VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: 2015 Adjusted Jersey Buying Guide

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: March 2, 2015 - 6:55 AM

Last July, my wife and I received a very special gift from a very thoughtful family member of ours. As we continued preparing to welcome our first son into the world, we received a brand new Adrian Peterson onesie, sized for 3-months old. I was pumped, my little buddy was going to have the opportunity to represent our favorite team and do so with the namesake of one of the best Vikings to every play the game. We all know how that story played out and needless to say, that mindset quickly changed.

As the allegations, and then photographs, and then admissions continued to surface surrounding Adrian’s physical abuse of his four-year old son, it just didn’t seem right to put my little son in a jersey depicting his persona. I mean, adult fans were burning and tossing out their #28 jerseys, so I quietly folded little Mac’s away.

Yesterday afternoon I moved that jersey one final time, into a storage bin with all of the other clothes that we just bought and he’s now outgrown. It's sad, but put us in a tough spot. How negatively ironic would it have been dressing out son in the outfit of an admitted abuser. So it got me thinking, if we were to try again, which Vikings jersey would I buy for my son given the current landscape of the team?

It’s an interesting thing, wearing a jersey. You shell out a hundred dollars or so to wear the name of a man you’ve never met on the back of your shirt. You don’t know what they stand for, you don’t know what their personality is like, but you do know that they represent your devotion to your favorite team. So we buy jersey’s to support them.

Unless you’re made out of money, you probably have to think long and hard before making the purchase. For the first time in a long time, there is no Vikings player (Adrian Peterson) in the top-50 for jersey sales this season. With the field wide open here are a multitude of things to consider before making the splash...

  • You want the player to be relevant enough to warrant your fandom Sorry Jeff, but I don’t see a many #8 Locke jerseys floating around town.
     
  • You want them to be longstanding
    I ran into this problem when I fell for the fervor and bought a Brett Favre jersey back in 2009. Five years later, Brett is preparing for his green-gold #4 to be raised into the rafters while his purple and white #4 remains tucked away in the back of my closet.
     
  • You hope that they are of good character
    This was the problem with the #28 jersey my little guy didn’t get to wear. It’s also the problem for those of you who have a #42 Darren Sharper jersey packed away somewhere.

Following those criteria, here are the 3 most worthy player-jerseys you should be considering if you are in the market.

3. TE - Kyle Rudolph
Still attempting to fully supplant his legacy with the Minnesota Vikings, Kyle Rudolph would be a great option if you are looking for a jersey. While the tight end position is not the king of the food chain, they can still be dynamic. Touchdowns can be scored, replays will be seen and a #82 jersey would look pretty cool at your next tailgate party! The best part, unless things go awry (and as we learned this season, they certainly can), Kyle is under contract to be a member of the Vikings through the 2019 season.

2. SS - Harrison Smith
On the verge of a new contract extension with the team, there’s no fear that Harrison Smith will be playing anywhere but in Minnesota for a long time. As it stands today, Smith is one of the team’s most dynamic defensive players, regularly finding himself on the Sportcenter’s Top 10 plays list. Smith is a good guy who has been extremely active in the community and is, at this point in his career, no threat to end up on the police blotter for bad behavior.

1. QB Teddy Bridgewater
This may be a no brainer, but the best jersey to buy for Vikings fans at the moment is a slick home purple Teddy Bridgewater jersey. With one stellar season under his belt, Teddy looks primed and ready to take this team over in the years to come. Playing QB, Teddy’s #5 jersey is one of the most recognizable on the roster and unless you get one of the errant “B-R-I-D-E-W-A-T-E-R jerseys printed by Target earlier this year, it’s going to garner you respect among fellow Vikings fans on game day. On the verge of supplanting himself as the team’s franchise quarterback, there’s no worry that Teddy’s going to pack his bags and return to his hometown South Beach whatsoever. He seems like a team player, is not known to be a troublemaker and is your 2015 “Best Bet to Buy a Jersey” winner!

