Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
With the NFL Draft fast approaching, the clock is running out for the Vikings to decide what to do with the 8th overall pick. With such a high pick in a draft class being touted as one of the strongest in years, it’s essential for the Vikings (and of course, all NFL franchises) to get their selection right to give themselves a better chance at success.
After all, the wrong selection can set a franchise back years. And for examples of that, you need to look no further than the Vikings own draft history. With that in mind, here’s some of the biggest draft busts in the history of the Vikings.
Which one was the worst selection? Sound off in the comments below.
Troy Williamson, WR – 7th overall
In the beginning of the 2005 offseason, the Vikings traded away perhaps the best deep threat in NFL history in Randy Moss. Quarterback Dante Culpepper had one of the best passing seasons in NFL history in 2004, even though Moss was injured and ineffective for the majority of the season, but the Vikings front office knew Culpepper had little chance to repeat that success without better weapons on the perimeter.
Enter Williamson, a 6-foot-one-inch wide receiver out of South Carolina. After watching Williamson blaze through the 40 yard dash with a time of 4.32 seconds, it’s clear the team had visions of Williamson taking the top off defenses just like Moss did.
The problem, however, was that Williamson couldn’t catch a lot of the passes thrown his way. Williamson said he had bad depth perception, which may have led to him dropping 11 passes in the 2006 season alone, second in the NFL.
Williamson’s lack of hand eye coordination was evident all throughout his three seasons for the Vikings. In the end, he caught just 79 passes for 1,067 yards and three touchdowns in purple and gold, before being dealt for a sixth round pick in 2007 to Jacksonville.
In the end, the Vikings barely got over 1,000 career yards from a receiver they selected ahead of DeMarcus Ware, Roddy White, and of course, Aaron Rodgers.
They discovered too late that a wide receiver is made up of so much more than just a 40 time.
DJ Dozier, RB – 14th overall
The Vikings have used eight first round picks on running backs in their history, and while not all have panned out, Dozier stands out like a sore thumb.
Coming out of Penn State in 1987, Dozier was a national champion, an All-American, and had already graced the cover of Sports Illustrated.
In other words, Dozier did not exactly have “bust” written all over him leading up to the draft.
Once he joined the Vikings though, Dozier struggled to earn carries and make an impact on the field. Through four years with the team, Dozier only ran for 691 yards and nine touchdowns.
For reference, Bengals rookie second round pick Gio Bernard equaled Dozier’s career production in just his first NFL season, while splitting carries with another running back.
And sadly, Dozier hurt the Vikings more than just on the field. The Vikings were building a competitor in the late 80s, and seemed to be just a running back away from outright title contention.
By 1989, it was clear that Dozier was not that running back. So the Vikings were forced to look elsewhere, eventually settling on a Dallas running back by the name of Herschel Walker.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Dimitrius Underwood, DE – 29th overall
Initially, Underwood’s placing may seem interesting because he was not selected nearly as high as the other too players. But he still may be the greatest draft day misfire in team history.
Underwood missed the entire 1998 season due to injury, and his coaches at Michigan State were not happy with his commitment to football, or lack thereof.
But the Vikings were undeterred and still selected him in the first round in 1999, hoping he would be the piece that helped them move past the tragedy that was the end of the 1998 season.
Underwood didn’t help the Vikings get back to the NFC Championship though. In fact, he never even saw the field for the team.
Underwood was cut before the regular season, not even making it to the end of training camp. He bounced around the league with the Dolphins and Cowboys briefly, but mental health issues and multiple arrests never allowed his career to get started.
A first round pick never even seeing a snap for the team that drafted him? That’s a draft miss if I’ve ever seen one.
Derrick Alexander, DE – 11th overall
Coming out of Florida State, the Vikings thought Derrick Alexander would soon become known as a star pass rushing defensive lineman.
Instead, Alexander is remembered as the player the Vikings passed that star over for. Still on the board for the Vikings was defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who received a bust in the Hall of Fame last year.
But the Vikings went with Alexander, who proceeded to give them 17.5 sacks over four seasons.
It’s not nothing, but the total pales in comparison to Sapp’s 96.5 sacks, which he got from tackle instead of end.
Christian Ponder/Travaris Jackson, QB – 12th and 64th overall
The Vikings haven’t had a long term answer at the quarterback position since Dante Culpepper was injured, and their two misses on Jackson and Ponder have left them still searching for answers.
In the end, the two have extremely similar statistics with the Vikings at this point in their careers.
Jackson threw for 38 touchdowns with the Vikings, with 35 interceptions. Ponder has thrown 38 touchdowns to 34 interceptions, albeit in 15 less starts than Jackson.
Jackson’s career passer rating is 78.5, which was raised just a hair by his one year of starting in Seattle. Ponder’s career passer rating is 77.3.
Despite never living up to the “franchise quarterback” label though, it’s not as if the pair never experienced success with the team. Jackson won a playoff game while in Minnesota, while Ponder was under center for the team’s playoff run two seasons ago.
Ponder even has a chance, a remote one though, to redeem his legacy with the team, though he will likely have to fight his way in front of Matt Cassel and a rookie to earn that chance.
Jackson and Ponder still may have very long careers in the NFL as backups, which may make them seem out of place with the other players on this list, whose exit from the NFL was swift. The problem for the two is that they play the most important position in football, and you don’t target backups with those selections.
If Ponder and Jackson were selected lower, where many analysts expected they would go, they may not be on this list. But because the Vikings reached for them and tried to groom them as starters, they’ll always be in the discussion of the team’s biggest draft misses.
What do you think Vikings fans? Which player did the team miss on the most? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @Goatman102!