Looking Back at Some of the Biggest Steals in Vikings History
The draft is now only nine days away. The Vikings do not have a first round pick due to the Sam Bradford trade, but still have eight picks total. Could the Vikings have ended up with a good player in the first round. Maybe, but maybe not. We have seen many first round picks who did not pan out and many players in the later round who did.
Here are some of the biggest steals in Vikings history:
1967: South Carolina cornerback Bobby Bryant (seventh round, 167th overall pick)
Spent entire 13-year career with the Vikings. Two-time Pro Bowler (1975-1976) and played in all four Vikings Super Bowls. His 51 career interceptions are second in franchise history (Paul Krause has 53). Recorded seven or more interceptions three times. Was named one of the 50 greatest Vikings of all-time.
1977: Illinois linebacker Scott Studwell (ninth round, 250th overall pick)
Spent entire 14-year career with the Vikings. His 1,981 career tackles are the most in franchise history. He also has the franchise record for tackles in a season (230 in 1981) and tackles in a game (24 against the Detroit Lions in 1985).
He was selected to two Pro Bowls (1987, 1988) and was named All-Pro three times (1984, 1988, 1989). He was a member of the Vikings 25th and 40th anniversary teams and named one of the 50 greatest Vikings of all-time.
1982: Brown tight end Steve Jordan (seventh round, 179th overall pick)
Spent entire 13-year career with the Vikings. Six-time Pro Bowler (1986-1991) and three-time All-Pro selection (1986, 1987, 1989). Named one of the 50 greatest Vikings of all-time.
Recorded 498 receptions for 6,307 yards and 28 touchdowns in 176 career games (149). Had five seasons with 50 receptions or more.
1983: Marshall cornerback Carl Lee (seventh round, 186th overall pick)
Spent first 11 seasons with the Vikings before spending his final season with the New Orleans Saints. Was a three-time Pro Bowler (1988-1990) and an All-Pro in 1988. Lee had a career-high eight interceptions, returning two for touchdowns in 1988.
In 181 career games (152 starts), he recorded 799 tackles, 31 interceptions, returning two for touchdowns and recovered seven fumbles.
1987: LSU defensive tackle Henry Thomas (third round, 72nd overall pick)
Spent first eight seasons with the Vikings. Spent the next two seasons with the Detroit Lions before spending his final three with the New England Patriots. Two-time Pro Bowler (1991-1992) and an All-Pro selection in 1993. In his first five seasons he recorded 81, 80, 94, 109 and 100 tackles. He and John Randle formed one of the best defensive tackle tandems in the league.
In 118 career games with the Vikings (116 started), Thomas recorded 640 tackles, 56 sacks and recovered eight fumbles, returning two for touchdowns. He recorded eight sacks or more four times in his eight seasons with the Vikings.
1990: Clemson running back Terry Allen (ninth round, 241st overall pick)
Did not play in his rookie season with Herschel Walker as the starting running back. The next season, he played in 15 games (starting six) and rushed for 563 yards and two touchdowns. In 1992, he had a breakout season rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. He missed the entire 1993 season after tearing his ACL in training camp. He returned the next season and rushed for 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns.
Allen went on to play for the Washington Redskins from 1995-1998 and spent the final three seasons of his career with the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens.
Despite only playing in three out of his five seasons with the Vikings, it is hard to not consider him as a steal. To be a 241st overall pick and have two 1,000 yards seasons with them is very impressive. Rushing for 1,000 yards after a torn ACL is also very impressive, especially since it was a tougher injury to come back from back then. His best season came in 1996 with the Redskins when he rushed for career highs of 1,353 yards and 21 touchdowns, earning his first and only Pro Bowl berth.
1991- Grambling wide receiver Jake Reed (third round, 68th overall pick)
Played for the Vikings from 1991-1999, 2001. He spent the 2000 and 2002 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. From 1994-1997 he recorded over 1,000 yards receiving in each season. He also had a career-high 85 receptions in 1994. He and Cris Carter formed one of the best receiving tandems in the league and had a combined 207 receptions in 1994, which was an NFL record at the time. They also became the first duo to have 1,000 yards each in four consecutive seasons. In 1998, he, Carter and Randy Moss were nicknamed the “Three Deep.”
In his 10 seasons with the Vikings, Reed had 413 receptions for 6,433 yards and 33 touchdowns in 134 games (83 starts). One of the biggest comebacks in Vikings history was during the first round of the 1997 playoffs against the New York Giants. The Vikings trailed 22-13 with 90 seconds remaining, until Reed caught a 30-yard touchdown from Randall Cunningham. The Vikings recovered the onside kick and won 23-22 on a 24-yard field goal from Eddie Murray.
1992- Clemson linebacker Ed McDaniel (fifth round, 125th overall pick)
Spent entire 10-year career with the Vikings. Pro Bowler in 1998. Led the team in tackles four times (1995, 1997-99).
McDaniel appeared in 125 career games (109 starts). His 19.5 career sacks are only second most for a Vikings linebacker (Matt Blair had 20.5).
