With the NFL Draft right around the corner, it’s fun to look back on how each team has performed in years’ past. The Minnesota Vikings have an excellent track history in the draft, especially for finding defensive talent. With a handful of all-time greats and dozens of Pro-Bowlers, finding the Vikings’ best draft is no easy feat. Nevertheless, here are the Minnesota Vikings’ top five drafts of all time:
The Vikings’ 1964 draft class will mostly be remembered by the selection of Carl Eller with the 6th overall pick. Eller would become one of the infamous “Purple People Eaters” and is one of the best defensive ends of all time. Carl Eller earned first-team All-Pro honors five times with the Vikings, from 1968-1971, and again in 1973. He is still listed as the team’s all-time sack leader, with 130.5.
Minnesota also drafted guard Milt Sunde in the 20th round of the draft. Sunde was a solid starter for the Vikings for over a decade, earning one Pro Bowl nod in 1966.
Randy Moss and Matt Birk headline the Vikings’ class of 1998. Birk spent 10 seasons in Minnesota and was one of the NFL’s best centers during that span. With the Vikings, Birk made six Pro Bowls, and was selected as first-team All-Pro twice. Being picked in the 6th round (173rd overall), Birk was arguably the steal of the draft.
With the Vikings’ first pick in the 1998 draft, they managed to find an all-time great. Randy Moss revolutionized the wide receiver position and ended up being a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. With the Vikings, Moss earned five Pro Bowl nods and three first-team All-Pro selections. Despite only spending six years with the team, Moss was inducted into the Minnesota Vikings’ ring of honor in 2017.
The selection of Adrian Peterson with the seventh overall pick by itself would put the Vikings’ 2007 draft class near the top in their franchise’s history. When he was in his prime years in Minnesota, Peterson was by far the best running back in the NFL.
In his nine-year run with the Vikings, Peterson was selected as either a first or second-team All-Pro seven times. The highlight of his illustrious career came in 2012 when he fell just short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record.
Along with Peterson, the Vikings also selected Sidney Rice and Brian Robison. Rice was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009 and Robison has been a starter for the Vikings for over a decade.
Going back to where it all began, the Minnesota Vikings’ first draft in franchise history went off with a bang. With the first overall pick, the Vikings selected Tommy Mason, a running back from Tulane University. Mason made the Pro Bowl three times in six years with the Vikings before leaving for the Los Angeles Rams. His best year was in 1963, where he was named first-team All-Pro.
The Vikings also added linebacker Rip Hawkins and cornerback Ed Sharockman. Hawkins made the Pro Bowl in 1963 and Sharockman played 11 seasons for the Vikings.
The highlight of the 1961 Draft was drafting quarterback Fran Tarkenton in the third round. Tarkenton would retire as the NFL’s all-time leader in nearly every passing category. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986 and is still seen as the Vikings’ greatest quarterback in team history.
In the 1967 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings drafted one of the best defensive players of all time. With the 15th overall pick, the Vikings selected defensive end Alan Page. Page has a laundry list of accomplishments, including nine straight Pro Bowl appearances, six first-team All-Pro selections, and MVP in 1971.
The Vikings also grabbed a pair of Pro-Bowl receivers in Gene Washington and Bob Grim.
In the seventh round, the Vikings picked cornerback Bobby Bryant from South Carolina. Bryant enjoyed a 12-year career with the Vikings, earning two All-Pro selections in 1969 and 1975.
This huge haul of talent would help turn Minnesota into legitimate Super Bowl contenders throughout the 1970s.
*The Vikings also drafted Pro-Bowler Jerry Mays in 1961, but he turned down the offer to play in the AFL.
Featured image from Damian Strohmeyer.
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