In 2010, the Minnesota Vikings, as a celebration of their 50 years as a franchise, named their 50 greatest players up to that point.
What they didn't do is rank those players. That's what we're here for. And we're going to double that number and give you the 100 best Vikings of all time.
You are going to disagree with some of it, much of it or even all of it, but remember, it's just for fun.
There's no algorithm in place here, no formula to plug in that spits out any correct answers. This is opinion, and everyone is entitled to their own.
Many things come into play here; it's tough to compare linebackers to guards, and it's hard to compare a guy who played 50 games in purple against someone who played 125. We've considered everything here, and we'll explain our reasoning as we go.
Randy Moss or Cris Carter? Chuck Foreman or Robert Smith? Chris Doleman or Jim Marshall? Start clicking to find out.
Yeah, we know, Fred Cox isn't as good of a football player as Joe Webb. He's not even as good as Spergon Wynn.
Freddy the Foot was the greatest scorer in Vikings history, though, and it's not even close. Cox's 1,365 points are 695 more than any other Minnesota player has scored.
Cox's 282 field goals made are 147 more than that of Ryan Longwell, who is second in team history, and his 519 extra points are 291 more than Longwell's.
Cox's season high of 125 points only ranks seventh in the team record books, but it's Cox's longevity and dependability that make him the only kicker or punter on our list. (Chris Kluwe will have to come up with another patch in Oakland.)
Have the Vikings had better kickers than the straight-on, old-school Cox? Yes; in fact, Blair Walsh might already be the Vikings' best kicker ever. But until anyone else can hold down the job for 14 seasons, Cox is on the list.
The Vikings drafted offensive guard Wes Hamilton out of Tulsa in the third round of the 1976 draft, and they got a dependable performer who held down a starting spot for six years on the Vikings offensive line.
Oh sure, the Rams selected offensive tackle and Hall of Famer Jackie Slater with the very next pick, but that's a sad story for another day.
Hamilton's rookie season was the last of the glory years for the Vikings of the 1970s, but Hamilton had a very solid career blocking for the likes of Tommy Kramer and Ted Brown.
No, Mike Merriweather was never the 15-sack monster for the Vikings that he was for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1984, but he was certainly worth the first-round pick the Vikings traded to the Steelers to get him in 1989.
Merriweather sat out the 1988 season in a salary dispute with Pittsburgh, and the Vikings were more than happy to add the hard-hitting, consistent linebacker to their roster.
Merriweather became the first defensive player to ever score the winning points in an overtime game when he blocked a Rams punt out of the end zone to give the Vikings a 23-21 win in 1989. Merriweather brought a little bit of that Steelers toughness to the Vikings defense at a time when they needed it.
Though he never made the Pro Bowl with Minnesota, Merriweather did three times with Pittsburgh. The year off from the NFL probably lost Merriweather some of the explosiveness he showed early in his career, but the Vikings were more than happy with the four excellent seasons they got out of him.
At just 5'8", 170 pounds, Leo Lewis didn't ever look like somebody who could have an 11-year career in the NFL.
The son of a Hall of Fame CFL running back, Lewis spent six seasons as the Vikings' main punt returner, twice averaging more than 10 yards a return.
As a receiver, Lewis was never a star, but he was always a very dependable, sure-handed third or fourth guy who you always knew would step forward when called upon. His best season was 1984, when he caught 47 balls for 830 yards and four touchdowns.
"Possession" receivers don't normally last for more than a decade in the NFL, but Lewis did because of his dependability and high character.
The first current Viking to make our list is center John Sullivan, who's improved every season in Minnesota and is currently one of the top 5-7 centers in the NFL.
Drafted by Minnesota in the sixth round in 2008 out of Notre Dame, Sullivan spent his rookie season watching and learning from Pro Bowler Matt Birk.
Sullivan stepped into the starting role in his second season, and after one year of learning on the go, Sullivan has put together three straight years of stellar play in the middle of the Vikings offensive line.
At 6'4", 300 pounds, Sullivan makes up for being on the slightly small side with great technique and preparation. Now entrenched as one of the team leaders, Sullivan should hold down the middle for the next several years for the Vikings.
The Minnesota Vikings have always had pretty good luck when it comes to knowing their personnel, knowing when to re-sign their free agents and when to let guys walk who are no longer worth what they're asking for.
One of their biggest mistakes came in 1994 when they decided not to bring back running back Terry Allen, who'd had knee problems his entire career, completely missing the 1993 season.
Allen went on to have two massive seasons for the Redskins, but he wasn't too shabby in his time with the Vikings, either.
Drafted out of Clemson in the ninth round in 1990, Allen backed up Herschel Walker as a rookie but took over as the starter in his second season and put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Minnesota. Allen rushed for 23 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Vikings and added 72 catches and three more touchdowns out of the backfield.
At 6'1", 195 pounds, Earsell Mackbee was a big, tough cornerback who played five years for the Vikings in the mid- to late '60s.
In four seasons as a starter, Mackbee had 15 interceptions, including six in 1969, the year Minnesota made its first trip to the Super Bowl. His six picks ranked him fourth in the league that season.
Mackbee grew up in a rough neighborhood near San Francisco and then spent four years in the Air Force before playing football at Utah State. His toughness and maturity were apparent in his time with the Purple People Eaters. Mackbee injured his knee in Super Bowl IV against the Chiefs and retired shortly afterwards.
The Minnesota Vikings were looking for defense in the 1980 draft, and after selecting Doug Martin with the ninth overall pick, Minnesota opted for cornerback Willie Teal out of LSU with the 30th overall pick, the second pick in Round 2.
The "Soul Patrol" played seven seasons for the Vikings and had 15 interceptions to go along with his solid tackling against the run.
Teal was never the big-play guy the Vikings had hoped for when they drafted him, but he held down a starting corner job for six seasons in Minneapolis. Perhaps best known for taking a terrible angle and making a lame attempt at stopping Tony Dorsett on his famous 99-yard touchdown run on Monday Night Football, Teal was nonetheless a solid contributor on the Vikings defense in the '80's.
OK, no, Harrison Smith and Matt Kalil don't deserve to be on this list. We're putting them on it anyway as a sign that things are turning around in Minnesota.
After bottoming out in 2011 with a 3-13 record, the always proud franchise seemed like it was set to flounder for a couple of seasons. That changed quickly when Kalil and Smith were both drafted in the first round in 2012 and were immediate starters and immediate impact players.
The sky is the limit for both players as they set forth on their NFL careers. Kalil looks like he could be a decade-long Pro Bowler at left tackle, and Smith should gain his share of honors as well, as he anchors the Vikings secondary for years to come.
Yes, it's a gimmick having these two on this list after a season. In three years, they'll both be much, much higher.
The number of players who are able to spend 13 seasons in the NFL is minuscule. The number of players who can last that long at a "skill" position putting up virtually no numbers is less than minuscule.
The numbers never told the story of Vikings tight end Jim Kleinsasser. Drafted in the second round in 1999 out of North Dakota, the Vikings initially hoped Kleinsasser could develop into a receiving threat, as he was a dominating player with great numbers in college.
It never really happened for Kleinsasser as a receiver, although he did have two great seasons back-to-back in 2002-2003 when he caught 37 and 46 passes, respectively. But it was without the ball in his hands where Kleinsasser earned his keep.
Kleinsasser spent nearly a decade as one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL, both as a run-blocker and a pass protector. Kleinsasser was always a workout warrior who took the mentality of the weight room with him out on to the field.
Every great football team needs a few Jim Kleinsassers on it.
OK, in all fairness, Bryant McKinnie probably deserves to be higher on this list.
But as the Viking that most Vikings fans loved to hate, McKinnie lands here on our list, the poster boy for the Love Boat era Vikings.
Hugely talented, McKinnie could be a dominant player at left tackle when he applied himself, which was almost never. Blessed with the size and skill to be a perennial Pro Bowler, McKinnie only made the team once, in 2009 and then was told to sit the game out when he skipped the walk-through practice because he was too hung over.
The seventh overall selection in the 2007 draft, McKinnie never applied himself to the game of football and never became as good as he should have been. With that said, McKinnie had plenty of ups during his time as a Viking, often dominating the left side of the line.
If you'd have put Kleinsasser's heart in McKinnie's body, you'd have had a Hall of Famer.
Joe Kapp was probably better suited to play linebacker than quarterback.
Kapp had spent eight years playing in the CFL, when his former general manager Jim Finks and former rival coach Bud Grant lured him out of the CFL to play for the Minnesota Vikings.
Kapp was a rough-and-tumble character who certainly wasn't a skilled NFL passer. In 1969, his third year as the staring quarterback, Minnesota went 12-1 and won the NFL conference. The Vikings were heavy favorites to win Super Bowl IV over the Chiefs, but it wasn't to be.
