The Vikings have made 22 first-round selections in the NFL draft since 2000 and that figure will increase to 24 (provided there are no trades) a week from Thursday when the opening round is conducted with team personnel working from their homes because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Those 22 first-round picks cover 20 drafts and bring back some good and bad memories for the Vikings and their fans alike. Over the next three days, we will continue to unveil memorable first rounds since 2000. Three will involve Rick Spielman, who has been an important part of the draft process since 2007 and has had final say since becoming general manager in 2012.
Part I featured the 2012 first round in which the Vikings had one big hit and one big miss. Part II was one big flop from 2011. Today, we examine a first-round pick that worked out pretty well for the Vikings.
THE YEAR: 2007
The situation: The Vikings were coming off a 6-10 finish in Brad Childress’ first season as coach and held the seventh pick in the draft. One position at which the Vikings did not need help was running back. Chester Taylor had been signed to a four-year, $14.1 million free agent contract in March 2006 and proceeded to rush for a career-high 1,216 yards on 303 carries with six touchdowns and also catch 42 passes for 288 yards. But as the first round began and Oklahoma star running back Adrian Peterson started to fall, it appeared the Vikings might have a decision to make. Peterson had been projected to go in the top five of various mock drafts, but when Arizona took offensive tackle Levi Brown fifth overall that left only one team between Peterson and the Vikings. Washington decided to go with safety LaRon Landry and now the Vikings were on the clock. The concern of some was that Peterson was injury prone and that his upright running style might be a problem. Rick Spielman, then the Vikings’ vice president of player personnel, and Childress decided those concerns weren’t going to stop them from taking Peterson, despite the fact Taylor was only 27 at the time.
How it worked out: It appeared at the time the Vikings had gotten a steal and that quickly proved to be the case. Taylor would spend three more seasons in Minnesota, but Peterson became the Vikings’ star running back. Peterson set the NFL single-game rushing record as a rookie by going for 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007, against the Chargers. Peterson would lead the NFL in rushing three times during his 10 seasons in Minnesota and, coming off a major knee injury in 2012, he became only the seventh running back in league history to rush for 2,000 or more yards in a season by going for 2,097. Peterson had some off-the-field issues near the end of his time in Minnesota and departed after 2016 having established franchise marks in rushing yards (11,747), attempts (2,418) and touchdowns (97). The downside was he lost 23 of 39 fumbles in 123 regular-season games and also had three fumbles in five playoff games. Peterson has since gone from New Orleans to Arizona to Washington and is still active at the age of 35.
The verdict: I’ve never fully bought into the line by NFL executives who claim they always take the best player available and don’t draft for need, but in 2007 that’s exactly what Spielman and Childress did. The Vikings did not need a running back but they took one who would go onto become the best in franchise history and missed only three games in his first four seasons in the NFL because of injury. Much like their decision to stop Randy Moss’ fall in the first round of the 1998 draft, the Vikings certainly had no regrets about their decision to grab Peterson.