Here’s one opinion on the best 52 players in franchise history.
Two years ago in honor of the Minnesota Vikings 50th season, fans voted for the best 50 Vikings of all time. Longtime head coach Bud Grant was included on that list, but this one ranks only players. Being that 2012 was the 52nd season in the franchise’s history, the top 52 are included here, along with some “Honorable Mention” players. Selection and ranking were based on longevity (seasons with the team), individual statistics and honors, the player’s contribution to the team’s wins, and overall team success during the player’s tenure.
Joe Kapp, QB: Kapp played for the team for only three years, yet was instrumental in their 1969 Super Bowl season, so he deserves a mention. He was named the Vikes’ MVP that year but refused the award, saying “there is no most valuable Viking” and noting the team’s motto of “40 for 60” - 40 men playing together for every 60 minutes in a game.
Jim Kleinsasser, TE: Doing the dirty work as a blocker at tight end and fullback, Kleinsasser played in 180 games, starting 130, during 13 seasons with the team.
David Dixon, G: Dixon played in 152 games during 11 seasons for the Vikings. He started 134 of those games at right guard, clearing the way for runners such as Robert Smith, Leroy Hoard, and Michael Bennett.
Milt Sunde, G: a former 20th round pick, Sunde started 106 games at left guard and right guard, including the team’s dominant season in 1969.
Doug Martin, DE: A former first round pick, Martin started and ended his career with the team on controversial notes, but was a pretty good player on the field during the early and mid-1980’s. He played in 126 games, starting 94, and his 60.5 sacks rank seventh in team history.
Steve Riley, OT: A first round pick in 1974, Riley started 121 games at left tackle during his 11 year career, protecting the blind side of quarterbacks Fran Tarkenton and Tommy Kramer.
Lonnie Warwick, MLB: Warwick played in 92 games and started 75. The middle linebacker in a defense that dominated opponents’ offenses in 1968, 1969, and 1970, he intercepted 12 passes, recorded 7.5 sacks and recovered 6 fumbles in his eight year career with the Vikes.
Jake Reed, WR: Reed played in 134 games and started 83 during his 10 years with the team. His 413 catches rank fourth in team history, and his 33 touchdown receptions are good for sixth.
Ted Brown, RB: Brown played in 106 games during his eight year career with Minnesota, ranking fifth on the team’s rushing list with 4,546 yards and seventh in scoring with 53 touchdowns.
52) Greg Coleman, P: Coleman was steady during his ten years with the team from 1977-1987, punting in 138 games, still the team record.
51) Gene Washington, WR: Playing in 81 games in his six seasons with the Vikings, Washington was named to the Pro Bowl in 1969 and 1970 and was the team’s top receiver during those dominant years.
50) Stu Voight, TE: Voight was a steady tight end during his 11 years and 131 games with the team, contributing during the team’s super bowl seasons in the mid-‘70’s.
49) John Gilliam: Named to the Pro Bowl after each of his four seasons with the team, Gilliam’s 20 yard average-per-reception is by far highest among Viking players with at least 100 catches.
48) Fred Cox, K: The Vikings placekicker from 1963 through 1977 appeared in 210 games and is the team’s all-time scoring leader with 1,365 points.
47) Dave Osborn, RB: A tough runner and reliable receiver out of the backfield, Osborn’s 4,320 rushing yards rank sixth in team history. He was named to one Pro Bowl during his 11 years with the team.
46) Doug Sutherland, DT: Sutherland played in 138 games during his 10 years with the Vikings, starting 90. He plugged the middle of the defensive line at left tackle during the mid 1970’s when the team had highly rated defenses.
45) Keith Millard, DT: Selected All-Pro and to the Pro Bowl twice, Millard was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 when he recorded 18 sacks. Millard was a key piece of the team’s outstanding defenses in the late ‘80’s, appearing in 75 games during his six years with the Vikes.
44) Fred McNeil, OLB: Playing in 167 games and starting 122 at outside linebacker during his 12 years with the team, McNeil recovered 16 fumbles, intercepted 7 passes, and recorded 13 quarterback sacks.