Kapp threw for 37 touchdowns and was 23-12-3 as a starter for Minnesota.
The Minnesota Vikings selected Kirk Lowdermilk out of Ohio State in the third round of the 1985 draft, and he started 86 games for them at center between 1985-1992.
The 6'3", 270-pounder was a smart, hardworking, lunch-pail kind of guy that you would expect from a kid who was born in Canton, Ohio.
Lowdermilk made two All-Pro teams in his years with the Vikings and never seemed to have a bad game in the middle of the Minnesota line.
Lowdermilk peaked at the right time in his career, and when he became a free agent after the 1992 season, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts for three years and $6 million, which made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league at the time.
The Minnesota Vikings were trying to duplicate history in 1974 when they used their first-round pick on an All-American left tackle out of USC, selecting Steve Riley with the 25th overall choice.
Although Riley never became another Ron Yary, he started for eight seasons for the Vikings, playing left tackle across from Yary, who was manning the right tackle spot.
At 6'5", 260 pounds, Riley was a big, strong California kid who was an integral part of some of the best Vikings teams of the 1970s. Blocking for Fran Tarkenton, who was always on the move, could drive an offensive lineman crazy, but Riley was always up to the task.
The Vikings stayed close to home with their 20th-round pick in the 1964 draft, selecting guard Milt Sunde, who had grown up in Minneapolis and played for the Minnesota Gophers.
The 6'2", 250-pounder spent most of his rookie season on the bench before taking on a starting role at guard for most of the next nine seasons. Sunde was an integral part of the Vikings offensive line that always took a back seat to the Purple People Eaters on the Vikings' fantastic teams in the late '60s and into the '70s.
Sunde was never a star player, but was always a dependable blocker who showed up to play every Sunday.
Drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 1985 draft, Audray McMillian spent three years wallowing on the Houston Oilers bench before the Vikings picked him up in 1989.
A part-time player for three seasons for the Vikings, McMillian finally cracked the starting lineup in 1991 and picked off four passes for Minnesota. In 1992, McMillian tied for the league lead with eight interceptions and made the Pro Bowl.
In all, McMillian had 19 interceptions in four very productive seasons with the Vikings. His 19 picks ties him for ninth place all time on the Vikings.
Well, he certainly had a middle linebacker's name.
Lonnie Warwick took over the starting middle linebacker role halfway through his rookie season with the Vikings and held it for five seasons. Though not as highly acclaimed as the Vikings' outside backers, Roy Winston and Wally Hilgenberg, Warwick was still a tough presence in the middle of the Vikings defense.
At 6'3", 240 pounds, Warwick wasn't very fast, but he held down the middle of the field while his more acclaimed teammates were making plays all over the place.
Warwick began a great tradition of tough, no-nonsense middle linebackers that began in the mid-'60s and ran into the '90s for the Vikings.
And here come the boo birds.
Yes, Sidney Rice was ultimately a disappointment for Vikings fans, but there's just no denying he had one of the better receiving years in Vikings history in 2009.
Drafted in the second round in 2007, Minnesota had high hopes for the 6'4", 200-pounder out of South Carolina, who was going to make Vikings fans forget that other South Carolina receiver, Troy Williamson.
Rice missed parts of his first two seasons with injuries but showed plenty of potential. With the arrival of Brett Favre, it all came together for Rice, who was simply sensational in 2009, catching 83 passes for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns. His yards rank eighth all time for a single season for Minnesota wideouts.
Then it just got weird. Rice wanted a new contract and didn't get it. He delayed a needed surgery until just before the season in 2010. The Vikings let Rice walk after the 2010 season, and he signed a huge deal with Seattle and has spent most of his time there injured.
In the ninth round of the 2002 draft, the New England Patriots took a shot on a monster of an offensive guard who grew up in New Zealand. With limited American football experience, Dixon played at Arizona State in college.
At 6'5", 343 pounds, Dixon was one of the biggest human beings to ever play for Minnesota. He started at guard for eight seasons after serving as depth guy for his first three years in the league.
Never as technically sound as American kids who grew up playing the game, Dixon more than made up for it with his positive attitude and love of competition. Dixon missed just three games in his last seven years with Minnesota and was one of the best-loved guys in the locker room.
Now more famous for a Twin Cities restaurant chain and his wife's legal troubles, Joe Senser was one of the more athletic tight ends in Vikings history.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 1979 draft out of tiny West Chester University, Senser was an immediate contributor for the Vikings, catching 42 passes and seven touchdowns as a rookie.
Senser blossomed his second year with the team, exploding for 79 catches, 1,004 yards and eight touchdowns in the single best season ever recorded by a Minnesota tight end.
Senser was fifth in the league in catches that year and made the Pro Bowl.
The injury bug hit Senser in 1982 and he was never again the same player, missing the 1983 season and then only playing in eight games in 1984 before retiring.
While Visanthe Shiancoe's ceiling was never as high as Joe Senser's, he lands one spot higher on our list for putting together five productive seasons for the Vikings.
Signed as a free agent after four uneventful seasons with the Giants, Shiancoe hit his stride when given an opportunity in Minnesota, catching 208 passes for 2,424 yards and 24 touchdowns in his five seasons as a Viking.
The Vikings let Shiancoe walk after the 2011 season when it was clear that Kyle Rudolph would become the starting tight end.
In the fourth round of the 1963 draft, the Vikings selected Northwestern wide receiver Paul Flatley.
Minnesota had watched as Flatley tore up the college ranks while at Northwestern. The 6'1", 190-pounder stepped right into the Vikings starting lineup and earned the UPI NFL Rookie of the Year after catching 51 passes for 867 yards and four touchdowns in his initial season.
Flatley caught 50 passes in both 1965 and 1966, making the Pro Bowl in 1966. Flatley's numbers dropped dramatically when Fran Tarkenton was traded to the New York Giants in 1967. After two subpar seasons, Flatley had a nice resurgence with the Falcons for two seasons before retiring after the 1970 season.
With their second-round pick in the 1978 draft, the Vikings selected cornerback John Turner out of the University of Miami.
After playing special teams as a rookie, Turner entered the starting lineup in 1979 and stayed there for five seasons.
A good cover corner with a nose for the ball and a solid tackler, Turner's 22 career interceptions rank seventh all time for Minnesota. Turner's best season came in 1983 when he had six interceptions, two fumble recoveries and a sack.
After his rookie season in 1995, Orlando Thomas looked like he was going to be an all-timer for the Minnesota Vikings.
Drafted in the second round out of Louisiana-Lafayette, Thomas stepped in as a rookie and led the NFL with nine interceptions, had four fumble recoveries and scored two defensive touchdowns.
Thomas had five more interceptions in 1996, but he was never again the impact player that he was during his rookie season. A solid tackler and a ball hawk, Thomas started at safety for seven seasons and also ended up with 22 interceptions to tie John Turner for seventh all-time on the Vikings list.
Perhaps nobody in the decade has had a more love/hate relationship with the Minnesota Vikings than safety Darren Sharper.
An avowed enemy for the first eight years of his career while with the Green Bay Packers, the Vikings swooped in to sign Sharper in 2005 when the Packers inexplicably released him.
Sharper was a dominant force for the Vikings immediately, snaring nine interceptions and bringing a force to the Vikings secondary that had been lacking for a few years. Sharper ended up with 18 interceptions and 250 tackles in his 62 games with Minnesota.
Sharper again became the enemy after signing with the Saints after the 2008 season, spearheading a Saints defense that ultimately defeated the Vikings in the 2010 NFC Championship Game.
Randall Cunningham's best years were certainly behind him when he arrived in Minnesota in 1997. A three-time Pro Bowler while with the Philadelphia Eagles, Cunningham briefly retired from football in 1996 after losing the starting job to Rodney Peete in Philadelphia.
Cunningham signed with the Vikings in 1997 and had a decent first season. In 1998, the Vikings drafted Randy Moss, and Cunningham had the greatest season of his career. Throwing to Moss, Cris Carter and Jake Reed, Cunningham threw for 3,704 yards and 34 touchdowns in leading Minnesota to a 15-1 record and the NFC Championship Game.
Cunningham seemed to grow old again in the offseason, throwing nine interceptions in the first six games of 1999, and he lost the starting job to Jeff George.
Overall, Cunningham was 16-7 as a starter for the Vikings and threw for 48 touchdowns in just 27 games. His 210 yards per game as a starter ranks fourth all time for Minnesota.
After Robert Smith unexpectedly walked away from football in 2000 at the age of 28, the Vikings found themselves in need of a running back.
