Vikings History: A look back at Minnesota's 1994 NFL Draft

Former Minnesota Vikings WR David Palmer
Former Minnesota Vikings WR David Palmer / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

The Minnesota Vikings and every other team around the league spend months and countless hours each year preparing for the next NFL Draft. By the time April rolls around, the entire sports world has a good idea of which players will be selected in the first round. 

However, personnel departments across the league heavily scrutinize their second and third-day potential picks. History is full of players selected in the second round or later who rise to the challenge to become the best in the business.

The Vikings posted a 9-7 record in a 1993 season that ended with a wild-card playoff loss to the New York Giants. Minnesota wanted to reload in the 1994 NFL Draft and push deeper in the 1994 playoffs. Of the eight draft picks the Vikings made in 1994, six of the players ended up as starters or were significant contributors during their time with the franchise.   

A look back at the Minnesota Vikings 1994 NFL Draft class

First-Round Pick No. 1 (18th Overall)

Dewayne Washington - CB (North Carolina State)

Washington was a no-brainer for the Vikings, as the team needed help at cornerback. During Washington’s final two seasons in college, he snagged seven interceptions, including four as a senior in 1993.

Minnesota couldn’t have been happier with their selection as Washington started all 16 games as a rookie and picked off three passes (returning two for scores) while bagging 75 total tackles. He started every game in two of his next three seasons with Minny and was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league.

After the 1997 season, Washington became a free agent, and the Pittsburgh Steelers swooped in to sign him. Six seasons in the Steel City led to one year each in Jacksonville and Kansas City then Washington retired after the 2005 season.

During his four years as a Viking, Washington had 10 interceptions, three pick-sixes, two fumble recoveries (returning one for a touchdown), and 296 combined tackles.

First- Round Pick No. 2 (19th Overall)

Todd Steussie - OT (California)

One pick after Washington, Minnesota hit pay dirt again when they selected Steussie. During his time with Cal, Steussie was an All-American, three-time All-PAC-10, and received the Morris Trophy in 1993 as the best lineman in the Pac-10 Conference.

The Vikings wanted a tackle to start on the opposite side of Chris Hinton, and they couldn’t have done better. Steussie started every game as a rookie and continued to be a stalwart at left tackle for the franchise through the 2000 season. 

After seven years with the Vikes, Steussie signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2001. He spent three years with Carolina before playing the next four years with Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Rams. During his time in Minnesota, Steussie was a two-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler.

Second-Round Pick No. 1 (40th Overall)

David Palmer - WR (Alabama)

Palmer was a multi-purpose threat for the Crimson Tide. He was recruited to play receiver but ran and caught the ball. At various times, Palmer fielded direct snaps and took off running. Basically, he was one of the first Wildcat quarterbacks.

In 1993, Palmer caught 61 passes for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the first receiver in Alabama history to reach 1,000 yards in a single season. His stats that year brought Palmer accolades such as first-team All-SEC, Consensus All-American, and the Paul Warfield Award as the nation’s best receiver.

After becoming a Viking, Palmer had four career starts and 73 receptions in seven years. However, his true value to the team was as a return specialist.

During his time with the team, Palmer had 162 punt returns for 1,610 yards and two touchdowns, and 145 kick returns for 3,274 yards and another score. His 13.2 yards per punt return in 1995 led the NFL.

Second-Round Pick No. 2 (55th Overall)

Fernando Smith - DE (Jackson State)

Smith excelled at Jackson State as a linebacker who racked up a plethora of tackles and sacks. As a senior in 1993, Smith had 131 tackles and 11 sacks. Those numbers brought him a second consecutive first-team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference nod.

Although he hailed from a small school, the Vikings thought highly of Smith and took him in the second round of the 1994 draft. When he reported for his rookie year, the coaching staff moved Smith to defensive end. He didn’t play much in his first two years before starting all 16 games in 1996. That was Smith’s best year as a pro, netting 65 total tackles and 9.5 sacks.

In 1997, Smith started 11 games and ended the season with 41 tackles and four sacks. The following year, he signed with Jacksonville and then spent 1999 with Baltimore. Smith returned to Minnesota in 2000 after a brief stop with the St. Louis Rams. In five years with the Vikings, Smith had 28 starts, 118 tackles, 16 sacks, five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Fourth-Round Pick (125th Overall)

Mike Wells - DT (Iowa)

Wells was a stellar defensive lineman for the Haweyes and compiled 309 total tackles, 54 tackles for a loss, and 33 sacks in his career. Initially, the Vikings drafted Wells as insurance in case the organization couldn’t re-sign their star defensive tackle, Henry Thomas.

Thomas re-upped with Minny and the organization decided it wanted to move Wells to the offensive line. The idea didn’t pan out and the team released him before the season began. Wells then signed with Detroit where he played four years at defensive tackle (including two years with Thomas), three with Chicago, and ended his career in 2001 with the Colts.

Fifth-Round Pick (134th Overall)

Shelly Hammonds - DB (Penn State)

Hammonds didn’t get much of a chance to shine with the Vikings. After his selection in the fifth round, the defensive back from Penn State spent the entire 1994 season on the practice squad. He was still parked there to begin 1995 when he finally got an opportunity to play in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

“I was super excited,’’ Hammonds said in a 2020 interview. “Everybody’s dream is to get signed to the 53.”

Hammonds played about a dozen snaps that day and was elated when then-defensive back coach Tony Dungy praised his effort against the Steelers.

“We were watching film after that game, and Coach Dungy was reviewing the film,” Hammonds said in the same 2020 interview. “I had made a tackle where I kind of slammed the guy out of bounds, and Coach Dungy gave me an ‘Atta boy!’”

Not long after the Pittsburgh game, Hammonds returned to the practice squad, where he remained for the rest of the season. He was then cut by the Vikings and had a tryout with the Carolina Panthers that didn’t pan out. After leaving football, Hammonds became an FBI agent.

Sixth-Round Pick (179th Overall)

Andrew Jordan - TE (Western Carolina)

In 1994, longtime Vikings tight end Steve Jordan played in his final season with the franchise. Apparently, Minny wanted to ensure that there would be a “Jordan” at the position for years to come when they drafted Andrew Jordan.

The 6-foot-6, 260-pound behemoth stood out from the crowd at Western Carolina, and the Vikings viewed him as a threat in short-yardage situations. As a rookie, Jordan started 12 games and caught 53 passes but never found the end zone.

In 1995, Jordan hit pay dirt twice on 27 receptions. He started seven games that year, then nine in 1996. During the 1997 season, Jordan was traded to Tampa Bay before becoming a Philadelphia Eagle in 1998. He returned to Minnesota in 1999 and wrapped his career with the Vikings after the 2001 season.

In six-plus years with Minny, Jordan had 37 starts, 97 receptions, 763 yards and four touchdowns.

Seventh-Round Pick (211th Overall)

Pete Bercich - LB (Notre Dame)

Bercich made big plays at Notre Dame, including a pair of interceptions in his final two years. The Vikings thought he'd be a solid backup linebacker and special teams player.

Bercich didn't see the field as a rookie, then played in nine games in 1995. He contributed as a backup in 46 games the following three years and started at linebacker twice. 

Bercich was out of football in 1999, then was signed briefly by Minnesota in 2000. Two years later, he became an assistant coach for the organization before getting into broadcasting as a color commentator, calling Vikings games on the team's radio network.

More Vikings News and Analysis