The Minnesota Vikings have made 62 selections in the first rounds of NFL Drafts. The run began by tabbing Tommy Mason with the No. 1 overall choice of the 1961 affair as an expansion team. But who is the best first-round pick in franchise history?
Vikings.com writers Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters will try to answer this and present a case for a Vikings selection in the first round (April 7), second and third (April 14), fourth and fifth (April 21), and sixth, seventh and "beyond" (April 28).
Back when Mason was selected in 1961, the 14 NFL teams at that time went a whopping 20 rounds to fill out their rosters. Teams also competed with the upstart American Football League to sign draftees.
The first common draft between the leagues occurred in 1967 and lasted 17 rounds, a number that held through the 1976 NFL Draft. The annual player selection meeting was shortened to 12 rounds from 1977-92. It was reduced to eight rounds in 1993, and the seven-round length was set in 1994.
Minnesota is currently slotted to pick from the 14th overall spot, where the Vikings have twice selected (1986-87) in previous drafts, when the 2021 NFL Draft is scheduled to open on April 29.
As for the best Vikings selections in the first round, a trio of Pro Football Hall of Fame members stood above the rest in our mind. We carefully picked the top three — after some hand-wringing and in-depth video discussion — but found we also needed to mention a few other players.
Our top three nominees are players who revolutionized each of their respective positions, placing each a cut above other Vikings Legends that include other Hall of Fame and Vikings Ring of Honor members.
Be sure to scroll below and cast your vote for the player you think is the best first-round pick by the Vikings.
Note: We did not include anyone currently on the Vikings roster in our deliberations because their on-field contributions to the organization are ongoing.
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Alan Page.
Alan Page, DT | No. 15 Overall, 1967 | Years with Vikings: 1967-78
Remember the mention of Mason above? The three-time Pro Bowler was traded, along with TE Hal Bedsole and a second-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for the 15th overall pick of the 1967 NFL Draft. It was from this spot, Minnesota's third first-round pick that year, that the Vikings tabbed Page out of Notre Dame.
Page joined Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Gary Larsen in forming the iconic Purple People Eaters and wrecked games with his instincts and intellect, as well as his quickness and relentlessness on the interior of the offensive line. The group went from intimidating to devastating with the addition of Page.
He totaled 1,118 tackles and 108.0 sacks in 11-plus seasons in Minnesota before joining Chicago via trade during the 1978 season, racking up four NFC Defensive Player of the Year honors and becoming the first defensive player to earn the NFL MVP in 1971.
Page earned nine consecutive trips to Pro Bowls (1968-76) and garnered six First-Team All-Pro selections from The Associated Press.
— Craig Peters
View the best photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
Randy Moss, WR | No. 21 Overall, 1998 | Years with Vikings: 1998-2004; 2010
I'll take one of the greatest playmakers in the history of the National Football League, not to mention in Vikings lore. A wide receiver known as "The SUPERFREAK,” Moss ranks second in franchise history with 587 receptions, 9,316 yards and 92 touchdown catches. His career totals of 156 touchdown catches and 15,292 receiving yards rank second and fourth, respectively, in NFL history A whopping 86 of those 156 career touchdowns were 20 or more yards, including 53 during his first stint with the Vikings.
How rare of a talent was Moss? After he torched the Packers with 13 catches for 343 yards and three scores in his first two Border Battle games, Green Bay spent its first three picks in the 1999 NFL Draft on defensive backs.
The Vikings have selected plenty of iconic players in the first round over the years. But a final case for Moss (a 2018 Pro Football Hall of Famer) is that since he was the 21st overall pick in 1998, he could also be considered one of the greatest Round 1 draft steals in modern history.
— Eric Smith
View photos of Vikings legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel.
Randall McDaniel, G | No. 19 Overall, 1988 | Years with Vikings: 1988-99
It's certainly tough to argue against Alan Page and Randy Moss being in the running for Minnesota's best first-round draft pick, but McDaniel is a fellow Hall of Famer with more Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro selections than anyone who has ever worn a purple helmet with horns.
A standout lineman out of Arizona State, McDaniel was passed up by 18 other teams before the Vikings snagged him with the 19th overall pick in 1988. He was the fourth offensive lineman off the board and third guard behind Dave Cadigan (No. 8) and Eric Moore (No. 10). But McDaniel was the only one to receive a nod to the NFL Pro Bowl … not just once, but 12 consecutive seasons, 11 of which were in Minnesota.
McDaniel was named First-Team All-Pro an incredible seven times over his career, and he was named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. McDaniel was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor in 2006 and into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January 2009.
— Lindsey Young
Also received consideration: Adrian Peterson, Carl Eller, Chris Doleman
Adrian Peterson, RB | No. 7 Overall, 2007 | Years with Vikings: 2007-16
The Vikings snagged Peterson seventh overall in 2007, and he went on to have an outstanding career in Purple. While an ACL tear can prove to be a devastating injury for some NFL running backs, "All Day" bounced back in record time to put up record numbers. In 2012, he racked up 2,097 yards en route to earning NFL MVP honors.
Peterson received seven Pro Bowl nods with the Vikings and was named First-Team All-Pro four times. His 11,747 rushing yards with Minnesota nearly matched the 12,705 combined rushing yards by Robert Smith (6,818) and Chuck Foreman (5,887), who rank second and third, respectively, in franchise history. Peterson's franchise records also include 97 rushing touchdowns.
— Lindsey Young
Carl Eller, DE | No. 6 Overall, 1964 | Years with Vikings: 1964-78
The Bills drafted Eller fifth overall in the 1964 AFL Draft, but the Gophers star opted to remain in Minnesota and play for the Vikings. And play he did, starting 201 of the 209 regular-season games for the Vikings. That number of starts is the third-most in franchise history behind Jim Marshall (270) and Mick Tingelhoff (240).
Eller set the franchise record with 130 career sacks and recorded at least one in 94 different games. He also is the only player in Vikings history to record at least 15 sacks in two separate seasons. Named a First-Team All-Pro five times, Eller appeared in six Pro Bowls and earned a spot on the NFL's All-Decades Team of the 1970s.
— Craig Peters
Chris Doleman, DE | No. 4 Overall, 1985 | Years with Vikings: 1985-93; 1999
Doleman landed in Minnesota in 1985 as the No. 4 overall pick out of the University of Pittsburgh. He transitioned from linebacker to defensive end in his second pro season, recording just 3.5 sacks in his first 32 games. But he soon exploded into one of the league's most-feared pass rushers with 40 sacks over the next three seasons, a run that was highlighted by a whopping 21 in 1989 when he led the NFL.
Described by teammates as a player that “could transcend any generation,” Doleman's numbers have done just that as he still ranks fifth all-time with 150.5 career sacks. The late Doleman passed away in January 2020 after a courageous battle with brain cancer that lasted more than two years after the initial diagnosis.
— Eric Smith