the Vikings needed them most.

    Bryant's 51 career interceptions are second in team history and he was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.

Wide Receiver No. 5: Ahmad Rashad

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    Before he was one of Michael Jordan's BFFs, Ahmad Rashad was a damn fine wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.

    With apologies to John Gilliam, Jake Reed and Percy Harvin, Rashad grabs the No. 5 spot on the Vikings receiver list.

    After three mediocre years in the league, Rashad's career took off with Minnesota, and he ended up with 495 career grabs and 44 touchdowns in his 10-year career.

    Rashad had perhaps the most dramatic catch in Vikings history in 1980, catching a last-second Hail Mary pass from Tommy Kramer that beat the Cleveland Browns and clinched the Central Division for the Vikings.

Wide Receiver No. 4: Sammy White

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    The Minnesota Vikings made quarterback Fran Tarkenton very happy in 1976, when the selected Sammy White out of Grambling in the second round of the draft.

    White won the 1976 AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award after catching 51 balls for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    White played his entire career with Minnesota and amassed 393 catches for 6,400 yards and 50 touchdowns.

    White was a great route-runner and had great hands. He was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.

Wide Receiver No. 3: Anthony Carter

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    Anthony Carter was one of the most exciting wide receivers in college football history, starring for the Michigan Wolverines from 1979-1982.

    Carter spent three season in the USFL before signing with the Miami Dolphins in 1985, but was traded to the Vikings before ever playing in the NFL.

    Carter played nine brilliant seasons for the Vikings. At just 5'11", 170 pounds, Carter was always undersized, but when on, he could dominate a football game. He was as good after the catch as any receiver the Vikings have ever had.

    Carter finished his career with 486 catches for 7,733 yards and 55 touchdowns. He made three straight Pro Bowls from 1987-1989.

    He was voted one of the 50 Greatest Vikings in 2010.  

Wide Receiver No. 2: Cris Carter

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    After a ridiculous five-year wait, Cris Carter is finally going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013.

    Acquired in 1990 for $100 on the waiver wire, Carter became one of the best receivers to ever play the game. Carter didn't have blazing speed, but he knew how to get open and he used the sidelines as well as anyone who ever played. 

    After a horrible start to a promising career, Carter simply outworked everyone else on his way to the Hall of Fame. Carter caught ball after ball after ball in the offseason and developed among the best pair of hands to ever play football.

    By the time he retired in 2002, the numbers were staggering: 1,101 receptions for 13,899 yards and 130 touchdowns.

Wide Receiver No. 1: Randy Moss

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    Randy Moss was quite simply the greatest deep threat in the history of the NFL.

    The Vikings watched in glee as the attitude plagued Moss fell to them with the 21st pick in the 1998 draft.

    Moss said he would make the teams who didn't pick him regret it. He did.

    Moss exploded into the NFL with 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns as a rookie, winning the AP NFL Rookie of the Year award.

    Controversy surrounded Moss for his entire stay with the Vikings, but on the field he was just a sight to behold. Blessed with incredible speed, Moss had a sixth sense of how to go up for the ball. He might be the best to have ever played in knowing how to get the ball at it's peak.

    A six-time Pro Bowler, Moss is in the argument for most dominant receivers to ever play football, but he also left a lot on the table. Never really a team-first type of player, Moss burned a lot of bridges along the way.

    As mercurial as it gets, the future first ballot Hall of Famer has compiled some gaudy numbers: 982 catches (ninth all-time), 15,292 yards (third all-time) and 157 touchdowns (fourth all-time).

    Love him or hate him, the man could play football.