With their first-round pick in 2001, the 27th overall pick, the Vikings selected Michael Bennett, the speedster out of Wisconsin.
Bennett started immediately and showed flashes of brilliance but never fully found his traction as a star running back in the NFL. He was spectacular in his second season with Minnesota, rushing for 1,296 yards and five touchdowns and catching 37 passes out of the backfield.
Despite some pretty good numbers, Bennett ultimately was a disappointment for the Vikings, never again showing the brilliance of his second season. Bennett's average of 50 yards rushing per game as a Viking ranks fifth in team history.
In March of 2006, the Vikings dipped into the free-agent pool to pick up a running back to replace Michael Bennett, whom they had released after the 2005 season due to his injury history and fumbling issues.
Minnesota signed Ravens backup Chester Taylor to a four-year, $14 million deal. It paid immediate dividends, as Taylor rushed for a career-high 1,216 yards and six touchdowns and also caught 42 passes out of the backfield.
It looked like Taylor's career was set to take off as a Minnesota Viking. But then in the 2007 NFL draft, six teams passed on Adrian Peterson.
Relegated to being a backup once again, Taylor was still magnificent, especially as a third-down receiving threat out of the backfield. Taylor finished his Vikings career with 2,797 yards rushing and 265 catches for 1,357 more yards. His reception total was the most for a Minnesota back since Darrin Nelson and ranks sixth all time for Vikings running backs.
Kudos to the Minnesota Vikings personnel department back in 1993. With starting center Kirk Lowdermilk signing the biggest contract for an offensive lineman in the NFL, the Vikings needed to find a replacement at center.
Combing the waiver wires, the Vikings found and signed Jeff Christy, a 1992 fourth-round pick with the Arizona Cardinals who had never been given a chance to crack the lineup. Christy had an outstanding career at the University of Pittsburgh, but many thought that at 6'3", 280 pounds, he might be too small for the rigors of interior-line play in the NFL.
Christy came to the Vikings and learned the system in 1993 while Adam Schreiber started at center for a stop-gap season. By the time the 1994 season rolled around, Christy had won the job and the Vikings were all set at the position for the next six seasons.
Christy started and played every game for those six years, making the Pro Bowl in both 1998 and 1999. He was smart, tough and physical, and he continued the Vikings' strong tradition at center after Mick Tinglehoff and Lowdermilk.
For years and years, the Minnesota Vikings didn't have to worry about who was going to play defensive end: It was Carl Eller and Jim Marshall, every game, every year.
By the time 1975 was rolling along, Minnesota realized those two were getting a little long in the tooth and it was time to go out and add some depth to the position. With their first pick in the 1975 draft, the Vikings took Mark Mullaney, a 6'5", 245-pounder out of Colorado State.
Mullaney played all over the defensive line for the Vikings in his 12 seasons with the club and recorded 45.5 sacks, ninth overall on the Vikings' sack list. Mullaney had close to 600 tackles in his career and 13 forced fumbles. As a side note, Mullaney was the first NFL player to ever wear a visor on his face mask after suffering an eye injury in 1984.
After having great luck signing Antoine Winfield away from the Buffalo Bills in 2004, the Minnesota Vikings went back to the same well in 2005, signing free-agent defensive tackle Pat Williams away from the Bills and putting him at nose tackle next to Kevin Williams to form the "Williams Wall."
Pat Williams started every game but three in his six seasons with Minnesota, taking over immediately, as the Vikings parted ways with Chris Hovan and needed an upgrade over Spencer Johnson.
Listed at 6'3" and a generous 320 pounds, Williams added mass and quickness to the middle of the Vikings defensive line. From 2006-2008, the Vikings had the best rushing defense in the league, primarily because of the Williams Wall in the middle. Pat Williams made the Pro Bowl in each of those seasons.
Big Pat was a wonderful teammate, bringing his garrulous character to every game and practice session. The Williams Wall was the best interior defensive line Minnesota had seen since the days of Alan Page and Gary Larsen.
The Minnesota Vikings might have stumbled out of the gate at the 2003 draft, passing at No. 7 before ultimately drafting Kevin Williams with the ninth overall pick. Minnesota didn't hesitate in the second round, however, quickly tabbing two-time All-American linebacker E.J. Henderson out of Maryland.
The 6'1", 245-pounder won both the Dick Butkus and Chuck Bednarik awards as the best linebacker in college football. As a rookie, Henderson excelled on special teams as he spent the year learning the ropes of the NFL game while Greg Biekert started every game at middle linebacker.
Henderson took over the starting role in 2004 and remained there for eight years. He was truly one of the toughest players to ever play for Minnesota, often battling injuries to stay on the field. He had a warrior's mentality and always led by example, doing whatever the defense needed him to do.
Henderson suffered what looked to be a career-threatening injury in 2009 against the Cardinals, breaking his femur in brutal fashion for all to see. This injury came after E.J. had missed most of 2008 with injuries. The writing seemed to be on the wall that his career might be over, but Henderson made a remarkable recovery and was back on the field in 2010, giving the Vikings two more seasons of solid football. Henderson played in the 2010 Pro Bowl.
As an expansion team in 1961, the Minnesota Vikings were awarded the first overall pick in the NFL draft, and they selected Tommy Mason, an All-American running back out of Tulane.
Mason had led the SEC in rushing, and his all-purpose yardage total remained a record at Tulane for 28 years.
As a rookie, Mason was the leading kickoff and punt returner, and he backed up Hugh McElhenny at running back. Mason took over the starting role from the Hall of Famer in his second season and started at halfback for the Vikings for the next four years, leading them in rushing twice.
Mason's 3,252 yards rushing ranks eighth all time for Minnesota, and he also caught 151 passes and scored 39 touchdowns as a Viking.
In the history of professional football, there have been very few quarterbacks, if any, who threw a prettier ball than Warren Moon, who spent two fantastic seasons with the Vikings in 1994 and 1995. (He played a third year, it just wasn't fantastic.)
Moon was a legend by the time he joined the Vikings, having made six Pro Bowls with the Houston Oilers before arriving in Minnesota. Moon was the second of four legendary quarterbacks who started for the Vikings after becoming legends elsewhere.
Coming off of seasons when Minnesota saw mediocre throwing at best with Jim McMahon and Rich Gannon in 1993 and 1992, watching Moon throw the ball was a revelation for Vikings fans (one they would revisit in 2009).
Moon threw for more than 4,200 yards and 51 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Vikings and finished with 10,102 yards passing in just 39 games with the team.
Moon's 259 yards passing a game as a Viking is the most for any Minnesota quarterback. He made the Pro Bowl his first two seasons with Minnesota. Moon is the only quarterback to ever throw more than 600 passes in a season for the Vikings, and he did that in both of his first two years with the team. His 371 and 377 completions rank second and third in Vikings history.
Moon was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
Certainly never a star, Hassan Jones filled the role of dependable go-to guy for seven years with the Minnesota Vikings.
Drafted in the fifth round out of Florida State in 1986, Jones played second fiddle to Anthony Carter for the first half of his career and then to Cris Carter for the second half.
Jones played the role of quality second or third receiver his entire career and racked up pretty good numbers doing so. Playing an even 100 games for Minnesota, he caught 222 passes for 3,733 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Jones' 16.8 yards-per-catch average ranks third all time in Vikings history, trailing only John Gilliam and Gene Washington.
Cue more boo birds.
We get that it's a fresh wound and that many of you reading this will never consider Harvin a "true Viking," whatever that might be. (If we're being honest, he's actually too low on this list.)
Was he a headache? Yes. Was he more trouble than he was worth? We'll see. Was he one of the most electric players to ever wear a Vikings uniform? Absolutely, without a doubt.
Drafted out of Florida in the first round in 2009, Harvin wasted no time in proving that he fell too far in going to the Vikings with the 22nd pick. Harvin scored touchdowns in his first three games in uniform, culminated by a 101-yard kickoff return against the 49ers.
Harvin was lightning in a bottle, and he made something happen almost every time he touched the ball in his four seasons with the club.
In just 54 games with the club, Harvin caught 280 passes for 3,302 yards and 20 touchdowns. Harvin nearly matched his reception yards with an amazing 3,183 kickoff return yards, including five returns for touchdowns, three of them more than 100 yards. Harvin averaged an absurd 32.5 and 35.9 yards a return his last two seasons.
The Percy Harvin era was too short in Minnesota, and many Vikings fans will always be bitter that he acted his way out of town. There's just no denying that he's a helluva football player.
Perhaps the complete opposite of the type of player from the previous slide, Stu Voigt was nothing but a pro's pro in his 11 seasons wearing No. 83 for the Minnesota Vikings.
