The 2010 Draft will be the 50th go-around for the Minnesota Vikings. In that time, there have been several Hall of Fame picks, and some historic embarrassments as well.
Let's turn back the clock and acknowledge the very best picks of every round of the past 49 years.
Before we jump in, though, let's not forget the guys who nobody wanted—the undrafted free agents.
At 6'1" and 240 pounds, John Randle was considered too small to play DT even in D-I. He bulked up as a Viking, gaining almost 50 pounds over his career.
After 114 sacks and seven Pro Bowl selections as a Viking, he became a member of this year's Hall of Fame class. Not bad at all for an undersized defensive lineman out of D-II Texas A&I.
Center Mick Tingelhoff (Nebraska) was selected to six Pro Bowls, started four Super Bowls, and started every regular season (240) and postseason game the Vikings played during his 17-year career. He's clearly deserving of Hall of Fame recognition, and hopefully will be enshrined soon.
When the Vikings joined the NFL in 1961, the draft was 20 rounds. Here are the best players taken in those late rounds:
Round 20: 1964, Milt Sunde, G, University of Minnesota
Sunde was a starter for eight seasons for the Vikings, including the NFL Championship season of 1969 and Super Bowl IV. He was selected to the 1966 Pro Bowl.
Round 15: 1971, Jeff Wright, S, Minnesota
Started for four seasons and in three Super Bowls.
Round 13: 1965, Dave Osborn, RB, North Dakota
This Dave Osborn was well-known to football fans before anyone knew who "Super Dave" was. He started five seasons and two Super Bowls, scoring a TD in SB IV. He was selected to the 1970 Pro Bowl.
Round 12: 1986, Jesse Solomon, LB, Florida State
He started for five seasons. Unfortunately, part of his notoriety is being one of the five players sent along with six draft picks to the Cowboys for Herschel Walker in 1989.
Round 11: 1992, Charles Evans, FB, Clark Atlanta Evans started three seasons and was one of the unsung contributors to the record-setting 1998 offense. He was a good blocker and receiving threat out of the backfield.
Voigt started six seasons for the Vikes and three Super Bowls, scoring a TD in SB XI. He's the fifth leading receiver in Vikings postseason history.
He was an undersized TE who flew under the radar, but was always in sync with QB Fran Tarkenton and seemed to catch everything thrown his way, especially on third down. He was a smart football player who filled his role well and always found a way to contribute.
Studwell is the franchise's career leader in tackles and has over 500 more stops than second place holder Matt Blair. He's fifth in games played behind legends Jim Marshall, Mick Tingelhoff, Fred Cox, and Carl Eller.
An intense leader, Studwell was one of the few constants on a post-Purple People Eater defense that went through some rocky times in his 14 seasons. He was selected to two Pro Bowl squads and still serves the team as its Director of College Scouting.
Even though Wilson was a starter for only a couple of seasons, he played 10 seasons in Minnesota and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 1988.
He wasn't spectacular, even in that Pro Bowl year. But he was a good game manager who didn't make many mistakes, despite many fans' remembering his incomplete pass at the goal line to end the 1987 NFC Championship loss to the Redskins.
He and Brad Johnson were two of the most reliable No. 2 QBs in franchise history, playing 17 seasons in purple between them. Very nice production for eighth and ninth round picks, respectively.
Jordan was the best TE in Vikings history, retiring with the franchise's career receptions crown with 498 after the 1994 season. He's still third in team history in catches, trailing only future Hall of Famers Cris Carter and Randy Moss.
He was named to six straight Pro Bowls. What makes his accomplishments even more noteworthy is that in his 10 seasons as a starter, he played with eight different starting QBs.
Honorable Mentions: CBs Bobby Bryant and Carl Lee, who were selected to five Pro Bowls between them. Bryant is second in team history in interceptions behind Paul Krause. Lee is sixth.
After Jordan, Birk is the other Ivy Leaguer to make this list. Looking back at the 1998 draft class that started with Randy Moss, he's also the "other" stud taken by the team that year.
But Matty was a great player in his own right. He was smart, mobile, consistent, tough, and always prepared. His toughness may have actually led to his losing some luster in the eyes of some fans, as he often played hurt in the latter half of his Viking career. He performed well enough to earn six Pro Bowl berths along the way.
Honorable Mention: 1979, TE Joe Senser from West Chester. Senser's career was cut short by a knee injury, but not before a monster Pro Bowl year in 1981, during which he gained 1004 yards through the air, still a Viking record for a TE.
McDaniel was part-Will, part-Mike in his stacked LB position, often lining up directly behind under-tackle John Randle.
He played well within the system, had good recognition skills, shot gaps well, and was a very solid tackler. He's second in team history in sacks among LBs, after Matt Blair.