Honorable mentions:

  • LB Anthony Barr & CB Xavier Rhodes

Now it probably should be noted that there is a select minority out there that find humor in rocking the most obscure jerseys that they can find. To those of you with a Tarvaris Jackson, Troy Williamson and Fuad Reveiz jersey, I salute you! If this floats your boat a little more accurately, I've got a freshly pressed #57 Audie Cole jersey set and ready for you. Buy two and I'll throw in an authentic 80s rock band wig to complete the look.

VikesCentric: Top 5 Vikings draft picks—Second Round

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: March 1, 2015 - 9:33 AM

As one might expect, compiling this list gets tougher as we work our way upwards to the second round (just wait for the first round). The Vikings have selected plenty of great players in the second round, but only a handful can make the top five.

Players such as defensive backs Charlie West, Orlando Thomas and Corey Fuller and lineman Dennis Swilley are just on the outside looking in. Wide receivers Sidney Rice and Qadry Ismail warrant consideration, but their greatness in a Vikings uniform (or anywhere else) was too brief to join the group.

Recent draftees such as tight end Kyle Rudolph (2011) and right tackle Phil Loadholt (2009) were at one time thought to be elite picks, and they still have a chance to live up to that designation, but they have to step up game their significantly in the next segment of their career.

Older players such as wide receiver Lance Rentzel (1965), who had a great NFL career, should be considered, but Rentzel played only two years in Purple (as a kick and punt returner). His greatest days took place in Dallas and Los Angeles catching touchdown passes.

Likewise former Golden Gopher and NFL Hall of Fame defender Bobby Bell was taken in the second round by Minnesota in 1963, but he was also selected by the Kansas Chiefs in the AFL draft and played his entire career there. Curiously, Bell was selected No. 16 overall by the Vikings and selected in the 7th round (56th overall) by the Chiefs—he apparently made the right choice if you consider Super Bowl IV when the Chiefs beat the Vikings and Bell got a ring. Even though he became a Hall of Famer, and everyone at the time thought he would sign with the Vikings, you can’t consider Bell a great Vikings pick since he never played here.

So, while time with the team is a factor on this list, it is not a requirement to play an entire career for the Vikings (these days that often doesn’t happen). But on the other hand, it can influence the ranking on the list, and time spent in Purple was a huge factor for a couple of these second rounders.

No. 5: Jimmy Kleinsasser—Tight End—2nd Round (pick 44), 1999

The selection of Kleinsasser to this list is certainly debatable and could even be called subjective on my part, but I believe this wrecking ball of a tight end/fullback deserves to make the cut. His numbers will never wow you (a total of six receiving touchdowns and one rushing), but for 13 seasons he was an integral part of the offense, blocking for running backs and making huge third-down receptions. His bruising style cleared the way for 1,000-yard rushers in seven of his season as a Viking. Although he had some injury trouble in his career, whenever was on the field (154 of his 181 career games), he always made his presence known.

No. 4: E.J. Henderson—Linebacker—2nd Round (pick 40), 2003

Henderson played linebacker for the Vikings for nine seasons and during that time was a leader of the unit that led the league against the rush for three consecutive seasons (2006-08). He was also voted Vikings Defense MVP by his teammates for the 2007 season. Henderson led the team in tackles three different times (2004, 06-07) and finished his career with 552 tackles, ranking him No. 8 all-time on the team list (although tackling records were inconsistently kept before 1994). Henderson’s tenure was cut short by a severely broken leg late in his career, but he was a Pro Bowler in 2010 and a defensive leader throughout his time as Viking.

No. 3: Sammy White—Wide Receiver—2nd Round (pick 54), 1976

White was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1976, catching 51 passes for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. That alone makes for one heck of a second-round draft pick. White was a consistent starter for the first eight (of his 10) seasons with the Vikings, leading the club in receiving yards three times. On a team whose history is filled with great wide receivers, White is seventh on the Vikings all-time receiving list with 393 catches for 6,400 yards and 50 touchdowns. He stretched the field and made plenty of highlight reel catches and touchdowns.