Voigt and his great hands never caught more than 34 balls in a season during a career that saw him play 125 games for the Vikings. Voigt was a solid blocker and dependable receiver during the Vikings' dominant decade of the 1970s.
Voigt finished his career with 177 receptions for 1,919 yards and 17 touchdowns. He played on three NFC championship teams, and the Vikings won nine division titles in Voigt's 11 seasons with the team.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Vikings used their first pick in the 1995 draft to select one of the biggest players they ever had, offensive tackle Korey Stringer out of Ohio State.
Stringer started every game but five in his six seasons with the Vikings and was becoming a dominant player, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2000, his last year in the league.
Stringer was a huge, athletic man who was loved by everyone on the team for his upbeat attitude and playful demeanor. Stringer died tragically after suffering heat stroke at training camp in 2001.
The Vikings retired Stringer's No. 77, and he was has been inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
With the Eller/Marshall era of defensive ends over in Minnesota, the Vikings used their first pick in the 1980 draft on University of Washington's Doug Martin, who starred on the Huskies' Rose Bowl-winning team of 1978.
Martin became a starter for the Vikings halfway through his second season and remained a pivotal member of the defensive line for eight consecutive seasons.
Martin registered 50.5 sacks in his 126 games with Minnesota, including a league-leading 11.5 in 1982 (in just nine games of a strike-shortened season.) Martin made the Pro Bowl in 1982 and followed that up with another exceptional year in 1983, registering a career-high 13 sacks in 1983.
Martin battled injuries in 1984 and was never again a dominating player, but he did have back-to-back nine-sack seasons in 1986 and 1987.
One of the best vocal leaders the Minnesota Vikings ever had, Eddie McDaniel was the heart and soul of the Vikings defense in the 1990s.
At just 5'11", McDaniel packed an awful lot of muscle on his 230-pound frame, and he seemed bigger than life on the field, combining with the likes of John Randle and Robert Griffith to provide the Vikings with bigger-than-life personalities.
McDaniel became a starter in 1994 and only missed three games over the next seven seasons. In 1998, he registered a career-high seven sacks and 128 tackles while making the Pro Bowl.
For his career, Eddie Mac had 19.5 sacks, four interceptions and nearly 800 tackles.
How would you like to follow in the footsteps of the Purple People Eaters?
That was tasked to Doug Sutherland, the defensive tackle the Vikings picked up from the New Orleans Saints before the 1971 season.
Sutherland was, in fact, a member of the Vikings' dominant defenses of the 1970s and played in three Super Bowls with the team. A depth player in his first four seasons with the team, Sutherland became a starter in late 1974 and stayed in the starting lineup through the 1980 season.
Sutherland totaled 138 games with the Vikings and got the absolute most out of his 6'3", 250-pound body. Three Super Bowls and a 12-year career aren't bad for a 14th-round draft pick out of tiny University of Wisconsin-Superior.
Sutherland was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Every NFL team scouted the Jackson State Tigers in the 1970s because they had a running back named Walter Payton.
What these scouts all found out, though, was that the Tigers had another running back who was NFL-worthy: Rickey Young. The San Diego Chargers snapped up Young in the seventh round of the 1975 draft. Young was sensational for the Chargers, picking up nearly 2,000 yards in three seasons with the Chargers.
What the Vikings and head coach Bud Grant loved even more about Young, though, were his pass-catching numbers. Young caught 116 passes with the Chargers, and the Vikings were convinced he would do wonders in the Minnesota offense, enough so that they traded away All-Pro guard Ed White to get him.
It paid off immediately. Young caught an NFL-high 88 passes in 1978 for 704 yards and added 417 rushing yards. Young and Chuck Foreman combined to catch an astonishing 149 passes out of the backfield for Minnesota that year.
With Foreman gone in 1979, Young was even better, rushing for 708 yards while catching 72 more passes for 519 yards. Overall, Young played 89 games for the Vikings and rushed for 1,744 yards and caught 292 passes for 2,295 yards. His reception total is third all time for Vikings running backs.
Very few members of the Minnesota Vikings secondary ever brought the pain the way Robert Griffith did.
Undrafted after a stellar career at San Diego State (maybe scouts were too wowed by his teammate Marshall Faulk to notice him), Griffith signed with the Vikings as a free agent in 1994 and carried that undrafted chip on his shoulder for his entire career.
A superlative special teams player his first two seasons with the team, Griffith broke through in 1996 and started at strong safety for Minnesota for the next six seasons.
Griffith picked off 17 passes in his time with Minnesota, but it was his prodigious tackling that lands him this high on the list.
Griffith amassed 624 tackles in his eight seasons with the team, three times rolling up more than 100 tackles in a season. And with Griffith, it wasn't just about the number of tackles, but the oomph behind them. Griffith would register at least one or two monster hits in just about every game he played as a Viking.
Wade Wilson seemed like he was the forever backup quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings.
Starting 48 of the 76 games he played in for the Vikings, Wilson was always solid, if not spectacular, in filling in.
At the end of the day, only five quarterbacks have completed more passes than Wilson's 929 for Minnesota. His 66 touchdown passes rank fourth in team history. Wilson passed for more than 12,000 yards and 66 touchdowns as a Viking and compiled a 27-21 record as a starting quarterback.
He might have been the perennial backup, but only four quarterbacks won more games for the Minnesota Vikings than Wade Wilson.
Brad Johnson's career numbers with the Vikings ended up being so similar to Wade Wilson's that we had to rank them right next to each other on our list.
Like Wilson, Johnson spent a lot of time learning on the bench before getting the call as a starter. Once he got the nod to start, Johnson was always more than capable. Only Fran Tarkenton has a better winning percentage as a Vikings starter than Johnson, who finished 28-18 as a starter for Minnesota.
Johnson played in two Pro Bowls in his career, one with the Redskins and one with the Buccaneers. Johnson won a Super Bowl with the Buccaneers in 2002, which was very nice to see happen for a player who was truly one of the best people to ever play for Minnesota.
Johnson returned to the Vikings for two seasons, in 2005 and 2006, and after going 7-2 as a starter in 2005, things went south in 2006.
For his Vikings career, Johnson completed 1,036 passes for 11,098 yards and 65 touchdowns.
In the first round of the 1994 draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected an anchor for their offensive line, tackle Todd Steussie out of California.
The 6'6", 310-pound Steussie was an immediate starter for the Vikings at left tackle, and he started every game in Minnesota but one in his seven seasons with the club.
Steussie was a two-time Pro Bowler for the Vikings, making it in both 1997 and 1998. Steussie combined with Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, David Dixon and Korey Stringer to give the Vikings one of the biggest, and best, offensive lines they ever had.
Steussie's play dropped a bit in the 2000 season, and the Vikings let him go when he signed a free-agent deal with the Carolina Panthers.
It's unfortunate that Nate Wright is mostly remembered for his part in the Dallas Cowboys Hail Mary pass that knocked the Vikings out of the 1975 playoffs.
Wright was an integral part of the Purple People Eaters of the 1970s and twice made All-Pro, in both 1974 and 1976.
Wright finished his Vikings career with 31 interceptions, ranking fifth all time for Minnesota.
At just 5'11", 180 pounds, Wright was undersized but made up for it with his athletic ability and savvy. Wright was a part of three NFC championship teams and played in three Super Bowls.
Yes, "Disco" Darrin Nelson was one of the biggest draft mistakes the Minnesota Vikings ever made. Needing a running back in the 1982 draft, the Vikings famously left Hall of Famer Marcus Allen on the board and selected Nelson out of Stanford with the seventh pick in the draft.
While it's become urban legend to say that Allen told the Vikings he wouldn't play for them, that's just not true; the Vikings chose Nelson because they thought his quickness and pass-catching ability were a better fit for their offense. Call it one of the few mistakes Bud Grant ever made (non-Super Bowl edition).
Though no Marcus Allen, Nelson was far from a disaster for the Vikings. His 129 games played rank fourth among Vikings running backs and his 4,231 yards rushing rank seventh. Nelson also caught 286 passes out of the backfield, tied for fourth all time for Minnesota.
Unfortunately, it's the pass he didn't catch (against the Redskins in the NFC Championship Game in the 1987 playoffs) and the running back he turned out not to be that frame Nelson's Vikings legacy.
Yep, that's right, Brett Favre all the way up at No. 52. We can hear the screaming all the way from the Super Bowl he didn't lead us to.
Recent history has Vikings fans bemoaning the Favre signing, only remembering the crushing loss to the Saints, the will-he-or-won't-he-come-back shenanigans and the years of being torched by him as a member of the Packers.
