The 2021 NFL Draft is but a day away as we bring a close to a series that has presented cases for the best pick by the Vikings in each round of past drafts.
While we won't conclude by going round-by-round all the way to 20 as NFL teams did during the first six NFL Drafts in Vikings history (1961-66), we have some impressive nominees in the sixth round, seventh round and "beyond," which includes Rounds 8-20 and undrafted players.
Note: We did not include anyone currently on the Vikings roster in our deliberations because their on-field contributions to the organization are ongoing. We also did not include Hall of Fame DT John Randle in the beyond grouping since he passed through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers briefly before landing in Minnesota.
Nominees are listed chronologically in year of joining the team. Be sure to vote for players in each category.
Past results of fan votes
Round 1: Randy Moss
Round 2: Matt Blair
Round 3: Fran Tarkenton
Round 4: Everson Griffen
Round 5: Stefon Diggs
Best of the Sixth Round
The Vikings selected 62 players in sixth rounds of the first 60 NFL Drafts in franchise history.
Joe Senser, TE | No. 152 Overall, 1979 | Years with Vikings: 1980-84
After not playing in 1979, Senser suited up for all 16 games of the 1980 season and emerged as a threat in the passing game. He recorded 42 receptions for 447 yards, ranking fifth on the team in each category, and led Minnesota with seven touchdown catches, which was two more than the five apiece recorded by Sammy White and Ahmad Rashad.
Senser followed with quite an encore, again leading the team in touchdown catches with eight and posting 1,004 receiving yards, which edged out 1,001 by White for the most on the squad. His 79 receptions that season ranked second on the club and led to a Pro Bowl selection for the tight end.
The Philadelphia native is the only tight end to lead the Vikings in receiving yards in three consecutive weeks of one season (Nov. 2, 1981 through Nov. 15, 1981). His 1,004 receiving yards in 1981 remain a single-season record for a Vikings tight end (145 more than Steve Jordan's 859 in 1986).
The trajectory was remarkable, but the 1982 season was strike-shortened to nine games. Senser finished with 29 catches for 261 yards and one score, holding his starting spot as Minnesota welcomed Jordan (featured below in the seventh-round selections).
A knee injury forced Senser to miss all of the 1983 season. He returned in limited capacity the next season, but one has to wonder what kind of duo Senser and Jordan could have been at tight end if not for the knee injury, or if Senser had played at a time with advanced sports medicine and rehab that has enabled players to return from knee injuries.
– By Craig Peters
View every Vikings first round draft pick through the years.
Matt Birk, C | No. 173 Overall, 1998 | Years with Vikings: 1998-2008
Every once in a while, diamonds in the rough are unearthed beyond the first few rounds of the NFL Draft – and that's exactly what happened when the Vikings drafted Minnesota native Matt Birk.
The former Cretin-Derham Hall and Harvard standout became a full-time starter in his third NFL season, which also marked his first career Pro Bowl nod. Birk garnered six selections to the all-star game, tying Mick Tingelhoff for the most Pro Bowl appearances by a Vikings center.
Birk missed the 2005 season with a hip injury but bounced back in 2006, starting all 16 games that season. In 2007 he helped block for rookie Adrian Peterson, who racked up 1,341 rushing yards en route to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Birk wasn't just as an asset to Minnesota on the field. His commitment to giving back led to his selection as the Minnesota Vikings Community Man of the Year for six straight seasons.
After his time with the Vikings, Birk went on to play four seasons for the Ravens. In February 2013, he helped Baltimore defeat San Francisco in Super Bowl XLVII.
– By Lindsey Young
John Sullivan, C | No. 187 Overall, 2008 | Years with Vikings: 2008-2015
If a team can get a sixth-rounder to make any sort of impact, it's usually viewed as a win. But if you can get a solid starter, especially on the offensive line, that's a home run.
Sullivan was a sixth-rounder in 2008, and although he didn't start as a rookie (behind Birk), he started all but three games over the next six seasons from 2009 to 2014. He helped keep quarterbacks upright, paved the way for Peterson, brought a strong measure of leadership to Minnesota's locker room and positively impacted the community.
A back injury in the 2015 preseason ended Sullivan's time in Minnesota, but he played three more seasons after leaving the Vikings and started in Super Bowl LIII for the Rams. Sully can easily be viewed as one of the best sixth-rounders in franchise history.
– By Eric Smith
Best of the Seventh Round
The Vikings drafted 77 players in seventh rounds of the first 60 NFL Drafts in franchise history.
Bobby Bryant, CB | No. 167 Overall, 1983 | Years with Vikings: 1967-80
Nicknamed "Bones" and sometimes referred to as "Skinny Minny" because of his 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame, Bryant's best asset arguably was his nose for the football.
After sitting out in 1967, Bryant recorded two or more interceptions each season from 1968-80, except for 1974 when he missed all but one game because of an injury. On four occasions, Bryant recorded six or more picks, including eight (in 10 games) in 1969, helping Minnesota's defense lead the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed.
Bryant also picked off seven passes in 1973, six in 1975 and seven more in 1978. His 51 career interceptions rank second in franchise history behind NFL all-time leader Paul Krause, who recorded 53 of his 81 with Minnesota.
