Sunday slant: The underappreciated

The Vikings have a lot of big-name players, but it's time to give some respect to some of the worker bees who don't occupy the top spots on the depth chart. Here are five Vikings that don't usually make the highlight films but deserve some recognition.

The Vikings have plenty of big-name players easily recognizable to even the casual NFL fan: Brett Favre, Adrian Peterson and Jared Allen, to name a few. But all but a handful of players have contributed at some point during the season.

Here are five of the most underappreciated Vikings in my estimation, two on offense, two on defense and one on special teams:

Artis HicksWhen Brad Childress and the Vikings traded for the offensive lineman in 2006, there were plenty of people who thought it was just another move to bring in a Philadelphia Eagle, since Childress came to the Vikings from Philadelphia. Hicks took over the starting right guard spot until Anthony Herrera gained the confidence of Childress in the coach's second year in Minnesota. Herrera has remained the starter at right guard since the fifth game of the 2007 season, but Hicks has proved to be a valuable and versatile asset along the offensive line. This year alone, Hicks has started two games at right guard and another at right tackle for injured starters. He's also played at left tackle when Bryant McKinnie struggled against Julius Peppers.

Hicks can play any position along the offensive line except center, making him a guy the Vikings always want active on game day.

Jeff DuganVisanthe Shiancoe is the record-setting pass-catching tight end who has 11 touchdowns, the most ever by a Vikings tight end in a single season, and he was one of six receivers to catch 40 passes or more. Jim Kleinsasser is the greybeard blocking tight end who provides protection along the offensive line and has only 10 catches this season.

Lost a bit in the tight end mix is Dugan, who is a jack of all blockers. Dugan lines up at the prototypical tight end spot and also motions into the backfield. He can be used as a lead blocker for the running back and has even been a receiving option on occasion. Once again, versatility adds to value on offense, and Dugan brings a workmanlike attitude to the blue-collar tight end position. Heck, he was even used three times as a kickoff returner at Green Bay when the Packers started a trend of not kicking to Percy Harvin and lofted it short.

Brian RobisonRobison told readers during a chat last week that he has only been getting five or six defensive snaps a game the last two contests. Guess what? He's also produced a sack in each of the last two games.

According to Pro Football Focus, Robison has averaged 14 snaps per game, sixth among the defensive linemen, but he is fourth in quarterback pressures and has 4.5 sacks, including a sack in three of the last four games.

Asher AllenThe third-round draft pick has worked his way up the depth chart throughout the year. He began as a game-day deactive and lobbied for the chance to prove himself. After spending the first six games not in uniform, he got that opportunity. He played in the final 10 games, starting one, and showed a knack for the big play. He became the first Vikings defensive back to register a quarterback sack in his first game and became the first Viking to record to a fumble and a sack in his first game. He also was one of only six Vikings to record an interception on the season.

Kenny OnatoluOnatolu was able to fulfill his American dream by going to Canada to be discovered. The former Nebraska-Omaha player earned the notice of NFL scouts while playing north of the border. He took full advantage of his opportunity with the Vikings. While Heath Farwell became a Pro Bowler for special-teams prowess, Onatolu led the team in special-teams tackles. It took 11 games before Onatolu was held without a tackle, but he had two games in 2009 in which he recorded three special-teams tackles.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

Packer Report Top Stories