May 11, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Baltimore Raven former player Matt Birk waves to fans before throwing out a ceremonial first pitch before a game between the Minnesota Twins and Baltimore Orioles at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Recently, I took a look at the biggest draft busts of Vikings history, showing where the team went wrong at some very inopportune times.
But with one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory, it’s very possible that a future Viking winds up on this list instead. On a more optimistic note, here are the biggest draft day steals in Vikings history.
Note: Since these are the Vikings all time biggest steals, early round picks who wound up having great careers weren’t considered. Yes, it’s incredible now that Adrian Peterson lasted to pick No. 7 and Randy Moss slid to the bottom of the first round, but their selections still came with expectations.
These picks came with zero.
Matt Birk, C – 173rd Overall
Birk, coming out of the “football factory” of Harvard in 1998, lasted all the way until the 6th round, which seems inconceivable over 15 years later.
When Birk finally hung his cleats up, only four members of his draft class were getting ready for another season: Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Matt Hasselbeck and Pat Mannely, the Bears long snapper.
Birk, the highest Ivy League offensive lineman draftee since 1985, did not take long to find playing time, appearing in 22 games his first two seasons.
In 2000, Birk locked up the starting center spot and never looked back, making six Pro Bowls and appearing on the All-Pro team twice with the Vikings. In total, Birk ended up starting 123 games with the team, before leaving in 2010 to finish his career in Baltimore.
Not only was Birk exceptionally productive on the field, he became a role model in the Minnesota community. While with the team Birk won the Ed Block Courage Award in 2006 and was named Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year from 2002-2007.
Remember that the Vikings picked up Randy Moss in this same draft class in the first round. Birk and Moss were two of ten players from the 1998 draft still playing football in 2012.
The tandem were such a great pair of picks they helped the Vikings 1998 draft class contend for the best in team history in this story by Chris Wessling of NFL.com.
Scott Studwell, LB – 250th Overall
Before Studwell became one of the higher ranking members of the Vikings front office, he was one of the best draft selections the team ever made.
Studwell lasted until the ninth round in 1977 coming out of the University of Illinois, partly because he didn’t really measure off the chart athletically.
But Studwell could do one thing well: tackle.
Studwell is one of the top NFL tacklers of all-time with approximately 1,981 career tackles (since tackles are not considered an official statistic it is hard to verify how players’ careers rank in this category), and his 230 tackles in a single season would be the most all time if considered official.
Studwell also held the single game tackling record for many years with 24, until Brian Urlacher surpassed him with 25 in 2006.
Studwell played his entire 14 year career with the Vikings, making the Pro Bowl twice and being named an All-Pro three times.
After his career, Studwell rose through the team’s front office until being named the Director of College Scouting in 2002, a position he has held ever since then.
Studwell is a great example as to why Combine and test results do not a career make, and the Vikings got more out of their investment in him than they possibly could have imagined, both on the field and off.
Steve Jordan, TE – 179th Overall
The Vikings seem to have a history of getting steals from Ivy League schools.
The Vikings took Steve Jordan in the seventh round in 1982, and all he did was become one of the top receiving tight ends of his era.
Jordan played 13 seasons in the NFL, all with the Vikings. During that time, he managed to catch 498 passes for 6,307 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Jordan is currently ranked eighth in all-time receiving yards by a tight end. His number of career receptions ranks him ninth among all tight ends, even though he played in an era where tight ends and the passing game in general were not featured heavily in offensive schemes.
For his receiving process, Jordan made the Pro Bowl six times and was named an All-Pro three times.
His NFL bloodlines live on through his son Cameron, who went to Hawaii on his own last year as a defensive end for the Saints.
While both of these players technically don’t qualify as “draft steals” since they were not actually selected in the draft, they both deserve mentioning as two of the best success stories in Vikings history.
John Randle, DT – Undrafted
It’s an oft repeated story in Vikings lore. The team picked up an undersized defensive tackle from Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1990, and John Randle made sure the team never regretted that decision.
Listed at only 6-feet-one-inch, most NFL teams didn’t give Randle a chance of the defensive line. He was actually cut by the Buccaneers before the Vikings decided to bring him in to training camp.
Randle first made the Pro Bowl in 1993, the same year he was named an All-Pro for the first time for his elite ability to rush the quarterback from the inside. He would be named to the Pro Bowl six more times, and an All-Pro five more times, while piling up enough career sacks to rank seventh all time in the category.
To this day, Randle is the only interior lineman ranked in the top ten for career sacks.
After his career, Randle received many other honors, including a spot on the 1990s All-Decade team and his very own bust in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Not bad for a guy on the short side.
Mick Tingelhoff, C – Undrafted
When Tingelhoff entered the NFL coming out of Nebraska in 1962, the draft was 20 rounds long.
And Tingelhoff wasn’t selected in any of them.
Instead, the Vikings pick up the center as a free agent, and he proceed to hold up the middle of the Vikings offensive line from the moment he stepped onto the field. After earning the starting job as a rookie, Tingelhoff started 240 consecutive games (259 including playoffs) for the team, still an NFL record for an offensive lineman.
Tingelhoff helped spur the team onto success, starting all four of the Vikings Super Bowl appearances, one of only ten players to do so. Tingelhoff was also a six time Pro Bowler, a five time first team All-Pro selection, and a one time member of the second team All-Pro.
Tingelhoff has already been placed in the Vikings Ring of Honor, and his number 53 has been retired by the team.
The only honor he is still waiting to receive is his bust in Canton. Looking at Tingelhoff’s career accolades, it’s clear he warrants serious consideration for the Hall of Fame, and hopefully the Senior Committee will take the time to review his case sooner rather than later.
What do you think Vikings fans? Who would you rate as the biggest steal in the history of the Vikings? Anyone I left off the list? Sound off in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @Goatman102!