43) Ed McDaniel, OLB: The team leader in tackles for loss with 90.5, he ranks second among Viking linebackers with 20.5 sacks. McDaniel is also sixth on the team with 17 forced fumbles. He has 5 fumble recoveries, intercepted 4 passes and was named to the Pro Bowl once during his nine seasons and 125 games, 109 starts, with the Vikings.
42) Robert Smith, RB: A two time Pro Bowl selection, Smith played in 98 games during his eight seasons with the team. Currently second in team history in rushing yards with 6,818.
41) Nate Wright, CB: A steady cornerback during the mid-1970’s when the team led the league each year in many defensive categories, Wright played in 129 games in his ten years with the team and ranks 5th with 31 interceptions.
40) Ed Sharockman, CB: A consistent defensive back on Minnesota’s great defenses of the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, Sharockman played in 142 games, starting 121, during his 12 years with the team. He ranks third with 40 interceptions, returning four for touchdowns, and also recovered 9 fumbles.
39) Karl Kassulke, S: Another key player on the team’s outstanding defenses in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s, Kassulke played in 131 games at safety, starting 121, intercepting 19 passes. Selected to one Pro Bowl, he had 9 fumble recoveries and his 8 sacks are second among defensive backs.
38) Jared Allen, DE: Named to the Pro Bowl four times in his five years with the team, Allen’s 74 sacks already place him sixth in team history. He has also intercepted 4 passes, returing one for a touchdown, forced 14 fumbles and recovered 9, taking one back for a score.Allen has also registered 4 safeties, while starting all 80 games at right end.
37) Antoine Winfield, CB: Selected to three Pro Bowls during his nine years with the Vikings, this cornerback has played in 119 games, starting 115. Of Winfield’s 21 interceptions two have been returned for touchdowns. He has defensed 73 passes, recorded 6.5 QB sacks, forced 11 fumbles and recovered 9, returning two of those for touchdowns as well.
36) Tommy Kramer, QB: While injured often during his 13 years with the Vikes, Kramer did start 110 games at quarterback and ranks second in most passing categories, including yards and touchdowns.
35) Gary Zimmerman, OT: Named to three Pro Bowls in his seven years with the Vikings Zimmerman held down left tackle for 108 consecutive games during the late ‘80’s and early 90’s.
34) Ed White, G: Selected to three Pro Bowls in his eight years with the team, White played in 122 games and started 94 at guard during the team’s dominant run in the early and mid 1970’s.
33) Matt Birk, C: Birk played in 146 games and started 123 from 1998-2008, earning six Pro Bowl nods while snapping the ball at center.
32) Tim Irwin, OT: During his 13 years with the team he played in 188 games, starting 181 at right tackle. Standing at 6-7, he also blocked a few extra points and field goals while on the special teams unit.
31) Kevin Williams, DT: A six time Pro Bowl selection at defensive tackle, Williams has started all 156 games he has appeared in. He ranks eighth with 56.5 QB sacks, has knocked down 61 passes, forced 8 fumbles, and recovered 12, returning two for touchdowns. Williams has also intercepted 4 passes, bring back two for scores.
30) Henry Thomas, DT: Selected to two Pro Bowls while appearing in 118 games and starting 117, Thomas ranks sixth in tackles-for-loss with 62. He is ninth with 56 sacks, forced 12 fumbles, and recovered 8, returning two for touchdowns. He also had two interceptions and notched a safety.
29) Wally Hilgenberg, OLB: A tough outside linebacker on the Vikings’ great defenses of the late 60’s and throughout the 70’s, Hilgenberg played in 158 games, starting 118, in 12 seasons. He recovered 13 fumbles, recorded 8 sacks, picked off 8 passes and scored two touchdowns.
28) Adrian Peterson, RB: In six years and 89 games with the team Peterson is the Vikings career leader in rushing yards with 8,849 and first in rushing touchdowns with 76. He has been selected to five Pro Bowls.
