Top 50 Minnesota Vikings of All Time

JP FrederickCorrespondent IMay 11, 2010

Top 50 Minnesota Vikings of All Time

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    Disclaimer: A quarterback who had one great year with the Vikings will not be on this list.

    Sorry, Jeff George.

    And Randall Cunningham. And Warren Moon, to an extent. And that Favre guy, I guess.

    This is a top 50 Vikings list and longevity with the team means something. But there were some players who made a big impact in a short amount of time and needed to be recognized. Just not those previously mentioned guys.

    Being on winning teams also means something, which is why the 70s Vikings are heavily represented. But I did try to spread the list out among the fifty years of the franchise.

    You're going to agree with some and disagree with more, but hopefully you'll get a little nostalgic and misty-eyed going down this memory lane, and remember that we're only four months away from more football.

50-41 All-Time Vikings

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    Fred Cox, K, 50: Vikings’ all-time leader in extra points, field goals, and scoring. Kicked in all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowls – which is a dubious honor, I guess.

    Darrin Nelson, RB, 49: Seventh most rushing yards with 4,231 and 17th all-time in receiving yards with 2,202 – though most known for one pass he didn’t catch. Good returner as well.

    Tommy Mason, RB, 48: Three-time pro bowler for the Vikings and eighth most rushing yards in team history. He left the Vikings before their Super Bowl appearances, however.

    Ed McDaniel, LB, 47: Undersized linebacker who was always near the ball. Was a big reason for the 1998 season with a pro bowl campaign, 3 forced fumbles, 7 sacks, and 93 tackles.

    Nate Wright, CB, 46: Most known for being the cornerback Drew Pearson pushed down, Wright was an integral part of the 70s Vikings. He ended his Vikings career with the fifth-most interceptions in team history.

    Ted Brown, RB/FB, 45: Scored the sixth most touchdowns in Vikings history, while being fourth in rushing yards, and 15th in receiving yards. Was part of some mediocre early 80s Vikings teams, though.

    Gene Washington, WR, 44: The original No. 84 deep threat for the Vikings, Washington averaged 21 yards/catch for the ’69 team. A two-time pro bowler for the Vikings, Washington has the twelfth most receiving yards and eleventh most receiving touchdowns for Minnesota.

    Tim Irwin, OT, 43: Took over right tackle from Hall of Famer Ron Yary in 1982 and didn’t give it up until 1993. Blocked some kicks, too.

    Robert Griffith, S, 42: Basically a small linebacker at strong safety, Griffith was a hard-hitter who would assault anyone in front of him. Over 70 tackles for five straight seasons, with 17 interceptions, 7.5 sacks, and 7 forced fumbles in seven years in purple.

    Antoine Winfield, CB, 41: In six seasons with the Vikings, Winfield has displayed some of the best tackling the corner position has ever seen along with some pretty good pass coverage. Lack of tenure with team is only reason for low-ish ranking.

40-31 All-Time Vikings

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    Kirk Lowdermilk, C, 40: The Vikings always seem to have great centers and Lowdermilk was their late 80s/early 90s version. After seven seasons with the Vikings he was signed by the Indianapolis Colts for the then-highest contract ever given to an offensive lineman.

    Jake Reed, WR, 39: Fourth in receiving yards, fifth in catches, sixth in receiving touchdowns in Vikings history. With Cris Carter, became first wide receiver duo to record 1,000 yards in four straight seasons.

    Roy Winston, LB, 38: Winston was an All-American at LSU - as a guard. Moved to linebacker in the NFL, Winston is best known for a gruesome hit on Larry Csonka and he also played in all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowls.

    Henry Thomas, DT, 37: “Hardware Hank” was the bridge between the Doleman defensive lines and the Randle defensive lines and he was good on both. Third-most sacks in Vikings history with 56.

    Carl Lee, CB, 36: Fourth most games ever played by a Vikings defender, sixth most interceptions, and the official leading tackler in Vikings history – though tackles weren’t officially kept for the first twenty years of the Vikings franchise. Either way, for the ten years Lee was starting at corner, he was as dependable as dependable gets.

    Korey Stringer, OT, 35: A promising career cut tragically short. Stringer started 91 of his 93 professional games and – as the aftermath of his death showed – was beloved in the locker room. He was a dominant run-blocker who was part of the great Vikings’ 1998 offensive line.

