Am I obsessed with whom the Vikings will pick Thursday night with the #3 overall draft pick? Not at all. But I have devoted a few posts to the subject this winter and spring. It is an important pick. And if Vikings general manager Rick Spielman gets it right, Minnesota will get an impact player for the next decade.
He could get it wrong, too. It happens every year with teams picking high in the draft. They miss on guys. That’s why every draft pick is important and the Vikings (so far) have 10 of them. If (heavy emphasis on “if”) the team uses those picks well in this week’s college draft, the Vikings rebuilding effort will be helped enormously.
A week ago, Viking Update had two columns listing the team’s top five best and worst #1 draft picks in the past 25 years. I wanted to take that idea in another direction. Who have been the best late-round draft picks the Vikings have made during their 52 years in the league?
What follows is that list. For the readers who are wondering what a “late round draft pick” means to me, I decided all fifth-round and beyond to be the late rounds. Not everyone will agree with that decision. We are dealing with two different types of drafts in this list. From 1961-1992 the college draft was 12 rounds. But starting in 1993, it became a seven-round draft. Perhaps the fifth round isn’t quite late enough for some people when the draft is 12 rounds. But you’ve got to start somewhere. So I started at the fifth round.
Anyway, let’s do this.
Brad Johnson (1992 – 9th round, 227th overall)
Stats: 125 starts in 177 games; 61.7 completion percentage; 29,054 passing yards; 166 TD passes; 122 INTs
15-year career (seven seasons with Vikes); one Super Bowl title; two Pro Bowl selections
Comments: Johnson’s stinkeroo of a 2006 season might color how Vikings remember him. But he was a pretty good quarterback much of his career, especially for a guy who would be an undrafted free agent in today’s seven-round era.
Honorable mention: Wade Wilson
Dave Osborn (1965 – 13th round; 137th overall)
Stats: 58 starts in 143 games; 4,336 rushing yards; 3.7 yards per carry; 29 rushing TDS; 173 catches; 1,412 receiving yards
12-year career (11 with Vikes); one Pro Bowl selection
Comments: Look, my runner-up, Terry Allen, had superior numbers across the board, and he probably had superior talent (although this is tough to say because I have no memory of seeing Osborn play, whereas I saw Allen play in purple several times.) But Osborn was a key player for a powerhouse team and he was a Viking much longer than Allen. I had to give Osborn dibs for that.
Honorable mention: Terry Allen
Charles Evans (11th round; 295th overall)
Stats: 45 starts in 98 games; 498 rushing yards; 3.2 yards per carry; 4 TDs; 110 catches; 766 yards; 2 TDs
Eight-year career (six with Vikes)
Comments: I’d love to put Bill Brown here, but he was a second-round pick – of the Chicago Bears. Evans did OK when he actually touched the ball, and he opened some holes for Robert Smith, too.
Hassan Jones (1986 – 5th round; 120th overall)
Stats: 56 starts in 106 games; 229 catches; 3,824 yards; 24 TDs; 16.7 yards per catch
Eight-year career (seven with Vikes)
Comments: The Vikings haven’t found a lot of gems in the late rounds at this position. Jones was as good as it gets. In his early career he played second fiddle to Anthony Carter, but Jones was a deep threat, as his 16.7 yards per catch average attests. He just wasn’t productive long enough.
Steve Jordan (1982 – 7th round; 179th overall)
Stats: 149 starts in 176 games; 498 catches; 6,307 yards; 28 TDs; 12.7 yards per catch
13-year career (All with Vikings); six Pro Bowl selections
Comments: Not much debate about this one, I think. From 1985-1993, the Vikings didn’t have to worry about tight end because you could pencil Jordan in for about 50 catches and 500 yards (or more) receiving yards per year. Was he a good blocker? He wasn’t Jim Kleinsasser, but I don’t remember him being a liability and that wasn’t his role or what the Vikings paid him for anyway.
