A lot goes into making a draft pick look good in hindsight, whether it be where the player was drafted and how he produced, his impact on the team through his career, or even as simple as the fact the player produced at the level he was expected to given his status as a high pick.
The Minnesota Vikings, like any team, have had plenty of hits and misses on draft day. Here is my look at the best draft picks in franchise history, with draft position, what has come after them (at their position or for the franchise as a whole) among the biggest considerations.
1. WR Randy Moss-1998, 1st Rd-#21 Overall
Moss may be the most important draft pick in team history, as prior to his rookie season in 1998 games were routinely not sold out and despite some on-field success there was not great buzz around the franchise. Moss helped usher in the term "Purple Pride" with his impact performance during that 1998 season (69 receptions, 1,313 yards, 17 touchdowns) as he won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. During his seven full seasons with the Vikings, leaving out the ill-advised four game reunion in 2010, Moss had 574 receptions for 9,142 yards and 90 touchdowns. In terms of on-field production and off-field impact, leaving his personality out of it, Moss deservedly sits at the top of this list.
2. QB Fran Tarkenton-1961, 3rd Rd-#29 overall
Obviously the NFL Draft was not as long in 1961 with the AFL having their own draft and there not being as many franchises as there are today, but it's still fairly surprising to know Tarkenton was not selected until the third round during the Vikings' first ever draft. Tarkenton spent 13 of his 18 NFL seasons in Minnesota, leading the Vikings to three Super Bowls after being re-acquired from the New York Giants prior to the 1972 season. He is among the all-time leaders in passing yards (47,003) and passing touchdowns (342) as well as also making an impact as a runner with over 3.600 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns in his career. Tarkenton was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1986, and the Vikings have not reached a Super Bowl since he played for them.
3. RB Adrian Peterson-2007-1st Rd-#7 overall
It can be argued running back was not the Vikings' biggest need in the 2007 NFL Draft with Chester Taylor rushing for over 1,200 yards in 2006. but a player with Peterson's talent could not be passed up. The Oklahoma product made an immediate impact, rushing for 1,341 yards (5.6 yards per carry) while earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. Peterson has placed himself among the league's best running backs with 6,752 rushing yards and 64 touchdowns over his five seasons, though a late-season ACL injury in 2011 leaves his status for the start of the 2012 season in doubt. That said, Peterson at slightly less than he has been stands to still be among the NFL's elite running backs once he returns to action.
4. OG Randall McDaniel-1988-1st Rd-#19 overall
McDaniel may look out of place in today's NFL, since he was not very big for a guard, but he made 12 Pro Bowls in his career, including 11 selections while playing for the Vikings. He also started all 16 games every season from 1990 through his final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001, making an astounding 202 consecutive starts in that span while rarely missing a practice throughout his tenure with the Vikings. Minnesota put together some solid offensive lines during his time with the team, including fellow Hall of Famer OT Gary Zimmerman for a large chunk of those years, but McDaniel was arguably the most outstanding player on that unit during that era. McDaniel got a well-deserved Pro Football Hall of Fame induction in 2009, and was inducted into the Vikings' Ring of Honor in 2006.
5. S Joey Browner-1983-1st Rd-#19 overall
Browner was overshadowed by college teammate Ronnie Lott throughout their NFL careers, but Browner made six Pro Bowls and had all 37 of his career interceptions during his nine seasons with the Vikings. He was one of the veterans let go prior to the 1992 season by then new head coach Dennis Green, and spent that final season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before retiring. Browner was the Vikings' own version of Lott, a hard-hitting, ball-hawking safety, and they have not had a similar player at the position over the past 20 years. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1980s.
: DE Carl Eller (1964-1st Rd-#6 overall), DT Alan Page (1967-1st Rd.-#15 overall), RB Chuck Foreman (1973-1st Rd-#12 overall), LB Scott Studwell (1977-9th Rd.-#250 overall), DE Chris Doleman (1985-1st Rd.#4 overall), DT Kevin Williams (2003-1st Rd-#9 overall), TE Steve Jordan (1982-7th Rd-#179), WR Percy Harvin (2009-1st Rd-#22 overall), OT Ron Yary (1968-1st Rd-#1 overall), RB Robert Smith (1993-1st Rd-#21 overall), WR Jake Reed (1991-3rd Rd-#68 overall), DT Keith Millard (1984-1st Rd-#13 overall), CB Carl Lee (1983-7th Rd-#186 overall), QB Daunte Culpepper (1999-1st Rd-#11 overall), C Matt Birk (1998-6th Rd-#173 overall)