27) Grady Alderman, OT: Holding down left tackle on offense for 14 years, Alderman played in 193 games, starting 174, and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times.
26) Gary Larsen, DT: A member of one of the best front fours in NFL history, defensive tackle Larsen played in 135 games, starting 107, in 10 seasons for the Vikings. He recorded 37 sacks, recovered 10 fumbles, and was named to two Pro Bowls.
25) Ahmad Rashad, WR: Selected to four Pro Bowls in his seven years with the team, Rashad had 400 receptions and scored 34 touchdowns in 98 games. He was part of one of the most memorable plays in NFL history, catching a touchdown pass on the game’s last play against the Browns in 1980.
24) Sammy White, WR: A two time Pro Bowler, White played in 128 games, starting 118, and was the team’s top receiver in the late ‘70’s, averaging 16.3 yards per catch. His 50 touchdown receptions are fourth in team history.
23) Carl Lee, CB: Selected three times to the Pro Bowl, Lee played in 169 games, starting 144, during 11 seasons with the team. A key player at cornerback on the team’s great defenses in the late 1980’s, he is the all-time leader in passes defensed with 128, recovered 6 fumbles, and is sixth with 29 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.
22) Steve Jordan, TE: A six time Pro Bowl selection, Jordan was a consistent and durable tight end, appearing in 176 games and starting 149 in 13 seasons. He had 498 receptions and scored 28 touchdowns.
21) Roy Winston, OLB: In 15 seasons Winston played in 191 games, starting 158 at outside linebacker on dominant Viking defenses in the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s. A playmaker, he had 16 sacks and 14 fumble recoveries, both third among linebackers, and 12 interceptions, second among linebackers, and scored 3 touchdowns. He also is fifth all-time with 68 tackles-for-loss.
20) Bill Brown, RB: A tough runner, he is in fourth place in rushing yards with 5,757 and second with 52 touchdowns. He added 286 receptions and another 23 TD’s as a receiver out of the backfield. Brown played in 180 games during 13 seasons and was selected four times to the Pro Bowl.
19) Randy Moss, WR: A five time Pro Bowl selection during his seven seasons with Minnesota, Moss is second in team history in a number of receiving categories, including 587 receptions, 9,316 yards, and 92 touchdowns.
18) Jeff Siemon, MLB: A key player as the middle linebacker on the team’s top defenses in the mid-1970’s, Siemon played in 156 games, starting 123, and was selected to four Pro Bowls. He forced 14 fumbles, recovered 11, had 6 QB sacks, and 11 interceptions.
17) Chuck Foreman, RB: An exceptional runner and receiver who could turn around a game, Foreman was selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his seven seasons in Minnesota. He rushed for 5,887 yards and 52 touchdowns, and caught 336 passes for another 23 scores.
16) Scott Studwell, MLB: Fifth in team history with 201 games played, Studwell started 161 at middle linebacker and was selected to the Pro Bowl twice. He forced 12 fumbles, recovered 16, intercepted 11 passes, and had 9 QB sacks. He ranks ninth with 46 tackles-for-loss.
15) Bobby Bryant, CB: A playmaker at cornerback, Bryant was selected to two Pro Bowls in 13 seasons, playing in 161 games and starting 121. He is second in team history with 51 interceptions and second in passes defensed with 77. He also recovered 14 fumbles and scored four touchdowns, in addition to coming up with a number of big plays in playoff games.
14) Joey Browner, S: Selected to the Pro Bowl as a safety six times in his nine seasons, Browner played in 145 games, starting 117. He is fourth in interceptions with 37, third in passes defensed with 76, fifth in forced fumbles with 18, and fifth in fumble recoveries in 17. He also recorded 9.5 QB sacks, first among Viking defensive backs, and scored 4 touchdowns.
13) Anthony Carter, WR: A dynamic game-changing receiver, Carter averaged 16 yards per catch and is third in team history with 478 receptions, 7,636 yards and 52 touchdowns. Selected to the Pro Bowl three times, he played in 133 games and started 125 in his nine years with the team.