No. 2: Ed White—Guard—2nd Round (pick 39), 1969

It was one of the biggest losses in Vikings history when White (following a lingering contract dispute) was traded to the San Diego Chargers after playing nine seasons in Minnesota. He was on the team for all four Super Bowls and left after the last one, signally a beginning of the end of the Vikings dominance in the 70s. White was a former defensive lineman who switched to offense for Minnesota yet kept that aggressive defensive mentality. “I tried to play every play 1,000 miles an hour,” White told Viking Update. “Then I would bring myself down and concentrate on the next play. I would let the guy across from me know that it was going to be that way every play. A lot of times, guys would quit on me.” White made the Pro Bowl four times (three times with the Vikings). The fact that he played only nine of his 17 seasons with Minnesota keeps him from the No. 1 spot in this list.

No. 1: Matt Blair—Linebacker—2nd Round (pick 51), 1974

Blair was a Vikings lifer and gave everything he had for his team. Speed, energy and intelligence for the game were hallmarks of his career. Blair is listed at No. 2 on the all-time Vikings tackles list (given the disparate tracking of tackling stats before 1994) and he holds the team record for the most blocked kicks with 20. (Defensive tackle Alan Page is next with 16.) Blair played in six consecutive Pro Bowls (1977-82) and two Super Bowls. He collected numerous honors, including being named to the NFL All-Rookie Team, Most Valuable Linebacker in 1981 and All-Pro honors. Blair’s great attitude was important to his success, as he was willing to do whatever it takes to win. A fan favorite, Blair is one of the 50 Greatest Vikings and had his number hung in the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2012.

VIKES CENTRIC: Replacing Charlie - The Preferred Path To Filling The Gap At LG

Posted by: AJ Mansour under Vikings, Adrian Peterson Updated: February 28, 2015 - 6:50 AM

After placing most of their offseason attention on Adrian Peterson and the little situation he’s got going on with the league, the Minnesota Vikings made their first offseason splash on Friday releasing veteran guard Charlie Johnson.

Johnson, a four year starter for the Vikings, admittedly had his ups and downs with Minnesota but probably saw the writing on the wall after a subpar year highlighted some of the flaws that are accentuated with an aging body. So now, with no starter in place, we look at replacing Charlie Johnson and to no surprise, there are a multitude of ways to do so.

Stay In-House…
The cheapest and most immediate way to do it is to stay in house. Injuries during the 2015 season highlighted the fact that the Vikings aren’t exactly blessed with a plethora of depth on the offensive line, but there are some options available.

The first name that would be available to slide right in for Johnson would be Joe Berger. Acquired by the Vikings in 2011, Berger is a swing offensive lineman who has played both right and left guard for the Vikings. He’s also their backup center. The catch?  Berger, 32 years old, is also a free agent this season and seeing the direct need for the Vikings may be able to add a little value to his deal.

If you want to go the young route, look towards David Yankey, but do so carefully. Yankey, a fifth round selection in 2014, was deactivated most of the season in 2014 and didn’t play a snap for the Vikings. Also known for his versatility up and down the line, Yankey played both tackle and both guard positions in college at Stanford.

Go Shopping…
Maybe the most popular option would be to hit the open market and go shopping in free agency to bring in a veteran who can play right away. The name you most often hear...Mike Iupati (SF).

Iupati will not come cheap, you’re talking a cap hit of $6-$7 million dollars, but is it worth it? You get more of a guarantee of adequate performance from a veteran, but there is no 100% thing, and it comes with a price. You also won’t be the only one bidding for him so the price may drive up higher if a bidding war breaks out.

Other free agent options include Orlando Franklin (DEN) at the high level and Clint Boling (CIN) and Justin Blalock (ATL) a half tick down and a little more affordable.

Develop through the draft…
This is the most risky option for multiple reasons. Not only is there no guarantee that your rookie player will translate, you are also waiting through the free agency period before acting on the draft leaving your options stripped pretty thin if for some reason you come up short on Draft Day. That said, you can completely strike gold if you do it right.

Nail your pick at the left guard position and you could be sitting on an All Pro offensive guard for a low price for the next 3 seasons after they develop. The likely name that you’ve all been hearing, Brandon Scherff out of Iowa. Standing at 6’5” tall and running a 5.26 second 40 at the combine, Scherff is athletic and strong. Known for his run blocking, he’d fit right into the current Minnesota scheme. In recent mock drafts, Scherff has gone anywhere from as high as #5 to as low as #17.

