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A Slightly Abridged History of Vikings' First-Round Picks

With the 2009 NFL Draft now a scant three months away, I thought it would be interesting to do sort of a cross-section of Vikings' first-round draft choices throughout the team's history. . .where they've spent their picks, any potential trends, and so forth.  I'll probably do this with the second round as well, and possibly the third, but the first round seems to be as good a place as any to start.

In the history of the Minnesota Vikings, the team has selected 47 players in the first round of the NFL Draft.  There have been seven seasons where the Vikings had no first-round selection (1962, 1981, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, and 2008).  There have also been three seasons where the team has had two first-round picks (1994, 1995, and 2005), as well as one season where they had three first-round selections (1967).

The Vikings have only had the #1 overall selection in the NFL Draft twice in team history.  The first time was in 1961, prior to the franchise even playing their first game, when they made Tulane running back Tommy Mason the first draft choice in team history.  The other time was in 1968, and the Vikings did quite well with that selection, grabbing Southern Cal offensive tackle Ron Yary with the first pick.  The highest selection the Vikings have had in the first round in the 40+ years since then came in 1985, when the Beloved Purple selected defensive end Chris Doleman at #4 overall.

Minnesota has drafted players from many different schools over the years, but much of their attention has seemed to focus on two particular conferences.  This is a breakdown of what conferences and schools the Vikings have pulled their first-round selections from. . .and keep in mind, these are their current conferences, not the ones that certain schools might have been in when the players in question were drafted:

Conference # Players Player/School Breakdown
Big Ten 12

LB Chad Greenway, Iowa (#17, 2006)
DE Erasmus James, Wisconsin (#18, 2005)
RB Michael Bennett, Wisconsin (#27, 2001)
DE Dimitrius Underwood, Michigan State (#29, 1999)
OT Korey Stringer, Ohio State (#24, 1995)
RB Robert Smith, Ohio State (#21, 1993)
RB D.J. Dozier, Penn State (#14, 1987)
RB Leo Hayden, Ohio State (#24, 1971)
RB Clint Jones, Michigan State (#2, 1967)
WR Gene Washington, Michigan State (#8, 1967)
OT Jerry Sharry, Purdue (#7, 1966)
DT Carl Eller, Minnesota (#6, 1964)

Total:  Ohio State 3, Michigan State 3, Wisconsin 2, Iowa 1, Penn State 1, Purdue 1, Minnesota 1

Pac Ten 12

DE Kenechi Udeze, Southern Cal (#20, 2004)
DE Duane Clemons, California (#16, 1996)
OT Todd Steussie, California (#19, 1994)
OG Randall McDaniel, Arizona State (#19, 1988)
DE Keith Millard, Washington State (#13, 1984)
S Joey Browner, Southern Cal (#19, 1983)
RB Darrin Nelson, Stanford (#7, 1982)
DT Doug Martin, Washington (#9, 1980)
RB Fred McNeil, UCLA (#17, 1974)
OT Steve Riley, Southern Cal (#25, 1974)
LB Jeff Siemon, Stanford (#10, 1972)
OT Ron Yary, Southern Cal (#1, 1968)

Total:  Southern Cal 4, California 2, Stanford 2, Arizona State 1, Washington State 1, Washington 1, UCLA 1

Atlantic Coast 6

OT Bryant McKinnie, Miami (FL) (#7, 2002)
DT Chris Hovan, Boston College (#25, 2000)
DE Derrick Alexander, Florida State (#11, 1995)
CB DeWayne Washington, North Carolina State (#18, 1994)
RB Ted Brown, North Carolina State (#16, 1979)
RB Chuck Foreman, Miami (FL) (#12, 1973)

Total:  Miami (FL) 2, North Carolina State 2, Boston College 1, Florida State 1

Big Twelve 4

RB Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma (#7, 2007)
DT Kevin Williams, Oklahoma State (#9, 2003)
DT James White, Oklahoma State (#25, 1975)
OT John Ward, Oklahoma State (#25, 1970)

Total:  Oklahoma State 3, Oklahoma 1

Southeastern 4

WR Troy Williamson, South Carolina (#7, 2005)
LB Dwayne Rudd, Alabama (#20, 1997)
DE Gerald Robinson, Auburn (#14, 1986)
OT Jim Dunaway, Mississippi (#3, 1963)

Total:  South Carolina 1, Alabama 1, Auburn 1, Mississippi 1

Conference USA 4

QB Daunte Culpepper, Central Florida (#11, 1999)
WR Randy Moss, Marshall (#21, 1998)
QB Tommy Kramer, Rice (#27, 1977)
RB Tommy Mason, Tulane (#1, 1961)

Total:  Central Florida 1, Marshall 1, Rice 1, Tulane 1

Big East 2

DE Chris Doleman, Pittsburgh (#4, 1985)
DE Randy Holloway, Pittsburgh (#21, 1978)

Total:  Pittsburgh 2

Independents 2

DE Alan Page, Notre Dame (#15, 1967)
WR Jack Snow, Notre Dame (#8, 1965)

Total:  Notre Dame 2

Mountain West 1

DE Mark Mullaney, Colorado State (#25, 1975)

Total:  Colorado State 1

Strange that the Vikings have taken as many players from Conference USA as they have from the big, bad Southeastern Conference, including the only two times in team history the Vikings have drafted a quarterback in Round 1.

As you can see from the breakdown above, much of the Vikings' focus on draft day throughout their history has been on the trenches.  Of the Vikings' 47 first-round draft choices, over half of them. . .25, to be exact. . .have been offensive or defensive linemen.  Broken down further, there have been 11 defensive ends, 8 offensive tackles, 5 defensive tackles, and 1 offensive guard.  If we do the full position breakdown, it looks something like this:

Position # of Vikings' First-Round Picks
Defensive End 11
Running Back 10
Offensive Tackle 8
Defensive Tackle 5
Linebacker 4
Wide Receiver 4
Quarterback 2
Cornerback 1
Safety 1
Offensive Guard 1

Prior to doing this breakdown, I didn't know that the Vikings had drafted THAT many running backs over the years.  The Vikings have had a lot of great backs in their history, so you wouldn't think that there would be that many, but there have been some pretty good flops in there as well.  Still, one could easily argue that the top three running backs in Vikings history were all first-round picks of the club (Adrian Peterson in 2007, Robert Smith in 1993, and Chuck Foreman in 1972).  The team has also never used a first round pick on a center or a tight end.

Of the Vikings' first-round draft selections, three of them currently have a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Carl Eller, Alan Page, and Ron Yary), two of them are on the ballot this year (Randall McDaniel and Chris Doleman), and two of them appear, at this point, to be well on their way to a spot in Canton (Randy Moss and Adrian Peterson).

And that's a brief history of the Vikings' first round selections throughout their history.  I think it's safe to say that the Vikings have had way more "hits" than "misses" in the first round of the draft over the years, and that's something that I'm sure will continue this season.