The Minnesota Vikings have made a name for themselves in the past five years by building simultaneously through the draft as well as through free agency.
The Vikings have seen some of their best drafts in just the past few years, as they have landed the likes of Kevin Williams, Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Cedric Griffin.
After evaluating all of the Vikings drafts, it becomes clear that the best drafts in franchise history were in the early years and the most recent years. The Vikings seemed to hit the draft doldrums in their middle years with many ineffective draft picks.
Notable draft picks that are left out of this list include: Randall McDaniel, Ron Yary, and Chris Doleman. These Vikings greats were left out because the rest of their respective draft classes were far too poor.
Two of the best Vikings drafts came in the very early years while four of them have come in just the last twelve years. The drafts are listed in chronological order.
The Vikings had a surprisingly great draft in their first year as a franchise.
Their first three picks—Tommy Mason (first round), Rip Hawkins (second round), and Fran Tarkenton (third round)—went on to make Pro Bowls during their careers.
Tommy Mason was a do-it-all flanker/half back who was valuable on offense for the Vikings in their early years.
Mason's best season came in 1962 when he had 740 yards rushing and 603 yards receiving to go with eight total touchdowns. Mason also made the Pro Bowl that year as well as the two years following.
Rip Hawkins racked up five interceptions in his rookie campaign while playing linebacker for the Vikings. Hawkins only lasted five years in the NFL, but did make a Pro Bowl in 1963.
The main reason this is one of the best drafts in Vikings history, though, is Fran Tarkenton. Tark is the only true great quarterback in Vikings history.
Tarkenton led the Vikings to three Super Bowl appearances and made five Pro Bowls with the Vikings.
Though the Vikings traded Tarkenton for draft picks after the 1966 season, they did acquire Alan Page with one of those picks.
Tarkenton eventually re-joined the Vikings to lead them to Super Bowls during the 1973, 1974, and 1976 seasons.
The 1967 draft was an interesting one for the Minnesota Vikings.
With three first round picks, the Vikings had the second, eight, and fifteenth picks.
With the second overall pick, the Vikings took Clint Jones, a running back from Michigan State. Jones played six decent seasons for the Vikings but was never a standout player.
This pick was not a great pick but appears less troublesome when looking at the next two picks.
With the eighth overall pick, the Vikings took a solid split end in Gene Washington, also from Michigan State. From 1968 to 1970, Washington was the key big-play threat on an otherwise lethargic offense.
During those three seasons, Washington averaged 16.4, 21.1, and 16.0 yards per catch while scoring 19 touchdowns.
Those first two picks were decent but did not blow anyone away.
The fifteenth overall pick was the big impact player: Alan Page. He alone makes this a great draft for the Vikings.
Page won the NFL MVP in 1971 and remains the first defensive player and only defensive lineman in NFL history to win the award.
The famous "Purple People Eaters" defense was led by Page and held opponents to just 133 points in 1969 and 139 points in 1971.
Alan Page was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1988 and goes down as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.
Randy Moss may go down as one of the top receivers to ever play in the NFL. If he keeps playing, Moss can make a run at many of Jerry Rice's records.
Though the Vikings had to let Moss go because of "chemistry" issues in 2005, he put up incredible numbers from 1998 to 2004.
Moss highlighted a Vikings offense in 1998 that set records for production and led the team to a 15-1 record.
Many teams passed on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft because of his off the field issues. As a result, Moss fell in the draft despite being a remarkable talent.
As the Vikings have become known for, they drafted Moss anyway with the 21st overall pick and were willing to put up with his issues...so long as he kept putting up the numbers.
Moss put up phenomenal numbers until 2005, when his dramatic ways wore on the Vikings: Moss had his worst statistical season and was traded to the Oakland Raiders.
One of the best value picks in Vikings history came in 1998 as well, when Minnesota drafted center Matt Birk from Harvard in the sixth round.
Birk was a staple on the Vikings offensive line for 10 seasons, made six Pro Bowls, and was elected an All-Pro twice.
The impact of Matt Birk was felt in 2009 when the Vikings struggled to open holes for Adrian Peterson after Birk departed for the Baltimore Ravens in free agency and left the Vikings with the inexperienced John Sullivan at center.
