This week, I’ll be counting down the 25 biggest draft “steals” in Vikings history. This list encompasses several different eras of the draft and goes all the way back to the Vikings’ first draft in 1961. Undrafted free agents weren’t considered (sorry, John Randle).
Now let’s get on with the show as we inch toward the top 10.
15. John Sullivan (sixth round, 2008): He was the Vikings’ center between 2009 and 2014, starting 93 of a possible 96 regular-season games in that span. He had the tough task of replacing Matt Birk, but Sullivan did so admirably before injuries derailed his career. It’s no coincidence that the Vikings’ offensive line began to fall apart when Sullivan’s health started to fail him. The only problem is he might have convinced the Vikings they could find all of their offensive linemen in the later rounds of the draft — a theory that has been proven to be false.
14. Brian Robison (fourth round, 2007): With the retirement of Chad Greenway and departure of Adrian Peterson, Robison is the longest-tenured Vikings player. It’s been a very nice run for Robison, who became a full-time starter in 2011 and has since started 95 of 96 regular-season games at defensive end. He has 56 career sacks and 13 career forced fumbles.
13. Brad Johnson (ninth round, 1992): Here’s a pretty remarkable career. Johnson was drafted in the ninth round in 1992, the last year that round existed (it was a 12-round draft before being pared down to seven rounds in 1993). He was in his prime in 1998 when he was actually the opening day starting quarterback on the 15-1 juggernaut before an early injury thrust Randall Cunningham into the starting role. He was good enough to be traded in 1999 for a first-round pick and a third-round pick. And in 2005, in his second stint with the Vikings, he took over for the injured Daunte Culpepper not long after the Love Boat scandal broke. For his Vikings career, he was 28-18 as a starter.
12. Terry Allen (ninth round, 1990): Allen tore his ACL in college, got drafted by the Vikings in the ninth round, ran for 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in 1992, tore his other ACL in training camp in 1993 and came back as a 1,000-yard rusher in 1994. This was back when ACL recovery was not routine. That is quite a feat. He went on to do great things in Washington as well, scoring 21 touchdowns in one season.
11. Carl Lee (seventh round, 1983): It’s really a shame that the Vikings of the mid-to-late-1980s couldn’t always get their act together on offense because they sure could play some defense. The fewest points allowed by a Mike Zimmer defense in his three years here is 302. The 1988 Vikings allowed 233! Cornerback Carl Lee played a big role on those defenses, including 1988 when he picked off eight passes (returning two for TDs) and was a first-team All-Pro. He finished with 29 interceptions in a Vikings career that spanned 144 starts.