Biggest Vikings first-round NFL Draft busts from every decade

Former Minnesota Vikings WR Troy Williamson
Former Minnesota Vikings WR Troy Williamson / Jonathan Ferrey/GettyImages
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Biggest Vikings Draft Bust from the 1970s:

Leo Hayden - RB (1971)

Minnesota had a few memorable first-round picks in the 1970s, including Chuck Foreman (1973) and Tommy Kramer (1977) and a number of other athletes who contributed to the team for several years. Then there was Hayden.

Selected with the 24th overall pick of the 1971 draft, Hayden was a solid running back from Ohio State University. Unfortunately, not long after arriving in Minnesota, Hayden started hanging with the wrong crowd and gravitated toward drug use.

“I went from smoking weed, smoking hash, and drinking cough syrup,” Hayden said in 2021. “I started hanging out with some cats (as a Vikings rookie), and they’d get cocaine. That’s when I started. I did some heroin in Minnesota. If it was a drug, and you could snort it, drink it, shoot it, I did it. I think I did enough heroin, cocaine, and other drugs to be considered a junkie.”  

Off-field distractions kept Hayden from getting any significant playing time in 1971, and he mostly spent the season on special teams. The following year, the coaching staff decided to get rid of Hayden and released him after only one season in the Twin Cities.

Hayden was on the roster of the St. Louis Cardinals for two years but did not start a game in either 1972 or 1973. His career ended after ‘73 with totals of 11 rushing yards and one touchdown.

Thankfully, Hayden eventually turned his life around and spent over 30 years working with drug offenders in the New Orleans prison system.

“Leo has been really important for us,” said Marlin Gusman, the sheriff of Orleans Parish. “He had the experience of being incarcerated, and he has been able to put himself up (to the inmates) as an example. He could tell them, ‘Look, I’ve been there.’ They have great respect for him. They call him Mr. Leo.”