The Vikings have made 51 first-round draft picks dating back to their NFL debut in 1961. We're not going to rank all 51 of those picks because we don't have a death wish, but would you be interested in seeing the best and worst of those picks? If so, read on.
1. (tie) Carl Eller – 6th overall pick, 1964
1. (tie) Alan Page – 15, 1967
1. (tie) Ron Yary – 1, 1968
1. (tie) Chris Doleman – 4, 1985
1. (tie) Randall McDaniel – 19, 1988
Maybe that's a cop-out, but how do you rate one Pro Football Hall of Famer over another? You might look at value and say McDaniel was the best pick, or say that Page was the man because he won the NFL's MVP award, but honestly, you could make the case for ranking these five in any order and you'd get no argument here.
6. Adrian Peterson – 7, 2007
He's a sure-fire future Hall of Famer who only solidified those credentials with his super-human effort returning from a torn ACL to post the second-most rushing yards in a season in NFL history. He'll be up there within that top class the day his bust is unveiled in Canton.
7. Randy Moss – 21, 1998
Just like Peterson, you'll see Moss in a garish yellow blazer within the next decade. He gets a few demerits for not fully living up to his potential in Minnesota – seriously, he could have been the greatest receiver who ever lived had he cared enough to try on every play – but he changed the fortunes of the entire franchise the first day he took the field in Mankato.
8. Chuck Foreman – 12, 1973
Here's another player who revolutionized his position. Foreman never truly got the accolades he deserved nationally, perhaps because he was part of those Vikings teams that couldn't win the big one, but Jerry Burns' precursor to the West Coast offense wouldn't have been nearly as effective without Forman's unique rushing and pass-catching abilities.
9. Korey Stringer – 24, 1995
His career was tragically cut short after just six seasons, but he made a huge impact on the franchise in his too-brief time in Minnesota. Stringer had just made his first Pro Bowl and was emerging as a possible heir to McDaniel as the leader on the offensive line and in the locker room when he succumbed to heat stroke during training camp in 2001. His death not only sent the Vikings into a spiral – they missed the playoffs in six of the next seven seasons, after they'd made the postseason in eight of the previous nine years – but also triggered policy changes regarding practicing and playing in oppressive heat and humidity from youth football up to the NFL that has likely prevented numerous other fatalities.
10. Joey Browner – 19, 1983
A nine-year starter and six-time Pro Bowler, Browner was named to the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team. Plus, he had the strongest hands in the NFL – as Vikings fans were reminded every week by network announcers who thought they were breaking news – which he used to yank down opposing carriers and pick off 37 passes, fourth-most in team history.
11 through 46 – all kinds of great, good, mediocre and bad players, not to mention a few guys who remain works in progress (Matt Kalil, for one, has a great shot at cracking the top 10). But we're running out of pixels here, so let's dive into the five worst first-round picks in Vikings history.
47. D.J. Dozier – 14, 1987
His best season was his rookie year, when he rushed for 257 yards and five touchdowns. He wound up retiring from the NFL to play pro baseball. But his failure did arguably more damage to any franchise than any player in history, because if he'd delivered what the Vikings thought they were getting, they never would have made the Herschel Walker trade.
48. Derrick Alexander – 11, 1995
The Vikings needed a defensive lineman. They took Alexander, who finished his five-year NFL career with 164 tackles and 20 sacks. They passed on Warren Sapp, who finished his 13-year NFL career with 438 tackles, 96.5 sacks, and a bust in Canton. Oops.
49. Leo Hayden – 24, 1971
Who? That's right, the Vikings took a guy named Leo Hayden in the first round of the 1971 draft. He appeared in seven games as a rookie, never touched the ball, and washed out of the league two years later after an unremarkable stint with the Cardinals. Who did they pass up that year? Jack Ham, Dan Dierdorf and Ken Anderson, just to name a few better options.
50. Dimitrius Underwood – 29, 1999
Dennis Green infamously referred to Underwood as an "extra pick" acquired from Washington in exchange for Brad Johnson. Green obviously thought Underwood was worth the gamble, despite numerous red flags and unenthusiastic reports from his own coaches at Michigan State. Underwood showed up for training camp in battle fatigues, suggesting he was ready for combat, then walked out on the team after his first practice in Mankato, never to return.
51. Troy Williamson – 7, 2005
Underwood hurt the Vikings by not playing. Williamson hurt the Vikings by playing. His selection was a textbook overreaction on so many levels. The No. 7 pick came from the Raiders in the Moss trade, and they clearly felt pressure to use that pick to replace Moss. They reached for a receiver who looked great in shorts and a T-shirt at the NFL Combine but had one little problem that plagued him in his three years in Minnesota – he couldn't catch the ball. In 39 games here he caught 79 balls – and dropped at least half that many – despite numerous creative efforts to improve his vision, his hands and his route-running. They all failed, earning him the coveted title of the worst first-round pick in Vikings history.
Who'd we miss, good or bad? Let's hear about it in the comments.
Patrick Donnelly is a Senior Editor at SportsData, a contributor to the 2012 Vikings Yearbook, and has covered the Vikings for FOXSportsNorth.com, Viking Update and the Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @donnelly612.
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