----------------------------------------

If it were up to me, I’d cheat a little bit and do a combination of all options. This is the most likely plan for Rick Spielman and the Vikings to some extent. Yankey is a second year player so they will for sure retain him, Berger has swing man value and is your backup center so re-signing him seems like a no brainer as well. There’s your in-house move.

It’s too risky to head into the draft without a veteran that you feel is capable of starting at LG for your team. The closer we get to the new league year, the less likely I think it is that the Vikings will splash and go after Iupati or Franklin. Wouldn’t be surprised to see them pick up a second, even third tier free agent here to lend some stability.

Then, depending on how things fall throughout the draft, I would strive to address a different need in the first round while sitting on La’el Collins (LSU) or Cameron Erving (FSU) early in the second, maybe even trade up for them. Both are currently grading out as second-round prospects and both have long-term starter potential.

Whatever I do here, I don’t want to make it seem like the new LG has some big shoes to fill. Realistically, seeing the output that Johnson was delivering the past two seasons leave either of the two outside options to provide likely improvement along the offensive line. Cutting ties with Johnson was the right move, now go double up on it and make another good decision on his replacement.

What’s your preference on replacing Charlie Johnson at left guard? Let us know in the comment section below...

Follow Aj Mansour (@AjKFAN) on Twitter for more...

VikesCentric: Top 5 Vikings draft picks—third round

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: February 27, 2015 - 10:43 AM

The second installment in our series on Vikings draft picks takes a look at the Top 5 third round picks in team history. There are some memorable names on our list, and here’s hoping the Vikings hit some picks like these players in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The pickings are a bit slim in this round in Vikings history, but the names at the top don’t disappoint. In the 54 years of Vikings drafts, there are 15 years in which the team did not have a third round pick (although there were other years where they had more than one third rounder—most recently last year with Scott Crichton and Jerick McKinnon).

The third round has been a position of trading for the Vikings—both into it and out of it over the years (in 1985 the team had three third round picks), and general manager Rick Spielman is no stranger to draft-day trades. But some decent careers have come from third round picks for the Vikings, so let’s take a look.

Several players who didn’t make our Top 5 include WR Nate Burleson (2003), RB Moe Williams (1996), LB Carlos Jenkins (1991) and LB Don Hansen (1966). Perhaps McKinnon and Josh Robinson (2012) still have a chance to squeeze into the list someday, but making the cut amongst this group will be tough.

No. 5: Jake Reed—Wide Receiver—3rd Round (pick 68), 1991

A former member of the famed Three Deep receiving corps of the Vikings teams of the 90s (with Cris Carter and Randy Moss), Reed was the lesser celebrated member of the group. Carter and Moss got the headlines, but Reed generally got the single coverage and made the most of it in his 10 seasons in Minnesota (he had two seasons in New Orleans). Reed was taken three picks behind Carlos Jenkins in 1991, and he caught 33 of his 36 career touchdown passes in a Vikings uniform. His production really hammers home the point of the need for and the production available to a third wide receiver—even on a team with two future Hall of Famers.

No. 4: Kirk Lowdermilk—Center—3rd Round (pick 59), 1985

The Vikings have always seemed to identify good centers—from Matt Birk and John Sullivan to Mick Tingelhoff, who will be going into the Hall of Fame this summer. Lowdermilk was another one in that lineage. The first of three third-round picks in 1985 (LB Tim Meamber and C Tim Long were the other two), “Milk” was clearly the best. He anchored the offensive line for eight seasons in Minnesota (before going to Indianapolis), missing just 14 games in his 12-year career. Lowdermilk garnered an AP honorable mention All-Pro nomination in 1988, despite missing four games with a broken right thumb that year.