Matt Birk was a phenomenal center and leader for the Vikings during the last decade.
The 2003 NFL Draft yielded phenomenal results for the Vikings. The Vikings took Kevin Williams in the first round, ninth overall, followed by linebacker E.J. Henderson in the second round.
Kevin Williams, a defensive tackle out of Oklahoma State, is now one of the best in the NFL at his position.
Williams has made the Pro Bowl five times and has been elected to the All-Pro team four times.
Williams is known for his dual ability to stuff the run and rush the passer. He is one of the key reasons that the Vikings boast a top run defense year-in and year-out.
E.J. Henderson has been a great linebacker and emotional leader for the Minnesota Vikings over the last six seasons. Despite being injured for most of 2008 and 2009, Henderson has had a great impact on the Vikings defense.
Henderson is also known for his hard hits and willingness to sacrifice his body, having his best season in 2007 when he recorded 118 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles.
Henderson is currently recovering from a gruesome leg injury suffered early in the 2009 season. The Vikings hope he can fully recover for 2010 to come back and lead their defense.
2006 and 2007 were two of the best years in Vikings history when it comes to the draft: The Vikings came out of those two drafts with five key starters, a rare feat for any team.
The 2006 draft yielded three of those starters, all on the defensive side of the ball.
While many will contend that the Vikings made bad picks in Tarvaris Jackson and Ryan Cook in 2006, those picks become irrelevant in the grand scheme.
When looking through a team's draft history it is intriguing to see how many terrible picks are made. Suffice to say, when a team makes three great picks in a draft, the rest become irrelevant.
Though none of the 2006 draftees have turned into superstars, they are all great starters on a great defense.
Chad Greenway, drafted in the first round of 2006, tore his ACL before ever seeing the field in a regular season game during his rookie year.
Since then, Greenway has come back to establish himself as a solid outside linebacker on one of the best defensive units in the NFL.
Cedric Griffin, the Vikings' 2006 second round pick, is a rare cornerback who prefers contact to playing the ball. Griffin hits hard and is a great tackler; just what you want in a cover-two corner.
In the past two seasons, Griffin has played great football and established himself as one of the best tackling corners in the NFL.
While the defensive line gets much of the credit for stuffing the run, Griffin plays his part. He recorded over 90 tackles in 2007 and 2008.
Finally, Ray Edwards, the fourth round pick of this class, is defensive starter number three to come out of the 2006 draft for the Vikings.
Edwards is not overly flashy at left defensive end and benefits greatly from playing with three All-Pros on the defensive line. Still, he had a solid season in 2009 with 8.5 sacks.
In the Divisional round of the playoffs this year, Edwards was fierce, sacking Tony Romo three times and forcing a key fumble.
Edwards added another key sack and forced fumble in the NFC Championship against the New Orleans Saints. His performance in the playoffs may earn him a big payday in free agency in 2010.
Say what you will about Adrian Peterson's fumble problems, but he is the best pure runner in the NFL.
Peterson runs with the power of a linebacker and the swiftness of a receiver.
Adrian Peterson is so difficult to stop that teams continuously put up eight-man fronts. Teams would have anyone on the Vikings beat them before Peterson.
Despite facing stacked boxes, Adrian Peterson has run for 4484 yards and 40 touchdowns in his first three seasons.
If he can learn to hold on to the football, look out: Peterson has the potential to shatter records.
Sidney Rice seemed as though he would be a bust after an injury-plagued 2008. Drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft, the Vikings had high hopes for the lanky receiver out of South Carolina.
Two years later, many fans thought Rice was Troy Williamson: Part Two, another Gamecock who couldn't hack it in The League.
After putting in a rigorous offseason of workouts with Larry Fitzgerald and Cris Carter, Rice proved all his doubters wrong.
Sidney Rice broke out in 2009 for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming Brett Favre's favorite target.
Rice possesses incredible ball skills and does not fear the middle of the field, despite a slight frame.
While the value of the 2007 draft will be played out in more detail over the next few season, until proven otherwise, this is one of the best drafts in Vikings history.