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Bests and worsts: A Vikings draft-day history

Where else can you combine the intrigue of a poker game with the rush of finding something worth $100,000 at a rummage sale?
Sep 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; ESPN personality Randy Moss looks on prior to the game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium.

EAGAN, Minn. — Ask the biggest pro football fan among your friends, and it's likely they'll tell you Draft Day is one of their favorites of the year. Where else can you combine the intrigue of a poker game with the rush of finding something worth $100,000 at a rummage sale?

Every team has the chance to wheel and deal for one of the year's top prospects, or outwit everyone in finding that late-round sleeper that becomes a Hall of Famer.

The Minnesota Vikings, like every other NFL club, has had both hits and misses. Here is a historic look at a few of them. 

BEST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: WR Randy Moss (1998). The Vikings drafted six Hall of Famers in the first round: DE Carl Eller (1964), DT Alan Page (1967), RT Ron Yary (1968), DE Chris Doleman (1985), LG Randall McDaniel (1988) and Moss.

None made a bigger splash than the 21st pick out of Marshall. Coach Dennis Green dismissed his off-the-field trouble and stopped the slide down the draft board. As a rookie, Moss led the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions, helping the Vikings set the all-time scoring record and sending division rivals scrambling to bolster secondaries with bigger players.

BEST SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICK: LB Matt Blair (1974). Current players TE Kyle Rudolph (2011), LB Eric Kendricks (2015) and RB Dalvin Cook (2017) may one day be in the mix for this category. TE Jim Kleinsasser (1999) had a 13-year career, out of an NCAA Division II program.

Blair, though, made six straight Pro Bowls from 1977-82 during a 12-year career with the Vikings. He contributed to seven playoff teams and was an ace on special teams, establishing the franchise record with 20 career blocked kicks.

Credit: AP
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries for a touchdown in front of New Orleans Saints free safety Marcus Williams (43) in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)

BEST LATE-ROUND DRAFT PICK: LB Scott Studwell (1977). A ninth-rounder who played all 14 pro season with Minnesota, contributing to seven playoff teams. The two-time Pro Bowl pick still holds team records for tackles in a career, season and game. Studwell worked in the front office for 28 years.

WORST FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICK: WR Troy Williamson and DE Erasmus James (2005). This one's a tie, fittingly, because Williamson (seventh) and James (18th) were taken on the same day. Moss had worn out his welcome, so he was traded to Oakland for the pick used on Williamson. The speedster from South Carolina had three touchdown catches in three years with the team. Dropped passes were a big problem. Over the eight spots after Williamson, LBs DeMarcus Ware, Thomas Davis and Derrick Johnson came off the board. They combined for 16 selections to the Pro Bowl, each enjoying a career of 12-plus years. Instead, the Vikings took James out of Wisconsin. He had three major knee surgeries and spent only three years with the team. The salt in the wound: Green Bay got Aaron Rodgers at No. 24 in that draft.

Can't ignore the sad case of DE Dimitrius Underwood (1999), taken 29th overall after the Vikings snagged QB Daunte Culpepper that year at No. 11. Underwood, who struggled with mental illness, reported to training camp in military fatigues and left the team without permission on the first day of practice. He was released a few weeks later.

WORST SECOND-ROUND DRAFT PICK: LB Raonall Smith (2002). The Vikings struggled on defense in the early 2000s, a direct result of fruitless drafting. Smith was the 38th overall pick out of Washington State, playing sparingly over only three seasons.

BEST DRAFT TRADE: The Vikings made DE Jared Allen the highest-paid defensive player in the league after acquiring him from Kansas City three days before the 2008 draft. The price was just as steep, a first-round pick (17th overall) and two third-round selections. Two of them, left tackle Brandon Albert and running back Jamaal Charles, became Chiefs standouts.

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Still, Allen had 85 1/2 sacks in six seasons. He was an All-Pro three times, never missing a game and helping the Vikings make three trips to the playoffs - including the 2009 NFC championship game.

WORST DRAFT TRADE: One of the worst in sports history: The Vikings fetched RB Herschel Walker and four picks — all third round or later — from Dallas in 1989 for a five-player, eight-pick bounty. That left the Vikings without a first or second-rounder for three straight years, 1990-92. The Cowboys? They won three Super Bowls in four seasons, from 1992-95.

RELATED: Herschel Walker trade still an open wound for Vikings fans 30 years later

DID YOU KNOW THEY ONCE DRAFTED?: DE Bobby Bell (1963). The Vikings stayed local in the second round and picked the Minnesota star 16th overall. But they declined to guarantee his contract. Bell chose the AFL's Chiefs instead and became a Hall of Famer. He was a six-time All-Pro in 12 years in KC, which beat the Vikings in the Super Bowl after the 1969 season.

LAST YEAR’S PICKS: 1st, Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State; 2nd, Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama; 3rd, Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State; 4th, Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma; 5th, Cameron Smith, LB, USC; 6th, Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas; 6th, Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming; 6th, Oli Udoh, T, Elon; 7th, Kris Boyd, CB, Texas; 7th, Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon; 7th, Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State; 7th, Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force.

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