12) Chris Doleman, DE: A six time Pro Bowl selection, Doleman played in 154 games, starting 142, in 10 seasons with the Vikings. He leads the team with 33 forced fumbles, is sixth in fumble recoveries with 16, seventh in tackles-for-loss with 60, and fifth in sacks with 96.5. He also intercepted five passes, scored two touchdowns, and recorded two safeties.
11) Matt Blair, OLB: Selected to six Pro Bowls in his 12 seasons, Blair played in 160 games, starting 130. He is fourth in forced fumbles with 19, third in fumble recoveries with 20, and tenth in tackles-for-loss with 44. His 23 sacks and 16 interceptions are first among Vikings linebackers. He also blocked 20 kicks in his career.
10) Mick Tingelhoff, C: A six time Pro Bowl selection, Tingelhoff started every Viking game at center from 1962 through 1977, 240 consecutive games in all. He anchored the Vikings offensive line and deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
9) John Randle, DT: A standout defensive tackle who played in 176 games and started 150, Randle was named to six Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons with the Vikings. He recovered 9 fumbles, ranks third in forced fumbles with 25, and is third in QB sacks with 114. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
8) Ron Yary, OT: Selected to the Pro Bowl seven times in his 14 years with the Vikings, Yary played in 199 games and started 180 at right offensive tackle. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
7) Randall McDaniel, G: Selected to the Pro Bowl a record 12 times in his 12 years with the Vikings, he played in 190 games, starting 188 at left guard. McDaniel was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
6) Paul Krause, S: The NFL’s record holder for interceptions with 81, Krause is the Vikings leader in that category with 53 picks, returning two of those for touchdowns. He also recovered 11 fumbles, bringing back two for scores, and knocked down 54 passes. In 12 years with the team he played in 172 games, starting 146, and was selected to six Pro Bowls. Krause was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998.
5) Jim Marshall, DE: Starting all 270 games in which he played as a Viking at right defensive end, Marshall is second in team history with 127 sacks, first with 29 fumble recoveries, and fourth in tackle-for-loss with 74. A two time Pro Bowl selection, he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
4) Carl Eller, DE: The team’s all-time leader in QB sacks with 130, Eller was selected to six Pro Bowls. He ranks second in tackles-for-loss with 87, second in fumble recoveries with 23, and seventh in forced fumbles with 15. He also blocked 15 kicks. Eller played in 209 games, fourth in team history, and started 201. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004, an honor that was long overdue.
3) Cris Carter, WR: Selected to 8 consecutive Pro Bowls in his 12 years with the team, Carter played in 188 games, starting 177. He holds most Viking receiving records, including 1,004 receptions, 12,383 yards, and 110 touchdowns. He ranks fourth all-time in NFL history in receptions and touchdown catches, and was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2013.
2) Fran Tarkenton, QB: The Vikings record holder in most passing categories, Tarkenton played in 177 games, starting 170, and was selected to five Pro Bowls in his 13 seasons with the team. Named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1975, he is also among the leaders in league history for records among quarterbacks. Tarkenton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986.
1) Alan Page, DT: A defensive tackle who changed the game in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, Page was named the NFL Most Valuable Player in 1971. Selected to the Pro Bowl nine times in his 12 years with the Vikings, he played in 160 games and started 157. He is fourth in team history with 108.5 sacks, fourth with 18 fumble recoveries, third with 77 tackles-for-loss, and second with 28 forced fumbles. Page was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988.
On Viking Update’s list of the top 50, as well as the final list voted on by fans, there’s a few players whom I don’t think belong, for several reasons.
Over-rated, did not have good enough careers: QB Duante Culpepper and OT Bryant McKinnie. I have no idea why either of these two would make any all-time greats list.
Not with the team long enough: QB’s Warren Moon and Brett Favre, S Darren Sharper.
Close for Honorable Mention, but edged out by other players: DT Pat Williams, OG Steve Hutchinson, S Robert Griffith.