The Minnesota Vikings are coming off a 7-9 season, and if things go right, could threaten for a playoff spot next season. A lot of it depends on how their young draft picks develop.
We all like to have fun and poke at a team when their draft choices fail. When you look at the Vikings, there have been plenty of them over recent years. Look at Christian Ponder, Dimitrius Underwood, Troy Williamson, Onterrio Smith and Chris Cook as just a few examples.
But the Vikings have also had plenty of draft successes. Some have made immediate impacts. Others have needed more time, but stuck with the organization and proven their value over the years. Here’s a look at 10 great draft picks by the Vikings going back to the early 1960s.
Teddy Bridgewater (2014)
The Vikings traded back into the first round of the 2014 draft to take Bridgewater, and he just might be their next franchise quarterback. Thrown into duties after Matt Cassel broke his foot, Bridgewater went 6-6 as a starter, more games than the Vikings won all of last year, and threw for more than 2,900 yards with 14 touchdowns. He was also voted by fans as the Pepsi Rookie of the Year.
Anthony Barr (2014)
He was the Vikings top draft choice last year and has improved immensely for an athlete who has played linebacker since only his sophomore year in college. Barr finished fifth on the Vikings defense in tackles with 70, including 5 solo tackles, before getting hurt near the end of the season. The highlight of his season was forcing a fumble, recovering it and returning it for a touchdown to beat Tampa Bay in overtime.
Adrian Peterson (2007)
The Vikings knew they were getting an elite athlete when they took Peterson with the No. 7 pick in the 2007 draft. But he did the rest, becoming the face of the franchise and one of the best running backs in the NFL. He set a single-game rushing record and nearly broke the NFL’s single-season rushing record, set by Eric Dickerson, less than nine months removed from major knee surgery. The Vikings are hoping he’ll come back after only playing one game in 2014 due to off-the-field issues.
Xavier Rhodes (2013)
The Vikings have had major problems in the secondary for several years, but that trend started to change when they took Xavier Rhodes with the No. 25 pick in the 2013 draft. He became a shutdown cornerback at Minnesota, often covering the opponent’s top wide receiver. He’s a sure tackler and finished last season with 49 tackles. If he can stay healthy, he can become an elite player.
Everson Griffen (2010)
He’s one of those players that has needed some time, but Everson Griffen has taken advantage of his chance on the Vikings defensive line. He was taken by the Vikings in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. After a few departures in free agency, he stepped up after getting paid before the 2014 season. He led the defensive line with 57 tackles, including a team-best 12 sacks. Now it’s up to him to take it a step further next season.
Brian Robison (2007)
He’s very similar to Griffen in that he needed some time, but Brian Robison has been a mainstay for the last few years on the defensive line after being drafted in 2007. He had 24 tackles last season, including seven sacks, and seems to get a little better every year.
Kevin Williams (2003)
He was the team’s top draft pick in 2003 and didn’t need much time to make an immediate impact on the defensive line. Kevin Williams spent 11 season with the Vikings before leaving for Seattle last season. His best season came in 2004, where he had 52 tackles and 11.5 sacks.
Randy Moss (1998)
The Vikings took a gamble on Randy Moss in the 1998 draft, taking him with the No. 21 overall pick. He nearly led Minnesota to the Super Bowl in his rookie season with more than 1,300 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns. His best statistical season came in 2003, where he had more than 1,600 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns. He spent his first seven seasons in Minnesota and was a fan favorite during that time.
Randall McDaniel (1988)
The Vikings took Randall McDaniel with the No. 19 pick in the 1988 draft. He spent 12 seasons with the Vikings and started all but two games over his career with the Vikings. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and named first-team All-Pro seven times. McDaniel anchored the Vikings offensive line and as inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Fran Tarkenton (1961)
Fran Tarken was the third player drafted in the history of the Minnesota Vikings, taken with the No. 29 pick in the 1961 draft. He spent 13 of his 18 seasons with the Vikings and helped lead the team to three Super Bowls. Tarkenton is the Vikings career passing leader with more than 33,000 yards and touchdowns leader 239. He helped the Vikings win three NFC titles and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986.
For as many times as Vikings fans feel the team has missed in the draft, there are plenty of other times they’ve hit home runs. The Vikings will have the No. 11 pick in the 2015 draft, and a lot of their strategy will depend on Peterson’s return or departure once reinstated to the NFL.