Picking the top 5 Vikings first round draft choice was not as difficult as I had imagined. There are five Hall of Famers in the team’s No. 1’s and another that will soon become one—if you can’t pick a top five out of that group, you missing something. The problem comes when you have to pass over so many other great players.
Thanks (of late) to Trader Rick Spielman, who collects first round draft choices like Ash Ketchum collects Pokeballs, the Vikings have had 56 first round choices in 54 drafts. And they have generally done pretty well making the selections.
If you use Pro-Football-Reference.com’s measure of Career Approximate Value (CarAV)--which for Vikings draft picks ranges from 0 to 149--you will find that Minnesota completely missed on (meaning a zero CarAV) just one player: RB Leo Hayden, who spent one season in Minnesota and two more in St. Louis. Even Dimitrius Underwood had a CarAV score of one, but to be sure, a one is a complete miss, as well. The Vikings have just nine players in single digits in this scale, and four of them were just drafted in the past three years and still building their score.
For context, Troy Williamson has a CarAV of eight, Percy Harvin (who is still playing) has a 37, Ted Brown has a 50 and Joey Browner a 72.
And outside of third-round selection Fran Tarkenton (whose CarAV was the team’s highest at 149), the five first-round selections listed below have the Vikings’ top five Career Approximate Value numbers. The most egregious snub in this Top 5 is offensive tackle Ron Yary, who was taken first overall in 1968. He was one of only two Number 1 picks overall in Vikings history (the other was Tommy Mason in 1961), and the Vikings made the most of it with Yary, grabbing a Hall of Fame left tackle.
(It says something about the Vikings that they have had only two first overall picks in the draft in their history—the team’s first year in existence and in 1968. They are a winning franchise.)
But Yary has elite company in a number of great players not to make the cut: DB Joe Browner (1983), RB Robert Smith (1993), DE Keith Millard (1984), QB Tommy Kramer (1970), RB Chuck Forman (1973), DT Kevin Williams (2003), QB Daunte Culpepper (1999), Todd Stuessie (1994) and Adrian Peterson (2007). Of course, there is no saying that players such as Peterson and Williams won’t increase their CarAV, make the Hall of Fame and force their way into this list of Top First Round picks, as both are still playing. Perhaps the wisest move then is to increase the list to the Top 10 picks.
Regardless, here are our fearless picks for the Top 5 Vikings First Round Draft Picks:
No. 5: Chris Doleman— Defensive End/Linebacker —1st Round (pick 4), 1985
Although Doleman didn’t play his entire 15-year career with the Vikings, he did some of his best work during his 148 games as a starter in Minnesota. The defensive end/linebacker (who was a bit of a pioneer in that combo position) earned six of his eight career Pro Bowl honors while in Minnesota and led the team (or tied for the lead) in sacks six times. Doleman was named All-Pro 4 times (1987, ’89, ’92, ’93) and was named to the 1990’s NFL Team of the Decade. He led the NFL with 21.0 sacks in 1989, the Vikings record for a single season (until Jared Allen broke it in 2011 with 22) and he is now tied for 5th-most in NFL history. Doleman is fourth in the NFL for career sacks with 150.5. An elite athlete whose speed and strength were hallmarks of his career, Doleman entered Canton in 2012.
No. 4: Randall McDaniel—Guard—1st Round (pick 19), 1988
McDaniel was a wall. I recall Vikings defenders complaining about having to go against him every day in practice. He anchored the team’s offensive line for 12 seasons and started 202 consecutive games in his career (190 for the Vikings). As an offensive lineman, McDaniel’s accolades aren’t flashy, but they are certainly significant: he started 12 consecutive Pro Bowls (1989-2000) which set an NFL record, blocked for six 1,000-yard rushers in his career and five 3,000-yard passers, and was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Team of the Decade for the 1990s. Quiet, professional and always with class, McDaniel was the lynchpin for much success in the Vikings offense—including the unit’s record-setting season for points in 1998 (556). McDaniel Became a grade-school teacher after his playing days and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
No. 3: Carl Eller—Defensive End—1st Round (pick 6), 1964
As a member of the famed “Purple People Eaters” defensive line, “Moose” Eller was a fierce pass rusher for the Vikings back in the 1960s and 70s. A former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher standout, Eller picked up right where he left off in college, tackling ball carriers and destroying quarterbacks. Although he played in the league before sacks were tracked by the league, Eller is considered the career leader in sacks for the Vikings with 130.0. In his 225 NFL games (209 with the Vikings), he holds the team record with a sack in eight straight games and is the only Viking to post 15-plus sacks in a season multiple times. Eller was named All-Pro five times, including four straight from 1968-71. He played in six Pro Bowls (1968-71, 73-74) and played in four Super Bowls (IV, VIII, IX, XI).
No. 2: Randy Moss—Wide Receiver—1st Round (pick 21), 1998
The eight triumphant and turbulent years of Randy Moss as a Viking were some of the most exciting ever by a player in Purple. Moss confounded all convention with his acrobatic ability to catch the football and score touchdowns--making fans anticipate points every time he lined up wide on a pass play. Moss set an NFL record for most TD receptions by a rookie with 17 and later became Offensive Rookie of the Year. He was selected to five Pro Bowls in his first seven seasons as a Viking, including being named Pro Bowl MVP in 2000. Moss was All Pro four times in his career. He went on to star for the New England Patriots, setting a record for most touchdown receptions in a season with 23 in 2007. He is second behind Jerry Rice for most career touchdown receptions (154). The only player on this list not in the Hall of Fame, Moss will join their ranks in the near future. In the draft, 19 teams passed on Moss (and he made most of them regret it), but he turned out to be a Hall of Fame pick for the Vikings.
No. 1: Alan Page—Defensive Tackle—1st Round (pick 15), 1967
Page joined Carl Eller on the Purple People Eaters and he tore up the league. Most offenses didn’t know what to do with him, as Page was relentless blowing up plays in the opponents’ backfield. He played in 236 straight games and recorded (unofficially) 148.5 sacks (some say 178), 28 blocked kicks and 23 fumble recoveries. Page played in all four Vikings Super Bowls and in 1971 he became the first defensive player ever named NFL Most Valuable Player. Page was a 4-time NFC Defensive Player of the Year, All NFL/NFC nine years, played in nine Pro Bowls and ranks 4th in Vikings history and leads all defensive linemen with 1,120 career tackles. Page was simply a one-of-a-kind defensive player who was the backbone of the Vikings famed defense of the 1970s. Page, who hails from Canton, Ohio, returned there in 1988 as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After his playing days he became a lawyer, author and Minnesota Supreme Court judge. Selecting him to play football in Minnesota resulted in quite a contribution to the community.