The Vikings had a history of using retreads at quarterback, never finding their "own" guy who could lead them into the future. Taking on their greatest rival seemed to be the last straw.
The fact is that in 2009, Favre put on one of the single greatest quarterbacking seasons the league has ever seen. Favre was downright masterful, clinical, surgical (pick your adjective) in leading the Vikings to an 11-2 start. After bad road losses cost them home field against the Saints, Favre took apart the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs before that fateful game against the Saints.
We won't relive that.
It was a year of quarterbacking that we'd simply never seen in Minnesota before. We'd seen better numbers, more completions, yards and touchdowns, but we'd never seen anyone take a team and lead it like that before.
In the end, Favre's 580 completions and 44 touchdowns for the Vikings are but a speck in his Hall of Fame career, but his 2009 season was certainly in the top five of any ever played by someone wearing a Vikings uniform.
Aside from the season, Favre brought a huge kick in the ass to the entire franchise. From young players like Adrian Peterson and Chad Greenway to the trainers and administrative workers, Brett Favre showed everyone at Winter Park how football was done at its highest level. We didn't get the ultimate prize with Favre, but it was a helluva ride.
In the third round of the 1981 draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Tim Irwin, a 6'7", 300-pound giant out of the University of Tennessee, who they probably didn't think would still be around in 1993. He was.
Irwin, a man's man by any account, logged 181 games for Minnesota, fifth all-time for Viking offensive lineman.
Irwin took over as a starter at right guard halfway through his second season and never missed a game while with the team, starting 181 straight games for the Vikings.
Irwin was always a blood-and-guts guy with high character. He never took any plays off and never looked for any special treatment or recognition. Hopefully he's fine with being named the 51st-best Viking ever.
Irwin coached current Viking Harrison Smith in eighth grade.
You wouldn't think you could find NFL running backs that would last in the 13th round. Or from the University of North Dakota, either.
The Vikings did both of those things when they selected Dave Osborn in 1965. Osborn was a prototypical lunch-pail guy; flashy was the last word you would pick when describing his running style. Three yards and a cloud of dust (or snow) was more like it.
Osborn averaged fewer than four yards a carry for eight of his 12 seasons in the league, but his workmanlike attitude and style always made him a benefit to have.
Osborn's 137 games are the second most for any Vikings running back, and his 4,320 yards rushing rank sixth. He scored 29 touchdowns in purple and also caught 173 passes for seven more touchdowns.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings don't dip into the deep end of the free-agent pool very often, but they did just that in 2006 when they made an offer to Seahawks free-agent guard Steve Hutchinson for $49 million over seven years, the richest contract ever offered to a guard at the time.
The Vikings included a poison pill in the contract that created tensions between the teams that still exist.
All that aside, Hutchinson was worth every penny the Vikings paid for him.
Hutchinson held down the left guard spot for six seasons for the Vikings and helped pave the way for much of Adrian Peterson's highlight reel of a career. Hutchinson started every game his first four years in Minnesota before missing five games in 2010 and the last two games of 2011.
Hutchinson was a Pro Bowler his first four seasons with the Vikings and was one of the shortest-tenured players to make the 50 greatest Vikings list of 2010.
Hutchinson retired after the 2012 season and will more than likely be in Canton at some point in the next decade.
The Minnesota Vikings felt pretty fortunate when Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway fell to them with the 17th pick in the 2007 draft. Greenway had been a tackling machine at Iowa and made several All-American teams in his junior and senior seasons.
He certainly hasn't slowed down in the NFL.
Greenway has appeared in all 96 games of his career, starting in 95 of them, and has piled up huge tackling numbers every year in the league. Greenway has recorded more than 100 tackles every year in the league except one (when he had 98 tackles) and has had more than 140 tackles the past three seasons.
He's added 11.5 sacks and six interceptions as well and has made the Pro Bowl the past two seasons.
Greenway will be just 30 years old when the 2013 season starts, and if he can play a few more seasons, at the rate he's going, he'll be among the Vikings' all-time leaders in tackles.
When the Vikings drafted guard Ed White in the second round of the 1969 draft, they probably didn't know the 6'1", 270-pounder would develop into perhaps the strongest player in the NFL.
White was a brute force in the middle of the Vikings offensive line, a road grader on the run and an excellent pass protector for Fran Tarkenton and the passing game.
White started 122 games for the Vikings between 1970 and 1977 and made three straight Pro Bowls from 1975-1977.
White also was tabbed the NFL's strongest man when he won the 1975 NFL Arm Wrestling Championship.
Gene Washington, the Vikings' first-round pick out of Michigan State in 1967, was a very productive wide receiver in the NFL for seven years in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl in 1969 and 1970.
The problem for Washington was that he wasn't even the best wide receiver in the league named Gene Washington at the time. That title went to a Gene Washington who played for the San Francisco 49ers and made four Pro Bowls.
Anyway, the Vikings' version of Gene Washington was a 6'3", 208-pound standout who caught 172 passes for 3,087 yards and 23 touchdowns. Washington's 17.9 yards per catch for his career is the second-best mark ever for a Vikings wideout.
Washington was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Jake Reed might be the toughest player to slot on this entire list. His career numbers are outstanding, but you simply can't rank him above the likes of John Gilliam or Ahmad Rashad. He just wasn't as good as they were.
Reed was a 6'3", 217-pound athletic receiver who played on the Vikings when Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham were launching balls all over the field. Reed was never the No. 1 receiver on the team, but he often played like one. His career nosedived when he left in hopes of becoming a main target in New Orleans.
Reed was a steal as a third-round pick out of Grambling State University in the 1991 draft. Blessed with size and speed, Reed became another one of the countless receivers who play at smaller schools who end up excelling in the NFL.
After taking three seasons to figure things out at the highest level, Reed put a string of four seasons together where he averaged more than 74 catches and 1,200 yards a season. In 1998, a kid named Randy Moss showed up, and Reed was immediately relegated to third receiver status.
Overall, Reed played 133 games for the Vikings (tied for third most among Vikings receivers with Anthony Carter; Leo Lewis is second) and caught 413 balls for 6,433 yards and 33 touchdowns. His touchdown total is sixth all time for Minnesota wideouts.
They came in the same year: 1974. Fred McNeill was the first-round pick out of UCLA and Matt Blair was the second-round choice out of Iowa State. They left the same year as well, in 1985. They were bookends in Minnesota, it seems wrong to mention one without mentioning the other.
They became more than best friends over the years; they were more like brothers.
With Fred McNeill and Matt Blair, the Vikings were set with two star players at outside linebacker for more than a decade. McNeill and Blair were the bridge from the Purple People Eaters to the Vikings' future.
McNeil did everything well. He was stout against the run, could rush the passer and cover tight ends and running backs. In 1975, the Vikings allowed the fewest points in the league, and in 1976, they allowed both the fewest amount of yards and passing yards in the league.
While Blair became more of a star, McNeill was always the steady guy on the other side. McNeill began law school his last year with the team and graduated at the top of his class.
Heading into the 1979 draft, the Vikings knew that Chuck Foreman had lost a little tread on his tires and that Rickey Young was better suited to be the change-up back, the guy who caught balls out of the backfield.
With that in mind, Minnesota used their first-round pick on Ted Brown, an All-American running back out of North Carolina State. Brown had been a four-time All-ACC pick, and the Vikings coveted him because he was an excellent receiver out of the backfield as well.
Though Brown wasn't the lead back right away, he contributed immediately, rushing for more than 550 yards and catching 31 passes as a rookie. The numbers kept getting better.
Brown had a monster year in 1981, rushing for 1,063 yards and six touchdowns while catching 83 passes for 694 yards and three more scores.
Brown ended his career playing 104 games for the Vikings, third all time among backs, rushing for 4,546 yards (fifth all time) and 40 touchdowns. He caught 339 passes (second all time) for 2,850 yards and 13 touchdowns.
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.
Poor Gary Larsen has always been known as the guy you can't think of when naming the front four of the Purple People Eaters. Or the guy with the same name as the guy who wrote "The Far Side" cartoon.
Larsen was a phenomenal player in his own right, and his contributions to the Vikings epic defenses were huge. Larsen was drafted by the Rams in 1964, but the Vikings knew all about him, as he'd played his college ball at Concordia, in Moorhead, Minn.
Larsen was a 6'5", 260-pound scrapper who did all of the little things you want out of your defensive linemen. Although the three other guys on the line with him were superstars, Larsen more than pulled his own weight during the Vikings' glory years.
Larsen registered 38.5 sacks in his career and often left the extreme rushing of the quarterback to his fellow linemen while he babysat behind the initial rush.
Larsen made the Pro Bowl in both 1969 and 1970 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Karl Kassulke was the prototypical big hitting safety who was one of the backbones of the Purple People Eaters secondary in the 1960s.
Drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1963, the Vikings picked him up for training camp, where he became an immediate starter, providing a solid punch against the running game and steady ball-hawking against the pass.
Kassulke played 131 games for the Vikings, sixth most for any defensive back, and had 19 interceptions in his career.
He was on his way to training camp in 1973 when a motorcycle accident left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Kassulke made the Pro Bowl in 1969 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Ed Sharockman was the first cornerback Minnesota ever selected, and he started from day one of his second season. He 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 are still tied for the Vikings record.
Sharockman is third all time on the Vikings interception list, and he was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Playing football at Harvard is supposed to be a fun activity, something to kill the time before you begin your job as a venture capitalist or the head of banking firm.
It isn't supposed to launch you into a 14-year NFL career where you play in six Pro Bowls and then you win a Super Bowl before calling it a career.
Such is the tale of St. Paul native Matt Birk, who starred in both football and basketball at Cretin-Derham Hall High School and then lettered four years at Harvard.
The Vikings drafted Birk in the seventh round in the 1998 draft, and after two years as a special teams player and a backup to Jeff Christy, Birk took over the starting center spot in 2000 and started every game but one over the next eight seasons.
Smart and physical, Birk excelled as both a run-blocker and a pass protector. He had a high football IQ, and it was like having an offensive line coach on the field.
Birk was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Grady Alderman was an original Viking, starting at offensive guard for the expansion team in 1961. He played 193 games for Minnesota (third all time among Vikings offensive lineman.)
Alderman had been selected by his hometown Detroit Lions in the 1960 draft, and after playing sparingly as a rookie, he was picked up by the Vikings for their initial campaign.
Alderman played in every game but one in the Vikings' first nine seasons and only missed three games in the team's first 14 years.
The 6'2", 242-pounder was as gritty as they come and played in six Pro Bowls.
He was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Vikings made one of their better third-round picks 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, 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 more than 1,000 tackles and 93.5 sacks.
He was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Vikings have obviously had their share of fantastic defensive linemen, from the Purple People Eaters to Hall of Famers John Randle and Chris Doleman. But they may have never had a player who was as physically dominant as Keith Millard was from 1985-1989.
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, and was named the AP Defensive Player of the Year. 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 games.
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."
If you drew up a caricature of what you thought an NFL fullback was supposed to look like in the 1940s and 1950s, you'd have a pretty good picture of Bill "Boom-Boom" Brown, who manned that position for the Minnesota Vikings from 1962-1974.
Square-jawed and squared away, Brown played for his hometown Chicago Bears in 1961 before being traded to the Vikings in 1962. Brown, who'd been an All Big-10 fullback and shot put champion, played football like a bowling ball looking for pins to knock down.
Brown's 180 games played for the team is by far the most for any running back, and his 5,757 yards ranks fourth all time. His 52 touchdowns is tied for second with Chuck Foreman. He didn't look like one, but Brown was also an excellent receiver out of the backfield, his 286 receptions ranks fourth all time among Vikings running backs.
Brown played in four Pro Bowls and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
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 purple.
Always a leader through 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. He 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. He was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
With Gene Washington no longer the deep threat he once was, the Vikings needed to add one to their roster and did so when they picked up John Gilliam from the St. Louis Cardinals. Gilliam had had three great seasons in St. Louis, and the Vikings traded for him before the 1972 season.
Gilliam was a favorite target of Fran Tarkenton's right away in Minnesota, catching 47 balls for more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns in his first season with the Vikings. Gilliam was always a great deep threat, and his 22 yards per reception led the NFL that year.
Gilliam's 20 yards per catch is the highest ever for a Vikings receiver, and although he only played 56 games with the team, his 3,297 yards rank 10th all time for Minnesota. Gilliam finished with 165 catches for the Vikes and played in two Super Bowls.
Gilliam made the Pro Bowl in all four of his seasons with Minnesota and was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Steve Jordan edges out Matt Birk for the highest ranked Ivy League player on our list. The Vikings selected Jordan in the seventh round of the 1982 draft, never dreaming that they'd gotten themselves a player of Jordan's ability.
Jordan spent two seasons as a backup and special teams player before taking over the starting role in 1984. Eleven seasons later and Jordan holds every Vikings tight receiving record there is.
Jordan played 176 games for the Vikings, the most of any pass catcher other than Cris Carter. Jordan ended his career with 498 receptions for 6,307 yards and 28 touchdowns. Jordan's 12.8 yards per catch is outstanding for a tight end.
Jordan made six straight Pro Bowls starting in 1986 and was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
As dominant as the Purple People Eaters were in the late 1960s, come the 1972 season, the Vikings were in need of a new middle linebacker. So in the first round, they took Jeff Siemon, a standout player out of Stanford, with the 10th overall pick. Siemon had played on two Rose Bowl-winning teams and won the Butkus award as a senior as the nation's best linebacker.
Siemon assimilated right away to the pro game and proved that he was savvy against both the run and pass. Siemon was one of the best tacklers to ever wear a Vikings uniform. He picked off 11 passes in his career and was selected to four Pro Bowls.
Siemon was one of the smartest, toughest players the Vikings ever had. He took on the demeanor of his head coach, Bud Grant, and was never flashy but always got the job done.
He was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
It's too bad Gary Zimmerman never played for Bud Grant, because what we said about Jeff Siemon in the last slide certainly pertains to the pillar of a left tackle who played for the Vikings from 1986-1992.
Zimmerman played two seasons in the USFL before joining the Vikings. He ignored the press for most of his career after he felt some of his postgame comments had been twisted.
Zimmerman did all of his talking on the field, which was just fine with the Vikings, as he was one of the very best left tackles to ever play the game.
He played 108 games for the Vikings and made the Pro Bowl in four of the seven years he was with the team. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008 and was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
History is very forgiving to the Minnesota Vikings when it comes to the 2003 draft.
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.
Williams was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings made quarterback Fran Tarkenton very happy in 1976 when they 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 ranks fourth all time in touchdowns and fifth in yards receiving.
White was a great route-runner and had great hands. He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Before he was one of Michael Jordan's BFFs, Ahmad Rashad was a damn fine wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings.
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 teamed up with Sammy White to form a dynamic and prolific receiving duo for the Vikings. While White was the better deep threat, Rashad became the go-to guy when the Vikings needed a big play for a first down.
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.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Vikings finally drafted a quarterback of their own to build around in 1999 when they took Daunte Culpepper out of Central Florida with the 11th overall choice.
Culpepper spent his rookie season watching and learning behind Randall Cunningham and then Jeff George. Culpepper took over the starting job in 2000 and had a terrific season, throwing for 3,937 yards and 33 touchdowns in leading the Vikings to an 11-5 record and the NFC Championship Game.
Culpepper's 33 touchdowns led the league, and he was named to the first of his three Pro Bowls.
The Vikings seemed to nosedive after the 41-0 stomping the Giants gave them in the title game that year, and Culpepper was never again quite that good.
He finished his career in Minnesota with a 38-42 record. He completed 1,678 passes for 20,162 yards and 135 touchdowns, all good for third in the Vikings' record books. Culpepper's average of 252 passing yards a game is second in team history to Warren Moon's 259.
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 made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons in 1975 and 1976.
Bryant's 51 career interceptions are second in team history, and he was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Every Vikings team Tommy Kramer played on battled to stay right around the .500 mark. That might sound a little boring, but Two-Minute Tommy was anything but that.
Kramer earned his nickname in his rookie season when he came off the bench in the fourth quarter of a game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings were trailing 24-7 when Kramer entered. He threw three touchdown passes, capped off by a 69-yard bomb to Sammy White, to pull out a thrilling 28-27 victory that helped Minnesota win the division.
Kramer's other biggest moment as a pro came in 1980 when his last-second bomb to Ahmad Rashad beat the Cleveland Browns and clinched the Central Division for the Vikings.
Kramer ranks second in virtually every passing category in Vikings history. He finished with 2,011 completions for 24,775 yards and 159 touchdowns in 128 games.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
After a series of good but not great running backs the Vikings went through in the late 1970s and 1980s, they finally hit the jackpot again in 1993, when they drafted Robert Smith out of Ohio State in the first round.
Smith battled injuries his first couple of seasons in the league, but he hit his stride in 1995 and 1996 when he rushed for more than 600 yards both seasons.
Finally injury-free in 1997, Smith began to roll. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards for four straight seasons, scoring 27 touchdowns. Smith combined with Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss to give the Vikings four players who could go the distance at any time.