Honorable mention: Stu Voight
Matt Birk (1998 – 6th round; 173rd overall)
Stats: 171 starts in 191 games
13-year career (10 with the Vikes); six Pro Bowl selections
Comments: Again, not much debate about Matty B getting the nod here, who will play his 14th NFL season with Baltimore in 2012 and might have a shot at the Hall of Fame when he is done.
Charles Goodrum (1972 – 9th round; 232nd overall)
Stats: 72 starts in 95 games
Seven-year career (all with Vikes)
Comments: Goodrum’s Vikings heyday was a bit before my time, as I was 10 during his last year in the league – 1979. He played tackle his first couple of years with Minnesota before moving to guard and starting for those great 1970s Vikings teams.
Doug Davis (1966 – 5th round; 72nd overall)
Stats: 34 starts in 74 games
Comments: Davis’ inclusion in this list is another argument for drafting Matt Kalil. Most of the Vikings starting right and left tackles over the years have been early-round picks. And Davis would lose his starting right tackle job to one of them in 1970 – Hall of Famer Ron Yary.
Jason Fisk (1995 – 7th round; 243rd overall)
Stats: 108 starts in 182 games; 280 tackles; 108 assisted tackles; 19 sacks; 3 INTs
12-year career (four with Vikes)
Comments: A high effort plugger, Fisk was stuck behind Jerry Ball just as his career was ascending. So he took his talents, and best years, to Tennessee and then San Diego. He gets the nod over Culpepper because he actually played a key role, albeit as mostly a backup, for the Vikes. Culpepper hardly got a sniff of the field in his two years in Minnesota, although he did turn into a pretty good player for Tampa Bay.
Honorable Mention: Brad Culpepper
Comments: If I had included fourth-rounders, we could debate the merits of Ray Edwards and Brian Robison here. But, alas, I did not include fourth-rounders in my definition of a late-round draft pick, so I’ve got nothing for you here.
Scott Studwell (9th round; 250th overall)
Stats: 161 starts in 201 games; 1,981 tackles; nine sacks; 11 INTs
14-year career (all with Vikes); two Pro Bowl selections
Comments: The Vikings have had some pretty good inside linebackers over the years. But none of them have performed so well for so long, and been drafted so low, as Studwell. And isn’t “Scott Studwell” just a great name for a linebacker?
Ed McDaniel (1992 – 5th round; 125th overall)
Stats: 109 starts in 125 games; 607 solo tackles; 191 assisted tackles; 19.5 sacks; 4 INTs
Nine-year career (All with the Vikes); one Pro Bowl selection
Comments: McDaniel started for the Vikings as a middle linebacker as well. In fact his Pro Bowl year (1998) came while manning the middle. But he played outside much of his career. A very good – sometimes great player – he was tough, a sound tackler and could rush the passer when called upon. The Vikings could sure use an Ed McDaniel these days.
Carl Lee (7th round, 186th overall)
Stats: 152 starts in 181 games; 799 tackles; 31 INTs
12-year career (11 with Vikes); one All-Pro selection; three Pro Bowl selections
Comments: This was the toughest decision of all. Both Lee and Bryant were seventh round picks. They were both excellent players and Pro Bowlers. But Bryant had 20 more interceptions than Lee, so why did I pick Lee ahead of Bryant? My view is that Lee’s career began just as passing rules were changing to heavily favor the passing game, whereas Bryant retired just before the passing era really hit. It became a lot tougher in the 1980s to be a cornerback in the NFL and Lee was one of the best for a number of years. I don’t think Bryant would have been as successful in the era Lee played. But some old-time Viking fans might disagree with me on that one. Feel free to make your case in the comment section if you do.
Honorable mention: Bobby Bryant
Jeff Wright (15th round; 388th overall)
Stats: 54 starts in 83 games; 12 INTs
Seven-year career (all with the Vikes)
Comments: Another guy from the Vikings glory days that I don’t recall seeing play. But when you are the 388th player selected in the draft and you end up as a starting safety for one of the NFL’s greatest defenses, that’s impressive. Besides, who else was I going to pick here? Jamarca Sanford?