    Kevin Williams, DT, 34: Could end up being closer to the top ten by the end of his time with the Vikings. Seven seasons into his career and he is a five-time pro bowler, five-time All-Pro, and has the sixth-most sacks in team history. Selected to the 2000s All-Decade team by the Hall of Fame.

    Gary Larsen, DT, 33: The fourth member of the Purple People Eaters; the Ringo, if you will. Estimated to have had 38.5 sacks in his career, Larsen was mainly responsible for stopping the run. A two-time pro bowler, Larsen played in three of the Vikings’ Super Bowls.

    Scott Studwell, LB, 32: The unofficial all-time leader in Vikings tackles with 1,981 and the official single-season record holder with 230. A two-time pro bowler and three-time All-Pro, Studwell had the longevity and production you want from every player.

    Tommy Kramer, QB, 31: More known for off-field problems, Kramer was still a great Vikings quarterback. Second in passing yards and passing touchdowns, “Two-Minute” Tommy had plenty of great moments on the field, including leading the NFL in passer rating in 1986, his only pro bowl season.

30-21 All-Time Vikings

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    Jeff Siemon, LB, 30: Four-time pro bowler and starter on three of the Vikings Super Bowl teams. Good in pass coverage and rushing the passer.

    Daunte Culpepper, QB, 29: This ranking is a little low, or a little high, but Daunte’s career was a rollercoaster of highs and lows. Rushed for ten touchdowns one season and threw for 39 touchdowns in another; had 23 interceptions one year and the most fumbles ever in a Viking uniform.

    Steve Jordan, TE, 28: Unquestionably the best tight end in Vikings history. Third most catches in team history, sixth most receiving yards, and seventh most receiving touchdowns. Jordan was also an adept blocker who was selected to six straight pro bowls from ’86 through ’91.

    Joe Kapp, QB, 27: This ranking seems too high based on stats and tenure with the team, but Kapp’s charisma and grit separates him. He led the Vikings to their first playoff appearance, their first Super Bowl, and tied the NFL record with seven passing touchdowns in one game. Old-time Vikings fans still talk about Kapp with awed appreciation.

    Ahmad Rashad, WR, 26: Rashad was a four-time pro bowler for the Vikings and played in one of their Super Bowls. Fifth in receiving touchdowns, sixth in receptions, seventh in receiving yards for Minnesota.

    Sammy White, WR, 25: Every ‘NFL Big Hits’ clip show has Jack Tatum nearly decapitating Sammy White in Super Bowl XI, but nobody focuses on this: White still caught it. Fourth in receiving touchdowns, fifth in receiving yards, and seventh in receptions, White was the offensive rookie of the year in 1976.

    Matt Birk, C, 24: The great Vikings center of the 2000s, Birk played in six pro bowls during his Vikings career. He was invaluable thanks to his highly-regarded ability to read defenses at the line.

    Bobby Bryant, CB, 23: Probably the best corner in Vikings history, Bryant was a two-time pro bowler who usually made a big play. Bryant has the second most interceptions in Vikings history with 51 and he also forced 13 fumbles and recovered 14 fumbles during his 12-year career.

    Matt Blair, LB, 22: Blair had 20 blocked kicks in his career, the most in team history. He also played on two of the Vikings Super Bowl teams while being selected to six consecutive pro bowls. Blair could play outside linebacker in the 4-3 or the 3-4.

    Keith Millard, DT, 21: Some players get docked for short tenures with the team, but not Millard. His dominance with the Vikings (a single-season record of 18 sacks for a defensive tackle in 1989, when he also won defensive player of the year, and the fourth-most sacks in team history despite only five seasons as a starter) ensures him a high spot on this list.

20-16 All-Time Vikings

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    Dave Osborn, RB, 20: Much like Kapp, Osborn’s persona gives him bonus points on the list. A tough runner in the cold Minnesota snow, Osborn was on three Vikings Super Bowl teams. Unlike Kapp, Osborn has stats: sixth most rushing yards and eleventh most touchdowns in team history.

    Anthony Carter, WR, 19: It’s possible that one game has Carter this high: the divisional playoff game in 1987 against the 49ers. Carter had 10 catches for a then-playoff record 227 yards, one thirty-yard rush, and a still-playoff record 642 all-purpose yards as the Vikings upset the 49ers. He is third in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, and has the fourth-most receptions in Vikings history.

    Mick Tingelhoff, C, 18: The first and best of the Vikings centers. Five-time All-Pro, six-time pro bowler, Tingelhoff was the Vikings starting center from 1962-1978. He played in all four Vikings Super Bowls and retired having played the second-most consecutive games in NFL history (240).

    Bill Brown, RB, 17: Like Osborn, “Boom Boom” Brown was a tough runner, albeit more accomplished. Brown was a four-time pro bowler, has the third-most rushing yards in team history, and has the third most touchdowns.

    Joey Browner, S, 16: Browner was a strong safety who could hit and cover. His 37 interceptions are the fourth-most in Vikings history. Browner was a member of the 1980s All-Decade team, made six pro bowls, and was a three-time All-Pro in his eight seasons with the team.

15-11 All-Time Vikings

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    Robert Smith, RB, 15: The all-time leader in rushing yards and tenth in total touchdowns in only seven seasons. If Smith got an open lane or crease, he was almost impossible to catch. He could also be deadly in the screen game. Retired unexpectedly in 2000 after the best season of his career (rushed for 1,521 yards on 5.2 yards per carry and had 348 receiving yards).

    Paul Krause, S, 14: A Hall of Famer, Krause is the NFL’s all-time leader in interceptions (though he got 28 with the Redskins), Krause is also the Vikings all-time leader in interceptions with 53. Was a six-time pro bowler for the Vikings and two-time All-Pro who played on every Vikings Super Bowl team. His ability to patrol center field on defense let the Purple People Eaters attack the quarterback.

    Gary Zimmerman, OT, 13: Zimmerman is a Hall of Famer who might be best known for his tenure with the Broncos, but he was pretty distinguished during his tenure with the Vikings: four-time pro bowler and three-time All-Pro in six seasons. Like Millard, a short tenure with the team can’t knock him down the list. Unlike with Millard, Zimmerman’s outstanding play lasted longer. He is the best left tackle in Vikings history.

    Adrian Peterson, RB, 12: And here is where Purple Jesus makes his appearance. In his three seasons as a pro, here is a rundown of his accomplishments: already has the fifth-most rushing yards for a Viking and the eighth-most touchdowns; three-time pro bowler; two-time All-Pro; the all-time single-game rushing record with 296 yards. He might be too high, but by the end of his career he might be No. 1. Check this list again in five years.

    Chris Doleman, DE, 11: Possibly the most underrated pass rusher in NFL history, Doleman was a quarterback’s nightmare in the late 80s, culminating with 21 sacks in 1989. He was a six-time pro bowler and two-time All-Pro during his career with the Vikings, which included a one-season stint in 1999 after five seasons away from the team. Doleman has the fourth most official sacks in NFL history with 150 and the second most official sacks in Vikings history, to go along with the most forced fumbles in Vikings history.

10) Jim Marshall

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    Once upon a time, Jim Marshall was cleaning his shotgun and accidently shot himself. He played football that week and every week for 282 straight weeks. Despite being an undersized defensive end (and possibly the fatal flaw on those 70s Vikings teams that couldn’t stop the run in Super Bowls) Marshall recorded an unofficial 127 sacks in his career. He holds the NFL and Vikings record with 29 fumble recoveries. Yeah, sure….he’s the guy who ran the wrong way that one time. Know what else he did that game? Got a sack and forced a fumble - a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and the winning points in the game. And once again: He played in 282 straight games at defensive end in the 1960s and 1970s National Football League, a time when players were a step above Neanderthals. It is a crime that he doesn’t have a shrine in the Hall of Fame.

9) Chuck Foreman

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    One of the forgotten great running backs in NFL history. A five-time pro bowler and four-time All-Pro, Foreman was one of the greatest dual-threat running backs the NFL’s ever seen. His 1975 season was one for the ages: a then-NFL record 22 touchdowns, a then-NFL record 73 receptions for a running back, and 1,722 yards from scrimmage. The Vikings ran Foreman into the ground during his seven years with the team (typical Vikings drive: Foreman run on first down; Foreman run on second down; third down pass and look for Foreman). This caused his career totals to look somewhat lackluster. Still, he is second all-time in rushing yards, ninth in receptions, 13th in receiving yards, and has the fourth-most touchdowns in Vikings history. It was not unusual for Foreman to have 102 rushing yards and 97 receiving yards in a game.