1992- Florida State quarterback Brad Johnson (ninth round, 227th overall pick)
Spent his first seven seasons with the Vikings. Did not see any action his first two seasons. Played in only nine games total from 1994-95, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns. In 1996 he got his shot to start when Warren Moon went down with an injury. He appeared in 12 games (eight starts), throwing 17 touchdown and 10 interceptions. The Vikings went 9-7 and got into the playoffs as wild card. He was named the starter the next season, but missed the final three games of the season and their two playoff games due to a neck surgery. He threw 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He returned as the starter next season, but broke his ankle after two games. Randall Cunningham was named the starter the rest of the way. Johnson played in four games (starting two). He also broke his thumb later in the year when Cunningham left a game with an ankle injury. Johnson threw seven touchdowns and five interceptions.
After two seasons with the Washington Redskins and four with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (won Super Bowl in 2002), Johnson returned to the Vikings for the 2005 and 2006 seasons. In those two seasons, he threw 21 touchdowns and 19 interceptions in 30 games (23 starts). He filled in nicely for Daunte Culpepper after he tore his ACL. Johnson threw 12 touchdowns and four interceptions that season. He spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys before calling it a career.
Despite his injuries later on, Johnson was a very nice steal for the Vikings.
1998: Harvard center Matt Birk (sixth round, 173rd overall)
The St. Paul, MN native spent his first 11 seasons with the Vikings. He was a backup in his first two seasons to Jeff Christy. After Christy left, Birk became the team’s starting center and became one of the best in the NFL. He was six-time Pro Bowler (2000-01, 2003-04, 2006-07) and a two-time All-Pro (2000, 2003). Birk spent the final four years of his career with the Baltimore Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl in his final season.
Birk was also known for his off field work too, earning the Vikings Man of the Year Award six times (2002-07). In his 11 seasons with the Vikings, he appeared in 146 games (starting 123). He was also named one of the 50 greatest Vikings of all-time.
2007: Texas defensive end Brian Robison (fourth round, 102nd pick).
Currently the longest tenured player on the Vikings. He has recorded 56 career sacks and recovered eight fumbles in 158 games (102 started). He has recorded eight sacks or more three times.
In addition to his play, Robison has been one of the leaders of the defense for the past several seasons.
2008: Notre Dame center John Sullivan (sixth round, 187th overall pick)
Spent his first eight seasons with the Vikings, though he missed all of the 2015 season with a back injury. Sullivan became the starting center after Matt Birk’s departure. During his career with the Vikings, he appeared in 109 games (starting in 93) and was one of the best centers in the league.
He was released before the 2016 season and was signed by the Washington Redskins. He is currently with the Los Angeles Rams.
2010: USC defensive end Everson Griffen (fourth round, 100th overall pick)
Has appeared in 106 career games (48 starts). With Jared Allen as the starter, Griffin started only one game during his first four games, recording 17.5 sacks. After Allen’s departure after the 2013 season, Griffin was re-signed for five-years/$42.5 million. He has started in all 47 games since then and has recorded 30.5 sacks.
He has made it to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and is one of the biggest reasons for the Vikings drastic improvement on defense every year since the 2013 season, when they gave up the most points in the NFL. They have also formed one of the best defensive lines in the league these past three seasons.
2015: LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter (third round, 88th overall pick)
Was only 20 years old when he was drafted. Hunter was considered by some draft experts to be a steal and he has been just that so far after two years. Some even compared him to Jason Pierre-Paul before the draft.
During his rookie season, he appeared in 14 games (one start) and recorded six sacks. This past season he did not start any games, but appeared in all 16 games and recorded 12.5 sacks and also returned a fumble for a 24-yard touchdown in week one.
Hunter certainly has a very bright future ahead if he can stay healthy.
2015: Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs (fifth round, 146th overall)
After being inactive for the first three games of his rookie season, Diggs finally got his chance when Charles Johnson was injured. In his debut, he caught six passed for 87 yards against the eventual Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. In his next two games he had 129 and 108 yards, becoming the first Vikings rookie wide receiver since Randy Moss to recorded back-to-back 100 yard games. In 13 games (nine starts), he recorded 52 receptions for 720 yards and four touchdowns. Last season, he recorded 84 receptions for 903 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games (11 starts).
Diggs has shown that he has the ability to be a star wide receiver. The only issue has been his injuries. He has missed three games in both seasons.
Every year people get the most excited about the first round. And why not? Some of those first rounder can turn into superstars and can help their teams reach the next step. Sometimes though the ones drafted in the later rounds are the ones who have better careers than some who were drafted in the first round and even the second round.
Cris Carter was not drafted until the fourth round, as was Joe Montana. Tom Brady was a sixth-round pick. Jamarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Troy Williamson and Tony Mandarich to name a few were drafted very high and contributed very little in the NFL.
Part of what makes the draft so exciting is that you never know what you are getting. Some have the talent to be very good, but either had injury issues or not enough desire. Some late round picks use their draft spots as extra motivation to be not just good but great.
*Note: John Randle was undrafted, but did not sign with the Vikings until training camp. He first signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pictured from left to right: Brian Robison, Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter