As the countdown to the draft is entering its final days, the Minnesota Vikings and the other 31 teams are ranking the college crop of talent looking for that next superstar player.
The reality is that, more times than not, with all their vetting and due diligence, teams still miss on prospects. But when they do hit, they often hit big with players who become the faces of their franchises for years to come.
We developed a 53-man roster of players that were drafted by the Vikings (the Vikings have never drafted a long-snapper, so one of our roster players will have to fill in during the unlikely event this team punts).
Some of the greatest names in franchise history won’t be included because they were not drafted by the Vikings – a Hall of Fame-style list that includes Jim Marshall, Paul Krause, Cris Carter, John Randle, Jared Allen and Steve Hutchinson.
The only prerequisite was that your name had to be called on draft weekend by the Vikings and these were the best of the best.
Quarterbacks: Like most teams, we’re going with three quarterbacks – Fran Tarkenton (1961), Daunte Culpepper (1999) and Tommy Kramer (1977). Maybe a couple of years from now, Teddy Bridgewater can get his name on the list, but that will take some doing.
Running backs: We’re only keeping four running backs because we only need four – Adrian Peterson (2007), Chuck Foreman (1973), Terry Allen (1990) and Robert Smith (1993). All four of them brought different skill sets to the table and any of them could be a lead dog for just about any franchise.
Wide receivers: We took the luxury of keeping six wide receivers – Randy Moss (1998), Percy Harvin (2009), Sammy White (1976), Jake Reed (1991), Sidney Rice (2007), Nate Burleson (2003). Harvin will double as our return guy.
Tight ends: Because of our strength at running back, we are going to keep four tight ends on the team. We wanted a devastating lead blocker so we added a fourth to our crew – Steve Jordan (1982), Kyle Rudolph (2011), Joe Senser (1979) and Jim Kleinsasser (1999).
Offensive linemen: With the luxury of keeping a couple of extra players, we are keeping 11 offensive linemen – tackles Ron Yary (1968), Bryant McKinnie (2002), Todd Steussie (1994), Phil Loadholt (2009) and Korey Stringer (1995), guards Randall McDaniel (1988), Ed White (1969), Milt Sunde (1964) and Brandon Fusco (2011), and centers Matt Birk (1998) and John Sullivan (2008).
Defensively, the Vikings don’t have the full complement of Purple People Eaters, but don’t need them with this group, which could be the NFL version of Seal Team 6.
Defensive linemen: Up front, we’re going to run an eight-man line rotation that could go up against about any franchise in the NFL – defensive ends Carl Eller (1964), Chris Doleman (1985), Everson Griffen (2010) and Brian Robison (2007), and defensive tackles Alan Page (1967), Kevin Williams (2003), Keith Millard (1984) and Henry Thomas (1987). While that spans the entirety of the franchise, it would be difficult to find many teams that can boast the embarrassment of riches the Vikings have had up front over the decades.
Linebackers: We had trouble making cuts at linebacker, so we’re going to run a hybrid 4-3 and 3-4 scheme that will require us to keep eight linebackers – outside linebackers Matt Blair (1974), Ed McDaniel (1992), Chad Greenway (2006), Roy Winston (1962) and Anthony Barr (2014), and middle linebackers Scott Studwell (1977), E.J. Henderson (2003) and Jeff Siemon (1972).
Defensive backs: Our cornerbacks aren’t as stellar as a lot of teams, but they are solid – Carl Lee (1983), Xavier Rhodes (2013), Bobby Bryant (1967) and DeWayne Washington (1994). Our safeties will include some heavy hitters who can put the fear into receivers going over the middle – Joey Browner (1983), Harrison Smith (2012), Todd Scott (1991) and Orlando Thomas (1995).
As the Vikings head into the 2016 draft, they’re looking to add more players that could push the 53 guys who have made the first 55 years of Minnesota football something special. The longer the franchise goes, the harder it will be to make the team, but the hope is that they can find one or two that will make a push for inclusion.