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.