Since 1961, the Vikings have been fortunate to have several NFL Hall of Famers playing on their team. 20 former players are in the Hall of Fame, and several are recognized as Vikings. This has been a storied franchise for a long time, and we can all agree the missing accolade is a Lombardi trophy. This is my list of the top five players in franchise history:
#5: Randall McDaniel, OG, 1988-1999
Randall McDaniel never seems to be brought up in the conversation of best players in franchise history, and it’s likely because he is an offensive lineman. For about the last decade, there has been constant complaining from Vikings fans because of weak interior offensive line play, and in the McDaniel era, that was not the case. McDaniel was the Vikings’ first round pick in 1988, and was a starter on the Vikings offensive line every year until he was cut in 2000, and he played two years in Tampa Bay before retiring. McDaniel was a pro bowler every year with the Vikings besides his rookie year, he was a nine-time first-team all-pro guard, and he missed only two games in his entire Vikings tenure. He was one of just seven guards selected to the NFL 100th Anniversary Team. He is an NFL Hall of Famer, and dominated the trenches for a decade.
#4: Fran Tarkenton, QB, 1961-1966, 1972-1978
Nicknamed “Scramblin’ Fran,” Tarkenton revolutionized the quarterback position. In that era, most quarterbacks were statues who were expected to remain in the pocket. Tarkenton, however, was willing to scramble outside the pocket, to keep the play alive. Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes has been compared to Tarkenton – the kind of player who isn’t particularly fast, but is very quick and elusive. Tarkenton was the 1975 NFL MVP, the first Vikings offensive player to receive this honor. Tarkenton was a nine-time pro bowler, and led the Vikings to three Super Bowls (all of which they lost). Tarkenton retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in every major passing statistic, including passing yards and passing touchdowns. He is easily regarded as the best QB in Vikings history, and is always in the discussion for greatest quarterbacks of all time.
#3: Adrian Peterson, RB, 2007-2016
Adrian Peterson was one of my all-time favorite Vikings players to watch. The man was unstoppable in the open field, had great speed and excellent explosiveness, and was 220 pounds of muscle. After being selected seventh overall in 2007, Peterson took the league by storm right away. He set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a game with 296, in a game against the Chargers. This record still stands to this day. He easily won offensive rookie of the year, and some analysts even went as far to compare him to Hall of Fame running backs, such as Walter Payton and Emmitt Smith. Peterson avoided the “sophomore slump” and improved his stats in 2008, going from 1,341 rushing yards as a rookie to 1,760 rushing yards in year two. In 2009, he nearly led the Vikings to a Super Bowl, but was part of the heartbreaking NFC Championship loss to the Saints. Peterson ran for 1,000 yards in each of his first four seasons, and likely would’ve done it again in his fifth year, until tragedy struck. On Christmas Eve against the Washington Redskins in 2011, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL and MCL. Many wondered if he’d ever be the same again. Then, Peterson made one of my favorite comebacks in NFL history. In 2012, Peterson rehabbed quick enough that he was able to start Week 1. He looked even better following his injury, and ended up finishing with 2,097 rushing yards – nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s record. Peterson was named 2012 NFL MVP, and is the most recent non-QB to win the award. There is a decent chance that Peterson will be the last RB to ever win MVP. Peterson was elite once again in 2013, and led the Vikings to an NFC North title in 2015, but was injured almost all of 2016, and in 2017, at age 32, the Vikings decided it was time to move on, and Peterson ended up a cap casualty. Since then, Peterson has had brief stints with the Saints, Cardinals, Commanders, Lions, Titans, and Seahawks, but one day, he will go to Canton, Ohio, and be recognized as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
#2 – Randy Moss, WR, 1998-2004, 2010
Randy Moss has a legit argument for a lot of things. He has a legit argument for #1 on my list, which I did not give to him because he didn’t play for the Vikings as long as my #1 player. He also has a legit argument as the best wide receiver in NFL history. I personally believe Randy Moss is the most talented wide receiver in NFL history, but Jerry Rice had much more longevity and did a lot more in the playoffs, so I do believe Rice is the NFL WR GOAT, but that’s besides the point. Randy Moss fell to the Vikings at pick #21 in the 1998 NFL Draft because teams were worried about off-field issues. He instantly made most teams regret passing. Moss hit the NFL ground running; he set the rookie record with 17 receiving touchdowns, and led the Vikings to a historically good offense. The team scored 556 points, an NFL record at the time, and went 15-1. They, of course, had a heart-breaking loss in the NFC Championship against the Falcons.
Moss stayed elite – he had 1,200 yards or more in each of his first six seasons. In 2004, he missed three games and still had 13 receiving touchdowns. Moss ended up being traded to the Raiders before the 2005 season. He went on to have a brief career with the Raiders, and Patriots, but ended up being traded back to the Vikings in 2010. After a month with the team, Moss publicly criticized head coach Brad Childress and the team, and ended up being released. Moss had an elite frame (6’4, 210) and lightning speed (4.25 40 yard dash). He was known for “mossing” defenders, and is almost universally regarded as a top-2 wide receiver in NFL history.
#1 – Alan Page, DT, 1967-1978.
I believe Alan Page is the greatest player in Vikings history. Page was an elite defensive tackle – he was thought of in that era the same way Aaron Donald is thought of today – a monster on the interior defensive line, who had a big frame (6’4, 245), which made him an elite run-stuffer and an elite-pass rusher. He played in all four of the Vikings’ Super Bowl losses, and he was the leader of the famous Purple People Eaters. He was the first defensive player in NFL history to win league MVP, and only one other defensive player has won MVP since Page (Lawrence Taylor, 1986). He finished with 148.5 career sacks, 108.5 of which were with the Vikings. He was durable – he never missed a game with the Vikings. He had 22 career fumble recoveries. He scored three touchdowns – two on fumbles, one pick-six. He had three safeties, which is second-most in NFL history. He is easily one of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL History, and is a Hall of Famer and a member of the NFL 100th Anniversary Team. With his dominance on the interior, and his longevity with the Vikings, and having been part of four Super Bowls with the team, I confidently believe he is the greatest player in franchise history.
All of these players received consideration, but ultimately, I believe each of the top five players were better.
- Cris Carter, WR, 1990-2001
- John Randle, DT, 1990-2000
- Paul Krause, S, 1968-1979
- Carl Eller, DE, 1964-1978
- Chris Doleman, DE, 1985-1993, 1999