No. 3: Tim Irwin—Offensive Tackle—3rd Round (pick 74), 1981

I remember seeing Irwin standing in the doorway of the training camp locker room heading out to the practice field in Mankato one summer and I never saw anyone completely fill up a space like that before or since. At 6-foot-7 and 300 pounds, Irwin was a mountain of a right tackle and held that position for 13 years in Minnesota—starting 181 consecutive games. His size helped him on special teams also, where he had ten blocked kicks in his career (including a Vikings record-tying two blocks in one game), placing him third on the Vikings all-time list. Irwin played one last season for Miami and Tampa and then retired to take up a career as a lawyer. He might strike an intimidating figure for those on the other side of the courtroom from him—just like when defenders were on the other side of the line of scrimmage. In 2010, Irwin was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings.

No. 2: Henry Thomas—Defensive Tackle—3rd Round (pick 72), 1987

Thomas was the unsung defensive line hero playing alongside the always attention grabbing (and opponent tackling) John Randle (who was undrafted and made it to the Hall of Fame). Thomas was a solid and tough interior defensive lineman who played eight years with the Vikings—starting all eight seasons. Thomas helped anchor a very tough defense, and with 93.5 sacks in his career, only Hall of Famers Randle and Warren Sapp, along with Steve McMichael, rank ahead of him in career sacks by a defensive tackle. Thomas was twice a Pro Bowler and he tallied 19 forced fumbles and accumulated more than 1,000 tackles in his 14-year career. He also was named one of the 50 Greatest Vikings.

No. 1: Fran Tarkenton—Quarterback—3rd Round (pick 29), 1961

There is little unknown about the career of this Hall of Fame Vikings quarterback, who led his team to three Super Bowls and held a lot of the NFL’s passing records before the rules changed and turned the game into a throwing league. The scrambling Tarkenton was a star right out of the gate, as came off the bench in the franchise’s 1st-ever game to throw four touchdown passes and lead the club to an upset victory over the Chicago Bears. Tarkenton is certainly one of the 50 Greatest Vikings, is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor and is far and away one of the best draft choices in team history. If the Vikings could only do that again in the 2015 NFL Draft.

VikesCentric: Vikings should keep Cassel

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: February 25, 2015 - 9:28 AM

This just in: the quarterback position is fairly important in today’s NFL. The Vikings are apparently well-situated with Teddy Bridgewater as the starter, but they would also be wise to retain his backup, Matt Cassel, who has one year remaining on his contract.

You’ll remember it was Cassel, not Bridgewater, who opened the 2014 season under center as the Vikings’ starter. However, he broke three bones in his foot during the Week 3 game against the New Orleans Saints and needed season-ending surgery to repair the damage.

Enter Teddy. The rest, as they say, is Vikings history.

Cassel is set to earn a $500,000 roster bonus on March 17 and a $4.15 million base salary in 2015. His salary cap hit will be $4.75 million. That’s a reasonable bargain for a starter in today’s NFL, but it’s kind of pricy for a backup. Thus, there has been speculation that the Vikings might consider letting Cassel go and using that money elsewhere.

I firmly believe that would be a mistake.

Ask any Vikings fan and they will tell you they fervently hope Cassel never plays another regular-season down with the Vikings. Nothing against Matt. By all accounts he is a tremendous guy, and he showed last year that he can still be a serviceable NFL quarterback. It’s just that Bridgewater is the new toast of the town in Vikings nation. However, if (God forbid) something were to happen to Bridgewater… then what?

Last year, the backup plan after Cassel was placed on IR was Christian Ponder; however, Ponder is going to jump into unrestricted free agency in about two weeks. Cassel is the only other quarterback on the Vikings’ active roster. For the record, they also have Pat Devlin stashed on the practice squad. That’s it, folks.

I think all Vikings fans would sleep a little better at night knowing Cassel is the backup plan to Bridgewater. The alternatives are alarming.

Case in point, free agency. Ponder will arguably be one of the top-five quarterbacks on the free agent market. Think about that for a second. That should tell you all you really need to know about what’s going to be available in terms of signal callers come March 10. Heck, if Cassel were released by the Vikings, he’d be snapped up immediately.

The other “top quarterbacks” set to hit free agency include Mark Sanchez, Jake Locker, Michael Vick, Ryan Mallett, Matt Flynn, Colt McCoy, Brian Hoyer and, oh yeah, Tarvaris Jackson. You remember him, right? He served as the Seahawks’ designated coin-flip winner in 2014. He was good at it, too.