A native of Macon, Georgia, Bryant garnered two Pro Bowl selections, but it was his epic postseason performances — particularly the 1973 and 1976 NFC Championships — that cemented his spot among the 50 Greatest Vikings. Bryant picked off Cowboys QB Roger Staubach twice and returned one 63 yards for a touchdown in 1973 to help send Minnesota to Super Bowl VIII. Three years later, he returned a blocked kick 90 yards for a touchdown and nabbed off two passes by Rams QB Pat Haden on the way to Super Bowl XI.
– By Craig Peters
View photos of former Vikings TE Steve Jordan who will be inducted to the Vikings Ring of Honor this year.
Steve Jordan, TE | No. 179 Overall, 1982 | Years with Vikings: 1982-94
Not only did the Vikings find a gem in the seventh round back in 1982, but they also gleaned perhaps the best tight end in franchise history.
Jordan was a bit of an unknown player coming out of Brown University and took a few seasons to adapt to the league. But once he found his stride, he was among the league's best tight ends, making the Pro Bowl in six straight seasons from 1986 to 1991.
Jordan ranks third in team history with 498 catches, is sixth with 6,307 receiving yards and is 10th with 28 touchdown catches. He is the top tight end in franchise history in terms of catches and yards, and is second in receiving scores.
Jordan was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2019.
– By Eric Smith
View images as Vikings legends gathered at Steve Jordans Ring of Honor Ceremony.
Carl Lee, CB | No. 186 Overall, 1983 | Years with Vikings: 1983-93
The Vikings snagged Carl Lee out of Marshall University, and the move definitely paid off for them.
Lee played 11 seasons for Minnesota, during which he played 169 games and made 144 starts. What he lacked in size (5-foot-11, 185 pounds), Lee made up for with tenacity in the Vikings secondary.
He never went a season without an interception, and he grabbed at least two in all but three campaigns over his career. In 1988, Lee logged an incredible eight interceptions in the regular season and returned two for touchdowns. He helped the Vikings advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, where they fell to the Niners.
Lee received three straight Pro Bowl nods (1988-90) and in 1988 was named First-Team All-Pro by The Associated Press.
His 29 picks in Purple rank sixth in Vikings history, one interception ahead of Harrison Smith.
– By Lindsey Young
Best of Beyond
Mick Tingelhoff, C | Undrafted, 1962 | Years with Vikings: 1962-78
The arrival of Tingelhoff as an undrafted player out of Nebraska before the second season in franchise history is one of the most fortuitous moments in Vikings lore.
Tingelhoff took the helm in the second preseason game of 1962 and never missed a start in 17 seasons, suiting up for a whopping 240 consecutive regular-season starts, which would be a franchise record if not for the 270 in a row by Jim Marshall. In addition to manning the middle of the offensive line, Tingelhoff also long snapped during an era of 40-player rosters.
Enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2015 after a long wait, Tingelhoff was selected to six consecutive Pro Bowls (1964-69) and garnered five First-Team All-Pro selections during that span. Tingelhoff's toughness helped shape the identity of the Vikings, and he started in each of Minnesota's four Super Bowl appearances.
He is a member of the Vikings Ring of Honor and the 50 Greatest Vikings. Tingelhoff's No. 53 is of six that has been permanently retired by the team.
– By Craig Peters
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Mick Tingelhoff.
Milt Sunde, G | No. 271 Overall, 1964 | Years with Vikings: 1964-74
It's been a long time since the NFL Draft has included 20 rounds, but let's take a moment to appreciate the talent Minnesota found there in Milt Sunde.
A former Golden Gopher and alum of Bloomington High School, Sunde was a hometown kid and familiar face to Vikings fans when selected to the NFL.
Sunde played 147 regular-season games in Purple and made 112 starts. He helped block for the likes of Bill Brown and Dave Osborn, and he protected future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Sunde played in 11 playoff games for Minnesota, including Super Bowls IV and IX, which capped off his NFL career. He missed playing in Super Bowl VIII due to an injury suffered in the NFC Championship game.
Following the 1966 campaign in which Brown and Osborn combined for 1,173 rushing yards and Tarkenton threw 17 touchdown passes, Sunde received a Pro Bowl nod.
Sunde passed away on April 22, 2020, at 78 years old.
– By Lindsey Young
View photos of reactions and announcements on draft day when Vikings were selected.
Scott Studwell, LB | No. 250 Overall, 1977 | Years with Vikings: 1977-90
Studwell's playing career spanned 14 seasons in Purple. But his full time with the Vikings lasted a whopping 42 years as both a player and well-respected member of the personnel department.
Hall of Fame Head Coach Bud Grant pounded the table for Studwell's selection as a ninth-rounder back in 1977, and the move paid off in a big way. Studwell is one of five Vikings to appear in more than 200 regular-season games and holds team records for tackles in a game (24 against Detroit in 1985), in a season (230 in 1981) and most consecutive seasons of leading Minnesota in tackles (six, 1980-85). Chad Greenway, whom Studwell scouted and brought to Minnesota, later matched the consecutive seasons of leading the team in tackles (2008-13).
His impact as a linebacker is more than enough to get him on this list. But add in his two-plus decades in the front office as a scout and executive, and he's a no-brainer. Studwell was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2009.
– By Eric Smith