Minnesota Vikings' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

Matthew Stensrud@@MattStensrudContributor IIIApril 18, 2014

Minnesota Vikings' Best and Worst Draft Picks of the Last Decade

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    The Minnesota Vikings are patiently waiting for the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, which will be held May 8-10 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

    The goal of every team is to best utilize the draft picks available while adding value at positions of need and improving upon its current roster.

    Over the years, there are cases where the Vikings did just that, but also several instances where things couldn't have gone any worse for the club.

    We take a look at the five worst and five best selections by Minnesota over the last 10 years, taking into account overall performance and value given the round selected.

    Let's hope more players fall on the positive side of the ledger in this year's event.


    Statistics courtesy of NFL.com, unless otherwise noted. Player rankings and advanced statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

Tarvaris Jackson: 5th-Worst Pick Since 2004

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    Kicking things off, Tarvaris Jackson was never able to fully realize his talents in Minnesota at quarterback, shifting between a backup and starter during his five-year career in purple and gold.

    Jackson was drafted with the last pick in the second round of the 2006 NFL draft, surprising many onlookers who expected the quarterback out of Alabama State to go much later

    The fact that Jackson was never able to establish himself as more than an average signal-caller and considering where he was drafted are the reasons for him cracking this list.

Cordarrelle Patterson: 5th-Best Pick Since 2004

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    Cordarrelle Patterson was drafted just last year by the Vikings when general manager Rick Spielman traded back in the first round to select the versatile receiver.

    Given his rookie campaign and potential for the future, he has already positioned himself as one of the best picks of the last decade.

    Patterson set franchise records for longest touchdown run by a wide receiver (50), kickoff return yards in a season (1,393) and average kickoff return yards (32.4), according to KFAN.com's A.J. Mansour.

    Percy who?

Erasmus James: 4th-Worst Pick Since 2004

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    Coming out of Wisconsin, Erasmus James was touted as one of the premier prospects at defensive end.

    The Vikings drafted James with the 18th overall selection in the 2005 NFL draft hoping to add a dynamic playmaker on the edge of the defensive line.

    Unfortunately, James fizzled out in just three years with Minnesota, recording 37 tackles and five sacks during that span. His career was riddled with injuries and he retired one year later after a short stint with Washington.

Harrison Smith: 4th-Best Pick Since 2004

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    Another player the Vikings traded back in the first round to select, Harrison Smith has paid dividends for the team at free safety.

    He broke out during his rookie campaign in 2012, ranking as the 19th-best overall safety and sixth-best in pass coverage, via Pro Football Focus.

    Smith had a difficult 2013 campaign due to injury, yet he was still able to record 58 tackles and two interceptions in seven games started. He plays a lead role for Minnesota in the secondary and must continue to do so for any chance at improvement as a whole.

Chris Cook: 3rd-Worst Pick Since 2004

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    As much as Smith has been a rock for the Vikings in the secondary, Chris Cook was Minnesota's Achilles' heel.

    Selected 34th overall in the 2010 draft, Cook has never played an entire season, constantly sidelined by nagging injuries. He's also never intercepted a pass or forced a fumble during his four years in Minnesota.

    This past season, Cook had the second-worst opposing quarterback rating for passes into his coverage area, via PFF. His overall ranking was 95th among cornerbacks.

    Cook recently signed a one-year contract for the veteran minimum with the San Francisco 49ers, bringing his "skills" to the Bay Area.

Chad Greenway: 3rd-Best Pick Since 2004

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    For a player drafted 17th overall by the Vikings in 2006, Chad Greenway has proved to be one of the most consistent players for the team on defense.

    Despite sitting out his rookie year with injury, Greenway has led Minnesota in tackles over the last six seasons, tying Scott Studwell's record for the franchise.

    From 2008-2010, Greenway ranked in the top 10 among outside linebackers in a 4-3 defensive scheme, via PFF. 

    Although Greenway has been declining in performance over the last couple years from that high threshold, he remains an integral part of the Vikings defense and has proved to be a top draft pick.

Christian Ponder: 2nd-Worst Pick Since 2004

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    In many ways, you have to feel bad for a guy like Christian Ponder. He never had control over where he was selected in the 2011 NFL draft, but as soon as he was chosen with the 12th overall pick by the Vikings, a huge spotlight was placed on the quarterback.

    Over three seasons, Ponder's top quarterback rating was 81.2, the only year the team made the playoffs during that span. He has never had a season where he averaged seven yards or more per completion. As a comparison, Aaron Rodgers averaged 8.7 last season.

    Ponder's time in Minnesota as a starting quarterback appears to be over, as the front office signed Matt Cassel to a two-year contract and will likely select a quarterback in this year's draft. 

John Sullivan: 2nd-Best Pick Since 2004

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    It's not too often that a sixth-round draft pick proves to be one of the best selections for a franchise in a 10-year span, but here we are with John Sullivan.

    The center nicknamed "Sully" has been a commanding force on the offensive line, helping to orchestrate a top rushing attack in the NFL.

    According to PFF, Sullivan ranked in the top three among centers between 2011-2013 (first, third and first, respectively). He rarely gets caught committing a penalty and excels in both pass and run blocking, although he's most dominant in the latter.

Troy Williamson: Worst Pick Since 2004

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    You've made it to the worst draft pick for the Vikings over the last decade. Your prize is a sad reminder of wide receiver Troy Williamson.

    Drafted in 2005 with the seventh overall pick, Williamson was supposed to be the second-coming of Randy Moss, who was traded to the Oakland Raiders in the offseason.

    Nicknamed "Wide-Open," an accurate moniker given his blazing speed, Williamson was most remembered for crucial drops, something that admittedly did not help Jackson's candidacy at quarterback. 

    Williamson was famously diagnosed with imbalanced eye strength, a condition that affects depth perception and (apparently) was the cause for his excessive drops.

    Despite prescribed eye exercises for Williamson, the former South Carolina prospect would only spend three years in Minnesota, recording three touchdowns and 1,067 yards. 

Adrian Peterson: Best Pick Since 2004

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    This should come as no surprise. Adrian Peterson is the best draft pick for the Vikings over the last 10 years. He may be the best player since Randy Moss was selected in 1998.

    Since being drafted in 2007, Peterson has set the single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the San Diego Chargers during his rookie campaign and nearly broke the single-season rushing record with 2,097 yards in 2012.

    Over his seven-year career, Peterson has 10,115 yards, which places him 27th on the all-time career list. With another 1,000 yards rushing this season, he would jump into the top 20.

    Given Peterson's performance over the years, it's difficult to fathom another player coming around that could supplant him as the best pick in a decade.

    But the front office would certainly like to get close with the upcoming 2014 draft.


    Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+