McDaniel was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 1998 season.
Honorable Mention: 1961, CB Ed Sharockman from Pitt. Sharockman is third in franchise history in interceptions behind Paul Krause and Bobby Bryant, and tied for first in defensive TDs.
Winston was an integral member of the Purple People Eaters. He was a 225-pound, two-way lineman at LSU and moved to LB as pro, starting at Sam LB from 1963 through 1975, including three Super Bowls.
He's tied with Randall McDaniel at eighth on the team's all-time list in games played with 190. Winston was also the team's leading tackler in the 1969 postseason, when the team won its only NFL Championship.
What can be said about the Scrambler that fans don't already know? Everyone's familiar with his owning all the major passing records when he retired after 18 seasons, as well as being the leading rusher of all-time among QBs.
What the stats don't reveal is that Fran was a savvy football player who was always prepared and always in command of the huddle.
It's true he was 0-3 in Super Bowls, but that was more a matter of bad timing than a reflection of his skills. The Purple People Eaters were still strong during the regular season in those Super Bowl years with Fran, but age had crept up with them. Opponents figured out that in the postseason the lightweight, worn down unit could be run over. In Fran's three Super Bowls, opponents rushed for an astounding average of 237 yards on 54 carries...It wasn't Fran's job to tackle the other teams' RBs.
Recently Fran has criticized Brett Favre seemingly any time he can get in front of a microphone. It's an ugly side of Fran that subtracts from his legacy. It doesn't make sense to bad-mouth someone performing well and winning games for the franchise he supposedly remains loyal to. Vike fans are happy Brett took them to the NFC Championship game. He should be, too.
Ironically, Fran and Brett have very similar personalities. Both have wide independent streaks and "look at me" egos that have rubbed some coaches, players, and fans the wrong way.
Hopefully at some point Fran can take a good, long look in the mirror and admit that if he had still been at the top of his game in his 40s, he wouldn't have stayed home, either, even if it meant playing for a team he won't be most associated with after leaving the game.
You know you're a special player when the NFL has to make a rule specifically to stop you.
That's what happened to Matt Blair. He was blocking so many kicks, they made it illegal for a defender to take a running start toward the line of scrimmage when jumping to block a field goal or an extra point.
Blair was a tall, rangy Sam LB who had a knack for big plays. To this fan, he was clearly the best LB in team history. He's second in team history in tackles to Scott Studwell, is third in team history behind Jim Marshall and Carl Eller in fumbles recovered, and blocked more kicks than any other Viking.
And who knows how many more he'd have swatted, if not for the rule change?
Blair was selected to six straight Pro Bowls and started in Super Bowl XI.
Asterisk Pick: In 1963 the Vikings selected LB Bobby Bell from the University of Minnesota in the second round. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career, unfortunately with the Kansas City Chiefs, who also selected him in the 1963 AFL draft. Worse for Vike fans, Bell was an integral player on the Chiefs team that embarrassed the Vikings 23-7 in Super Bowl IV.
Obviously the first round was the most difficult to judge. So many elite players to choose from.
For many Vike fans today, the choices would boil down to either Randy Moss or Adrian Peterson. Certainly cases could be made for either of them. They're two of the most exciting and physically freakish players at their positions not only in Vikings' history, but NFL history.
And then you have Hall of Famers Carl Eller, Ron Yary, and Randall McDaniel, who were selected to an astounding 25 Pro Bowls between them.
But in the end I chose the best football player and man who ever wore a Viking uniform, Alan Page.
On the field, in 1971 Page became the first defensive player named MVP in league history. Combining passion, relentlessness, and instinct with tremendous quickness and explosiveness, he was able to dominate games in ways no other defensive tackle had been able to before.
He made nine Pro Bowl teams and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He had 173 sacks (unofficially, because sacks have been an NFL stat only since 1982), blocked 28 kicks, and recovered 23 fumbles.
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens defense is often mentioned as one of the best (if not THE best) of all time. They held opponents to 10 points per game and won a Super Bowl. However, that magical year was straddled by two not-so-memorable seasons during which they allowed 17 points per game.
The Purple People Eaters held opposing offenses to 10 points per game, for three straight years, beginning in 1969.
Page was the best player on that defense, without question.
Off the field, Page earned his law degree while playing for the Vikings and has served as a Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court since 1992, the first African American to do so. He's been involved in a multitude of philanthropic endeavors during and after his playing days.
Truly a player and man the Minnesota Vikings franchise and fans can be proud of drafting. The Best. I strongly believe, if every Viking who ever played could turn back the clock and was available in this year's draft, and Minnesota had the first pick, the name you'd hear at that spot would be Alan Page's.