When fans look at the draft annually, almost all of the attention is focused on the first round. The NFL has does an excellent job of making its annual draft festivities destination television. The production value is amazing. They fill venues like Radio City Music Hall in New York and Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. It even includes competing coverage between ESPN and NFL Network.
On the second night of the draft, when the second and third rounds are conducted, things are still at a prime-time level of interest, but Commissioner Roger Goodell is no longer around for the off-putting, too-long hugs with men in their early 20s.
By the time you get to Day 3, when the final four rounds take place, casual fan interest has largely waned. Multiple picks go unannounced during commercial breaks or interviews with draftees, coaches and owners. But that isn’t true for NFL general managers, coaches and scouts.
They see the late rounds of the draft as a chance to find diamonds in the rough that their scouts have seen. USA Today honors the late-round gems by naming them to an “All-Joe Team, ”so we compiled our own all-Vikings, All-Joe Team.
While the success rate is a long shot – as would be expected – we have compiled a 50-man Minnesota Vikings all-star team of players selected from the fourth round and beyond, proof that there is talent in the late rounds, up to and including Vikings legendary guard Milt Sunde, who was drafted in the 20th round.
At quarterback, there will be some competition between Brad Johnson (9th round, 1992) and Wade Wilson (8th, 1981) for the starting job. We won’t get cute and try to slide Tyler Thigpen (7th, 2007) through waivers and make him our developmental guy.
We will have a running back by committee, but Terry Allen (9th, 1990) will be our lead dog. When we need hard yards, we’ll bring in Dave Osborn (13th, 1965), and when we’re using our backs as dual threats, we have three to choose from – Brent McClanahan (5th, 1973), Mewelde Moore (4th, 2004) and Oscar Reed (7th, 1968).
Our wide receivers aren’t game-breakers, but we’re going to take the Patriots approach of using our tight ends as receiving weapons. We will still count on downfield yardage from Jarius Wright (4th, 2012), Hassan Jones (5th, 1986), Paul Flatley (4th, 1963), Sam McCullum (9th, 1974) and Stefon Diggs (5th, 2015).
The tight ends will be called upon to make plays and we have three glue-fingered types to get that job done. Steve Jordan (7th, 1982), Joe Senser (6th, 1979) and Stu Voigt (10th, 1970) will all see playing time and Jordan and Senser may end up being our Gronk and Aaron Hernandez as our leading receivers.
We may have to mix and match our offensive line, because we have only three offensive tackles on the roster – T.J. Clemmings (4th, 2015), Everett Lindsay (5th, 1993) and Brian Habib (10th, 1988). However, we have an embarrassment of riches at guard with seven – Brandon Fusco (6th, 2011), Milt Sunde (20th, 1964), Todd Kalis (4th, 1988), Jim Hough (4th, 1978), Charles Goodrum (9th, 1972), Larry Bowie (6th, 1962), Curtis Rouse (11th, 1982) – so some of them will have to move.
Our strongest position is center, where we have Matt Birk (6th, 1998) and John Sullivan (6th, 2008). It will be a tough choice and we have to move or trade some of them to solidify the tackle position or get a late-round wide receiver like Green Bay’s Donald Driver (7th, 1999) to bolster our passing attack.
At defensive tackle, we include our only undrafted roster invitee – John Randle – to join Letroy Guion (5th, 2008), C.J. Mosley (6th, 2005) and Tim Newton (6th, 1985). Any defense with the original Johnny Football is going to be solid.
Our linebackers may struggle somewhat in coverage, but we’re going to be the biggest hitters in the league with Scott Studwell (9th, 1977), Ed McDaniel (5th, 1992), Roy Winston (4th, 1962). Jesse Solomon (12th, 1986) and Jasper Brinkley (5th, 2009).
Our cornerbacks will be thin, but include guys who carved out long careers for themselves in their eras – Bobby Bryant (7th, 1967), Carl Lee (7th, 1983), Ed Sharockman (5th, 1961). We may have to cheat our safeties over occasionally, because we have plenty of them – Tyrone Carter (4th, 2000), Robert Blanton (5th, 2012), Todd Scott (6th, 1991), Reggie Rutland (4th, 1987) and Jeff Wright (15th, 1971).
For our special teams, Blair Walsh (6th, 2012) will be our kicker and we’ll have a training camp battle between Jeff Locke (5th, 2013) and Neil Clabo (10th, 1975) for the punting job. One of them will have to go to get our roster down to 50.
Every team can create a 50-man roster similar to this because, while all the hype and attention will be on the first couple of days of the draft, every year produces mid- and late-round players that become integral pieces of their franchise in the eras they played.
They may be an “All-Joe” team on draft weekend, but, with the benefit of hindsight, they all made their mark on the lore and history of the NFL.