8) Randy Moss

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    He was an atom bomb on the football field for Minnesota, a nuclear deterrent that put the fear of Armageddon – or, at least, a 56-yard touchdown – into opposing defenses. In seven years with the team, Moss was a five-time pro bowler and three-time All-Pro, in addition to being offensive rookie of the year in 1998 when he set a rookie record for receiving touchdowns with 17. He scored more than 10 touchdowns in six of his seven years with the Vikings. Moss is second in team history in receptions, receiving yards, and total touchdowns. Some masochistic fans under-30 hope he will come back someday.

7) Carl Eller

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    Eller was finally elected to the Hall of Fame in 2004; he shouldn’t have had to wait that long. Credited with an unofficial 130 sacks, Eller was the defensive end on the other side of Jim Marshall for the Purple People Eaters. He was a six-time pro bowler and five-time All-Pro. Eller is one of three Vikings, along with Marshall and Tingelhoff, to start in 200 games for Minnesota. At 6’5’’, 250, Eller was the prototypical defensive end for the times.

6) John Randle

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    John Randle was one crazy bastard, in a good way. Randle was an undrafted, undersized defensive tackle who became the all-time leader in official Vikings sacks with 114 and sixth in NFL history with 137. Seven-time pro bowler and six-time All-Pro, Randle was just elected to the Hall of Fame. He had eight straight seasons with more than 10 sacks and carried a weak Vikings defense that had no one around him, leaving him triple-teamed often. Brett Favre’s worst nightmare.

5) Ron Yary

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    The first-ever offensive lineman drafted number one overall and it worked pretty well. A seven-time pro bowler and six-time All-Pro, Yary was a fixture at right tackle for all four Super Bowl teams and eleven division titles. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001 and was on the 1970s All-Decade team. His blend of size, athleticism, strength, and intelligence cemented him as the anchor of the offensive line for his 14 years with the team.

4) Randall McDaniel

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    Set an NFL-record by starting in 12 consecutive pro bowls (one of those was with Tampa Bay, though). He was a seven-time All-Pro with the Vikings, started in 202 consecutive games in his career, and occasionally lined up as a fullback in goal-line situations. With his goofy stance and the amazing leverage it created, McDaniel led the way for five 1,000-yard rushers and four 3,000-yard passers. He is easily one of the best guards, if not the best, to ever play in the NFL.

3) Cris Carter

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    Nobody, not Jerry Rice or Randy Moss or Steve Largent or Fred Biletnikoff with a gallon of stickum, had better hands than Cris Carter. He could be falling sideways out of bounds and still catch a pass – with one hand. Eight-time pro bowler and two-time All-Pro, Carter possesses basically every Vikings receiving record: receptions (1,004), yards (12,383), and touchdowns (110). Ranks in the top-ten in NFL history in most receiving categories: receptions (third), yards (eighth), touchdowns (fourth). A certain Hall of Famer once the Hall of Fame gets their head straight. The best $100 the Vikings ever spent.

2) Fran Tarkenton

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    Revolutionized the quarterback position with his ability to scramble, in addition to being the most prolific passer in NFL history at the time of his retirement. Retired as the NFL all-time leader in passing yards (47,003) and passing touchdowns (342) and is easily the Vikings all-time leader in those categories. Spent some time with the Giants, where he was a four-time pro bowler, and he was a five-time pro bowler with the Vikings. Led the team to three Super Bowls, was the MVP in 1975, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1986. Tarkenton has the twelfth-most rushing yards in team history, not counting all the yards he ran for behind the line of scrimmage.

1) Alan Page

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    The heart of the Purple People Eaters, the drafting of Page was – along with Bud Grant becoming head coach – the Vikings’ first step towards their dominance in the 70s. Page played in all four Vikings’ Super Bowls and was the first defensive player to be named MVP of the league in 1971. He was the defensive player of the year in ’71 and ’73. Unofficially, he had 148 sacks with the Vikings. Page was a nine-time pro bowler and six-time All-Pro who had an amazing knack for jumping the snap and breaking through the offensive line. To do all that from the defensive tackle position at a scant 245 pounds - in addition to becoming a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice after his retirement - is a testament to his hard-work and intelligence.