When you think of dominant defensive lines in the National Football League, the Minnesota Vikings are on the short list, and they’ve been on that list throughout much of the Mike Zimmer era. However, the players that have put them on that list, by and large, have not been widely heralded players.
Nick Olson, one of the lead writers for Vikings Territory, noted this on the Twitters yesterday.
The #Vikings currently lead the NFL in sacks.— Nick Olson (@NicholasJOlson) November 5, 2018
No team has invested fewer 1st or 2nd rounders on their D-line in the past 10 years. And yet Danielle Hunter (3rd rounder), Everson Griffen (4th rounder) & Stephen Weatherly (7th rounder) make up one of the best DE trios in the NFL.
It’s not just the defensive end group, either, quite frankly. In fact, if we take a look at all of the defensive linemen on the Vikings’ roster, you don’t see a lot of first or second-day NFL draft picks.
- Danielle Hunter (third round, 2015)
- Everson Griffen (fourth round, 2010)
- Stephen Weatherly (seventh round, 2016)
- Tashawn Bower (undrafted, 2017)
- Sheldon Richardson (first round, 2013)
- Linval Joseph (second round, 2010)
- Jaleel Johnson (fourth round, 2017)
- Jalyn Holmes (fourth round, 2018)
- Tom Johnson (undrafted, 2006, had stops in places like NFL Europe, Arena Football, and the CFL before permanently making it in the NFL)
You’ll notice that the two highest-drafted guys on that list were not drafted by Minnesota. Richardson, a former first-round pick, is on his third NFL team in six seasons, while Joseph has made his way onto the short list of the best free agent signings in team history. But, the linemen that the Vikings have drafted in recent history have generally been taken on Day 3 of draft weekend.
In fact, the only first or second-round pick the Vikings have used on a defensive lineman in the last ten years was Sharrif Floyd in 2013. Before that, you have to go all the way back to Erasmus James in 2005, who was part of a three-year run that saw the Vikings use first-round selections on defensive linemen each season (along with Kevin Williams in 2003 and Kenechi Udeze in 2004).
(Incidentally, you can look up these and numerous other facts using our Complete Minnesota Vikings Draft Pick Database. . .sortable for your pleasure!)
The Vikings have been doing this for quite a while, too, even in the pre-Zimmer days. Brian Robison was a fourth-round pick, as was Ray Edwards (you remember him). Shamar Stephen, another seventh-round pick, was a solid rotational piece while he was in Minnesota as well.
It’s a real testament to a lot of people in the organization that the Vikings have been able to take guys from (mostly) Day 3 of the NFL Draft and turn them into not just part of a rotation, but for the most part very good NFL defensive linemen. It says a lot about the scouts that are doing deep dives on these sorts of players, as well as the Vikings being fortunate enough to have defensive line coaches like Karl Dunbar and Andre Patterson over the years that have gotten the most out of these players.
Now, if we could just translate that over to offensive linemen somehow.