As a youngster watching the Vikings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, I followed as the group of defensive linemen known as the Purple People Eaters (Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen) destroyed rival offenses. So much so that Minnesota led in defensive scoring from 1965 to 1971.Two (Eller, Page) are currently Hall of Famers with one (Marshall) knocking on the door.
The first Super Bowl season,1969, every member of the front four made the Pro Bowl.
Alan Page won a league MVP in 1971. No, not defensive player of the year. The league's best.
It was no coincidence that this group played together in three Super Bowls, and 3/4 in the fourth (Larsen replaced by Doug Sutherland). Jim Marshall played DE for nineteen seasons, and 270 games. Carl Eller sixteen seasons with five All-Pro years. Alan Page just over eleven seasons with nine Pro Bowls...
Minnesota managed to keep finding exceptional defensive linemen over the years. Doug Martin was drafted in 1980 and recorded over 50 sacks. Future Hall of Famer Chris Doleman was selected in 1985 and would register 142 sacks in 154 games.Drafted in 1984, Keith Millard came over from the defunct USFL in 1985 and had 53 sacks in 75 games.In 1989 he set a record with 18 sacks for a defensive tackle and was named defensive player of the year. Henry Thomas played in 118 games from 1987 to 1994, and would collect over 90 sacks in his career.
But there has also been some disappointments over the years. Names like first round picks Demetrius Underwood, Kenechi Udeze, and Erasmus James, haunt the recent memory.
Maybe that is why we have not selected a defensive player first in the last four drafts? Or why we have not selected a defensive player with a first round pick since 2006 (Chad Greenway)? Why we have not used a first-round pick on a defensive linemen since Udeze (2004).
Maybe it is time to re-focus on the front four?
The 2013 Vikings' front four is still formidable. Jared Allen has played in all 80 games since coming from Kansas City, and has recorded 74 sacks. Kevin Williams has five first-team All-Pro awards at defensive tackle in his ten seasons with the Vikings. 2012 starter Brian Robison and Everson Griffen give good depth at end. Griffen looked very good late in the season. Letroy Guion and Fred Evans have been seemingly solid at nose tackle. Christian Ballard is improving every year at tackle.
The only concern is age.
At 33, Kevin Williams cannot have too many seasons left. He has played against double-teams for too many years. He has been one of the greatest defensive tackles in his time.Probably a top ten defensive lineman in Vikings' history. He has been doing it for ten years.
Evans, Robison, and Allen are also aging. Combined they have 25 NFL seasons under their belts. The Williams Wall, the reason Minnesota has been so strong in run defense and sacks in recent years, will soon be gone entirely. Pat Williams retired after the 2010 season.
It is time to rebuild.
With two first-round selections (23, 25), a 2nd round pick (52), 3rd round (83), and two 4th round (99,117), and the glut of available defensive line, Minnesota is likely to select a defensive tackle early in the 2013 Draft. Here they are based on a loose overview of many reputable sources...
Expected to be drafted before Pick 23.
Star Loutulelei, Utah, 6'4, 320. First Team All-American in 2012.
Sharrif Floyd, Florida, 6'3, 303. 115 tackles, 26 for loss and 3 blocked kicks.
Sheldon Richardson, Alabama, 6'4, 295. Has reportedly run as fast as 4.71, 5.02 at combine.
Should be available at 23rd, gone by the 52nd Pick
Jesse Williams, Alabama, 6'4, 320. DE/DT. Strong run-stopper.
Jonathan Hankins, Ohio State, 6'3, 320. A junior. Could play DE or DT.
Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia, 6'3, 359. True nose tackle. Dominated Senior Bowl
Kawann Short, Purdue, 6'3, 310. Had 18.5 sacks over three seasons.
Sylvester Williams, North Carolina, 6'2, 313. Ran quick 5.03. Junior college transfer.
Could be drafted by 99th Pick
Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State, 6'1, 335. Silenced critics with strong Senior Bowl.
Bennie Logan, LSU, 6'2, 309. Said to run under 5.00. Defensive end turned nose tackle.
Akeem Spence, Illinois, 6'1, 307. 5.15 in 40. Only DTs benched more in combine.
Jordan Hill, Penn State, 6'1, 303. 5.23 time.
Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin, 6'4, 329. 5.23 time.
We assume that the top three will not be available by our first pick. It is possible more will be gone.
Brandon Williams, Sylvester Williams, or Jesse Williams sounds like the right move. Maybe get two of them?
And resurrect the Wall the Williams way.