Smith walked away from the NFL after his best season in 2000 at the age of 28. He finished his career with 6,818 yards rushing, second all time for Vikings rushers.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings selected a safety out of Southern California in 1983 with the 19th pick in the first round.
What they got in Joey Browner was the hardest hitter who's ever played in the Vikings secondary.
Browner was a solid 6'2", 220 pounds, and played safety, but he was like having another linebacker on the field. A punishing hitter, Browner also finished with 37 interceptions for the Vikings, good for fourth all time.
Browner finished his career with more than 1,100 tackles, 18 forced fumbles and 16 fumble recoveries. He made six straight Pro Bowls beginning in 1986. He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
It's tough to say how many Minnesota Vikings from the glory years of the late 1960s and 1970s would have ended up making the Hall of Fame had the Vikings won one or two of their Super Bowls.
One such player who'd have had a shot was Wally Hilgenberg, the do-everything linebacker out of the University of Iowa.
Hilgenberg spent three seasons with the Detroit Lions before joining the Purple People Eaters. Hilgenberg joined forces with Roy Winston to form one of the most devastating outside linebacker pairs in the league.
Hilgenberg started for nine-and-a-half seasons on the outside for Minnesota, and he was a constant presence against both the pass and the run. Hilgenberg's 158 games played for the Vikings puts him fourth all time among Vikings linebackers.
He was named All-Pro in 1973 and named one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Roy Winston was the other half of the Vikings' dynamic outside linebacker duo on the Purple People Eaters.
Winston was an All-American guard at LSU when the Vikings drafted him in 1962 with an eye on switching him to defense. It was a wise move.
He played 191 games for the Vikings, second all time among linebackers, and is one of 10 players to play on all four Super Bowl teams.
Like Hilgenberg, Winston was tenacious against both the run and the pass. He picked off 12 passes in his career and came up with 14 fumble recoveries. Winston scored two touchdowns in his career.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Matt Blair was just the second linebacker the Vikings took in the 1974 draft, taken in the second round after the team had taken Fred McNeill in the first round.
That was about the last time Matt Blair would ever be second in anything while with the Vikings.
A 6'5", 235-pound athletic freak, Blair was constantly all over the field for the Vikings. His 20 blocked kicks remains a team record that will never be broken.
Blair played in 160 games for the Vikings, fourth most all time for the team, and made six consecutive Pro Bowls beginning in 1977. He played in two Super Bowls and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Speaking of Vikings who should be in the Hall of Fame and aren't, the list certainly begins with center Mick Tingelhoff. All he did was play 240 games at center for the Vikings, 41 more games than any other player.
Tingelhoff was undrafted out of Nebraska in 1962 and signed with the Vikings as a free agent. He became a starter as a rookie and stayed in the center of the Vikings line as a starter until he retired in after the 1978 season.
Tingelhoff's 240 straight starts at the time of his retirement was second only to teammate Jim Marshall's 270. Tingelhoff played in six Pro Bowls and was voted first-team All-Pro five times. It's a shame that he isn't in the NFL Hall of Fame.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
In the ninth round of the 1977 draft, the Minnesota Vikings took a linebacker who had an awesome name, but as a ninth-round selection, he wasn't expected to be around long.
Scott Studwell decided to stick around awhile, playing in the middle of the Vikings defense for 14 seasons, having played with both Jim Marshall and John Randle.
He was undersized at 6'2", 220 pounds, but played the game with a ferocity that made him seem bigger. He was simply a tackling machine.
Studwell is the Vikings' all-time leading tackler with 1,981 and also has the single-season record with 230 recorded in 1981. His 24 tackles against the Lions in 1985 is also a team record. Studwell had 11 interceptions and 16 fumble recoveries in his career.
He played in two Pro Bowls and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
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 seasons 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. Carter is fourth all time in Vikings receptions and third in both yards and touchdowns. His .39 touchdowns per game is tied for third with Sammy White.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Vikings don't like to trade draft picks, especially first-round draft picks.
They made a brilliant move in April of 2008 when they traded their first-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for defensive end Jared Allen.
Allen has been a tornado of talent and charisma since the day he arrived in the Twin Cities. At 6'6", 265 pounds with a relentless motor, Allen is a passing offense's worst nightmare.
He's piled up 74 sacks in just five seasons with Minnesota, including a league-high and team record with 22 in 2011. Allen has also forced 14 fumbles and recovered nine in his time with Minnesota. Allen is a team leader and plays football with a passion that's infectious to all of his teammates.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010 after just three seasons with the team.
It's a giant stain on the Pro Football Hall of Fame that Jim Marshall isn't a member.
In 1961, the expansion Minnesota Vikings traded a couple of draft picks to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for six players, one of which was defensive end Jim Marshall. The Vikings were just trying to fill out their roster for their first season.
Little did they know, Jim Marshall would still be playing in their 19th season. And still starting. Marshall's 282 consecutive games played trails only Jeff Feagles and Brett Favre on the all time list.
Vikings team records have Marshall recording 127 sacks in his career and recovering an NFL-record 30 fumbles. Marshall gained infamy when he returned one of those fumbles 66 yards the wrong way to his own end zone for a safety.
Marshall was a consistent force on the Vikings defensive line, and his consecutive games streak is astonishing. Marshall tops any list of players not in the Hall who belong there. Marshall was named to four different Pro Bowl teams.
He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
It's pretty simple: Nobody has ever intercepted more NFL passes than Paul Krause.
In a strange move, the Washington Redskins traded Krause to the Vikings in 1968 even though he had intercepted 28 passes in four seasons with the team.
The Vikings welcomed Krause with open arms, and he started at free safety for 10 seasons and played parts of two more. Krause picked off seven passes in his first year with Minnesota and just never stopped snaring balls.
Krause ended his Vikings career with 53 interceptions, two more than Bobby Bryant for the all-time team lead. Krause played 172 games in the Vikings secondary, three more than Carl Lee for tops in team history.
Krause was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The 1980s Vikings were having trouble rushing the passer and entered the 1985 draft trying to solve that problem. They selected defensive end Chris Doleman out of the University of Pittsburgh with the fourth overall choice.
Doleman spent his first two years as a backup, learning the ropes as he honed his pass-rushing moves. By 1987, he was ready to be a full-time starter, and he made a huge impact on the Vikings defense. He notched 11 sacks that season and then exploded for 21 in 1989.
Doleman had as many moves to get to the quarterback as anyone in the league when he played. He used an array of swim moves, stutter steps and explosion moves that always kept offensive lineman off balance and on their heels.
Doleman finished eight seasons with double-digit sacks and ended his career in 1993 with 150.5. He also recovered 24 fumbles in his career and notched close to 800 tackles.
Doleman was selected to eight Pro Bowls in his career and made first-team All-Pro twice. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
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, which is incredible for a defensive tackle, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Randle was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings used their first-round pick, the 12th overall, on running back Chuck Foreman out of the University of Miami. The Vikings were high on Foreman because they thought he could not only be a great rusher, but also an excellent receiver out of the backfield.
They thought right.
Foreman took no time to adapt to the pro game, rushing for 801 yards and catching 37 passes for 362 more yards as a rookie. Foreman won the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
It was more of the same for Foreman over the course of the next five seasons as he developed into one of the best dual-threats the league has ever seen. At 6'2", 210 pounds, with great hands and feet, Foreman was able to make tacklers miss and also gain plenty of yards after contact. As a receiver, he had great hands and perfect timing as to when to switch from being a pass-blocker to a safety-valve option.
Foreman became best known for his dazzling array of moves, highlighted by his spin move that he used often to beat the first defender in his path.
Foreman played 93 games for the Vikings; his 5,887 yards rushing ranks third all time, and his 350 receptions is tops for Vikings running backs. His 52 rushing touchdowns are tied with Bill Brown for second all time, and he and Brown are also tied for first with 23 touchdown catches.
Foreman was voted to five straight Pro Bowls beginning in 1973 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Randall McDaniel is on everyone's short list of the best offensive guards to ever play in the NFL.
As the Vikings' first-round pick in 1988 out of Arizona State, McDaniel started right away and became the anchor of the offensive line for 12 seasons. McDaniel started 202 consecutive games in his career, and his 190 games played for the Vikings ranks him in fourth place among Vikings offensive linemen.
At 6'3", 276 pounds, McDaniel was just flat out more athletic than most offensive linemen. McDaniel had a very strong upper body and quick feet and powerful legs that made him a prototypical guard. There have been very few who've ever played the position who were as good at pulling and leading sweeps than McDaniel.
McDaniel didn't make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, but he was voted on to the team his next 12 years in the league and was voted first-team All-Pro seven times. He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
After a ridiculous five-year wait, Cris Carter is finally going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Carter is one of the best receivers to ever play the game, a superlative route-runner who used the sidelines better than anyone and has among the best hands of all time.