Josh McCown, who was let go by the Buccaneers two weeks ago, is a free agent right now and is currently being courted by several NFL teams, including the Bills and new-look Browns. When the likes of McCown and Sanchez represent the cream of the quarterback crop in free agency, you know it’s a thin group.

Tell me, would you feel better with Cassel, who already knows the Norv Turner offense inside and out, holding the clipboard on the Vikings’ sideline next season -- or does a free agent like Jimmy Clausen or Blaine Gabbert do something for you?

Furthermore, this year’s quarterback draft class is shaping up as the thinnest since 2011 when Cam Newton went No. 1, followed by 2015 free agents Locker at eight, Gabbert at 10 and Ponder at 12. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be top-10 picks but there might not be another quarterback selected until the second or third round when the likes of Bryce Petty or Brett Hundley come off the board. Besides, the Vikings aren’t going to spend a high pick on a quarterback two years in a row – who do you think they are, the Browns?

In short, it’s not a good offseason to need a quarterback. And remember, the Vikings need to find a third quarterback somewhere, too.

If I’m Rick Spielman, I gladly keep Cassel in the fold. Bridgewater and Cassel together will only cost a little over $6 million against the cap next season – or roughly a third of what Matthew Stafford alone will cost the Lions.

Cassel represents the best the Vikings can hope for in terms of a Bridgewater insurance policy for 2015.
 

Visit VikingsJournal.com for a look at who the Vikings should be targeting in free agency and complete NFL Draft coverage.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: Top 5 Vikings draft picks—later rounds (4-20)

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: February 26, 2015 - 9:38 AM

The NFL Draft is on the way. The NFL Combine is over and free agency is around the corner, but plenty of fans are thinking about the Draft, which takes place at the end of April. Despite the run-up of anticipation, the draft can be a crapshoot of hits and misses, so now may be a good time to look at some of the hits in Vikings Draft history.

The Vikings have been drafting players since 1961, and considering that the draft had 20 rounds until 1967 (then 17, changing to 12 in 1977 and finally seven in 1993), that’s a lot of players. They are more misses than hits throughout those years.

It stands to reason that NFL teams need to do better in the Draft now since there are only seven rounds (leaving many players undrafted and picked up later), but that is not always the case. Names such as Kendall James (2014), Everett Dawkins (2013), Greg Childs (2012) and Ross Harmon (2011) are already fading into unremarkable Vikings lore.

Those players don’t make much to write about since they have a total of one game played for Minnesota amongst the lot of them. Rather, we’d like to look at the Top 5 Draft Picks in various rounds throughout the history of Vikings drafts. Taking a cue from how the draft now operates, with rounds 4-7 on day three of each draft, we will start with the later rounds (4-20) in this first part of the series and work up to 3rd rounders, 2nd and then finish with first round picks.

As one might expect, there have been a lot of players taken in those collective later rounds through the years, but as we said, plenty who are forgettable. This is certainly a subjective exercise since these are my selections for the Top 5, but they are offered up for agreement, rejection and most assuredly debate.

And while I was around when the Vikings first drafted in 1961, I won’t admit to being of an age where I was constructing my own mock drafts at that time and wildly cheering when I heard that Minnesota selected Tommy Mason with their first-ever draft choice. I clued into the team a few years later, but did see every player whom I am about to write about perform in games--and even practice in Mankato. Does that make an official arbiter? No. But I have been paying attention.

That said, in my first run through, I considered 24 players from rounds 4-20 (I wrote down Dave Winfield, who was taken in the 17th round of the 1973 draft, just for the fun of it and because he was a Hall of Famer—as a baseball player—who played in Minnesota. But he didn’t make the cut.) From those 23 players, I whittled it down to my Top 5. Let me know what you think.