He's just not the best receiver to ever play for the Vikings. (I'll pause here and wait for those who want to leave comments calling me an idiot know-nothing who has zero right to be making this list.)
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 one of the best pairs 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. Carter holds almost every Vikings career receiving record: games, receptions, yards and touchdowns. (It should be noted that Carter's yards per catch is ranked 12th out of the 13 receivers on this list. It should also be noted that his .586 touchdowns per game is far ahead of every other Vikings receiver but one, whom he's far behind.)
After getting a second chance in pro football with the Vikings, Carter did more than just reach his potential, he outworked everyone in the game to become one of the very best to ever play it. His longevity and offseason passion are a credit to the man Carter turned himself into.
Carter made eight Pro Bowls in his career and was twice named first-team All-Pro. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings had the first overall pick in the 1968 NFL draft, and they didn't hesitate in drafting offensive tackle Ron Yary out of Southern Cal. Yary had been an All-American both his junior and senior seasons at USC, and he won the Outland Trophy his senior season as the best lineman in college football.
The Vikings had traded Fran Tarkenton in order to get the No. 1 pick, and Yary became the first offensive lineman to ever be taken first overall.
The Vikings won 11 division titles, four NFC titles and played in four Super Bowls while Yary was with the team. At 6'5", 255 pounds, and a gifted athlete, Yary was simply dominant at right tackle and goes down as one of the very best to ever play the position.
Yary was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro six times. He was voted the NFC Offensive Lineman of the Year three straight seasons, from 1973-1975.
Yary was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings didn't have to look very far when making their first pick in the 1964 draft. With the sixth overall choice, Minnesota selected two time All-American Carl Eller from the University of Minnesota.
Eller started every game as a rookie and led the team with four fumble recoveries that year, returning one for a touchdown. Eller would start every game but two in his first 14 seasons in the league, making the Pro Bowl six times and being named first-team All-Pro five times.
His 209 games played is second all time among Vikings defensive linemen. Eller is credited with being the Vikings all-time sacks leader with 130.5. Eller had 15 sacks in both 1969 and in 1977 and had seven seasons with double-digit sacks.
Eller, Alan Page and Jim Marshall formed the nucleus of the Purple People Eaters, the Vikings' dominant defense that led to 10 division titles in an 11-year span. Eller was on four NFC championship teams and played in four Super Bowls.
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
The Minnesota Vikings have had three nuclear bombs on offense in their history, and they're all in the top four of our list. Of the three, none had more of an explosive impact than Randy Moss, the Vikings' first-round pick in the 1998 draft.
Yes, we all wish that Moss would have been more of a professional, had a little less swag, and a little more grrr. But that wasn't him. He was Matt Damon as Will Hunting, setting fire to the math proof and snarling, "Do you know how freaking easy this is for me?"
Moss played at the collegiate level for Marshall University after being denied entrance to Notre Dame and being dismissed from Florida State. Moss was an All-American for two years while at Marshall and decided to turn professional after the 1997 season. Expected to be the most probed player at the NFL combine, Moss didn't show up at it.
He then got scouts drooling again with a legendary pro day at Marshall, running a 4.25 40-yard dash, jumping more than 44 inches and catching nearly everything thrown at him.
Still, because of all the red flags around Moss, he dropped all the way down to the 21st pick, where the Vikings were more than happy to grab him and add him to their receiver mix with Cris Carter and Jake Reed.
Moss simply overwhelmed NFL defenders as a rookie, catching 69 balls for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns, which led the league. He was named AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in a landslide.
For the first six seasons of his NFL career, Moss was like nothing the NFL had ever seen before at the wide receiver position, a blend of otherworldly speed, jumping ability and an innate sense to know exactly when to go up and get the football at its highest point. He was simply unstoppable and the greatest deep threat in the history of the sport. He caught a touchdown pass of at least 60 yards every year in his first stint with the team.
Moss finished his Vikings career with 587 receptions, 9,316 yards and 92 touchdowns, ranking second all time in each category. Moss averaged .814 touchdowns per game with Minnesota, by far the best number in Vikings history.
Moss was a six-time Pro Bowler and made first-team All-Pro four times. He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Moss could certainly be surly and petulant and his second time around with the Vikings would land him on an all-time worst Vikings list.
But during his first six years in the league, Moss put together a stretch of play that has never been matched in the history of the NFL.
The Purple People Eaters, the legendary defenses of the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1960s and 1970s were one of the best defensive units in the history of the league. The best player on that defense was defensive tackle Alan Page.
The Vikings had three first-round picks in the 1967 draft, and with the third of those, they chose 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.
At 6'4", 240 pounds, Page was undersized for a defensive tackle, but he used his strength and quickness to overwhelm offensive lineman. Page had 108.5 sacks while with Minnesota and also had 22 fumble recoveries, scored three touchdowns and recorded three safeties. He had a career-high 18 sacks in 1976 and unofficially had six seasons with 10 or more sacks.
Page made the Pro Bowl nine straight seasons, from 1968-1976, and was voted first-team All-Pro six times. 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 Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988 and was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010.
Nobody who ever played NFL football made it look more like a sandlot game than Francis Asbury Tarkenton.
Selected in the third round of the 1961 draft out of the University of Georgia, Tarkenton served notice that he was going to be an NFL force in his very first game, leading the expansion Vikings to a stunning 37-13 win over the Chicago Bears.
Like any expansion team, the Vikings struggled mightily to win games in Tarkenton's first go-round with the club, finishing above .500 just once in his first six seasons.
By the time the Vikings traded to get Tarkenton back in 1972, the Vikings had formed a dominant defense and become one of the top teams in the NFL.
After a bitterly disappointing 1972 season saw the Vikings finish 7-7, Tarkenton led the team to a 43-10-1 record over the next four seasons. The Vikings racked up three NFC championships and played in three Super Bowls in four years in that stretch.
Tarkenton's numbers were staggering, and he retired holding nearly every NFL passing mark in the book. Tarkenton had an uncanny feel for the game and made scrambling an art form.
Tarkenton won 91 games for the Vikings and holds every career mark for quarterbacks, amassing 2,635 completions for 33,098 yards and 239 touchdowns (80 more than Tommy Kramer, who ranks second.)
Tarkenton was a nine-time Pro Bowler and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986. He was voted one of the 50 greatest Vikings in 2010. If Tarkenton wouldn't have played five seasons for the New York Giants in the middle of his career, he might be untouchable at the top of any Vikings list.
We might be projecting a little bit down the road here, but after the 2012 MVP season, we're comfortable saying it: Adrian Peterson is the best player to ever wear a Minnesota Vikings uniform.
On October 14, 2006, Peterson was playing college football for Oklahoma with his father in attendance for the first time. Perhaps a little extra jazzed because his dad had been released from prison and was in the crowd, Peterson leapt into the end zone after a 53-yard run and broke his collar bone. Coupled with another shoulder injury he'd suffered as a freshmen, NFL scouting experts labeled Peterson as "injury prone." That broken collar bone was one of the best things that ever happened to the Minnesota Vikings.
It was obvious to anyone with eyeballs that Peterson had been the best player in college football for three seasons, but he still fell to the Vikings with the seventh pick in the 2007 draft. It's turned out to be a pretty good pick.
Peterson rushed for more than 100 yards in his first game as a pro and then set a new NFL record in just his eighth game, rushing for 296 yards and three touchdowns against the San Diego Chargers. He finished his first season with 1,341 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns and easily won the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Peterson only got better in his second season, leading the NFL in rushing with 1,760 yards. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons before injuries kept him just below the mark in 2011. A devastating knee injury on Christmas Eve of that season put Peterson's future in jeopardy, as he needed complete reconstructive surgery to repair his left knee.
Peterson simply rehabbed like a madman and returned on opening day in 2012 better than ever. Peterson won the NFL MVP Award as he rushed for 2,097 yards, barely missing out on Eric Dickerson's single season record.
In just six seasons, Peterson has rushed for 8,849 yards and scored 80 touchdowns. His running style is a combination of beautiful and nasty; perhaps the only comparisons are Jim Brown and Walter Payton.
Peterson has already racked up nine NFL rushing records, including 10 touchdown runs of more than 60 yards. He has 12 Vikings records, including career rushing yards and touchdowns.
Adrian Peterson is just 28 years old. He's entering a period in his career where most running backs begin to show their age, especially with all of the tread that Peterson has lost from his proverbial tires. But Peterson is the hardest worker in the room. Any room. He trains with an abandon that's only seen in the greatest of athletes.
It should be fun to see how the rest of the career of the greatest Viking ever plays out.