No. 5: Brad Johnson—Quarterback—9th Round (pick 227), 1992

Johnson never took the Vikings to the Promised Land, but he does have a ring. He had a pretty decent career for a 9th-round selection; unfortunately not all of it was played with the Vikings. Johnson spent seven of his 15 seasons as a Viking (in two different stints) and led them to the playoffs twice. Johnson played for the Washington Redskins, Tampa Bucs and the Dallas Cowboys, in addition to the Minnesota, winning the Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2002-03. He could have potentially contributed more to the Vikings, as he sat on the bench for his first two seasons in Minnesota, waiting for a chance to play. Ultimately, Johnson was a bit of a journeyman, but his talent was vindicated throughout his career, and he was certainly a decent selection by the Vikings.

No. 4: Bobby Bryant—Defensive Back—7th Round (pick 167), 1967

Back in the days when players finished their whole career with one team, Bryant played his entire 13-year career in Minnesota. Undersized at 6-1, 170 pounds, he was a stalwart for Bud Grant’s teams in the 70s, making the Pro Bowl in 1975 and 1976. Never a big hitter, Bryant did have a nose for the football and was a good playmaker. Bryant had 51 interceptions, which lands him at T-32 on the all-time NFL list. He was also part of one of my all-time favorite plays that I witnessed in person--a memorable field goal block-six against the Los Angeles Rams in the 1976 NFC Championship game at Met Stadium. The Rams were marching in for a field goal, when Nate Allen blocked it and Bryant scooped it up for a 90-yard TD (one of two playoff touchdowns in his career). The play led to a win and the Vikings last Super Bowl appearance.

No. 3: Roy Winston—Linebacker—4th Round (pick 45), 1962

The highest selection in this grouping, 4th-rounder Winston had a long and successful career, playing for Minnesota for 15 years and not starting only the first and the last. Winston was a hard-hitting linebacker, who even Larry Csonka said hit him the hardest he was ever hit in the game. Winston played 190 games for the Vikings, which tied him for 10th in team history, and he collected more than 100 tackles in a season three times. He is one of the few Vikings who played in all four of the team’s Super Bowl losses, retiring after the fourth one in 1977. Asked by Viking Update about his favorite memory as a Viking, Winston said, “At San Francisco in 1964. It was the game Jim Marshall ran the wrong way. I had three interceptions that game and no one knows. Three interceptions for a linebacker is pretty good.” And pretty good for a fourth-round pick.

No. 2: Scott Studwell—Linebacker—9th Round (pick 250), 1977

A member of the Vikings Ring of Honor (inducted in 2009), Studwell was the consummate Viking, embodying the intensity and work ethic of a former member of the famed Vikings defense. The Vikings all-time leading tackler with 1,981 in his career, he holds team records for single-season tackles with 230 in 1981 and 24 in a game against Detroit in 1985. Studwell is one of only one Viking who has played 200 games for the team and he appeared in two Pro Bowls (1987 and 1988). Now as a college scout/regional in the front office, Studwell has worked for the Vikings for 39 years all tolled. He is a Viking for life, and was incredible steel in the 9th round of the draft.

No. 1: Matt Birk—Center—6th Round (pick 173), 1998

Looking back on Birk’s career, it’s hard to imagine him not going higher than the 6th round. He was a leader of the Vikings offensive line for 10 of his 14 years in the league--playing four with the Baltimore Ravens and finally winning a Super Bowl ring in 2012, after which he retired. Birk was a Pro Bowler six times and the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. A home-grown product from Cretin-Derham Hall, Birk was seemingly on the down side of his career when he left Minnesota for Baltimore, but he was rewarded with being a part of an NFL title team. One of the best centers the team has ever had, Birk was somehow selected behind Kailee Wong, Ramos McDonald, Kivuusama Mays and Kerry Cooks (oh, and first-rounder Randy Moss) in the 1998 draft. The Vikings were lucky he was still there.

There are others who received consideration in this collection: RB Terry Allen (5th round, 1990), DB Carl Lee (7th round, 1983), TE Steve Jordan (7th round, 1982), DB Ed Sharockman (5th round, 1961) and LB Pete Bercich (7th round, 1994). And some that could still change things up: Everson Griffen (4th round, 2010), Brandon Fusco (6th round, 2011) and Blair Walsh (6th round, 2012). But time will have to tell on them.

What say you?

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