Despite not having any fourth round picks in 2008, 2009 and 2014, the Vikings have still compiled 20 fourth-round picks since 2000. With nearly twice the amount of selections as expected, the Vikings have hit on many more big name, high-profile players.
Let’s take a deep dive into some of the Vikings best and worst picks of the fourth round since 2000.
Brian Williams, Cornerback, North Carolina State – The Vikings got their money’s worth out of Williams before he went on to sign a healthy contract in Jacksonville. Williams played four full seasons, starting 32 games straight from 2003-05.
He had his best year during his sophomore campaign in ’03 when he had five interceptions, including a monster three-interception game against Detroit. He totaled an outstanding 12 interceptions in Minnesota over four years, as well as an impressive seven forced fumbles.
Rhett Ellison, Tight End, USC – A classic glue between the cracks of the roster kind of pick, Ellison was as blue collar as it gets as a hard nosed classic “H” back who excelled as a punishing fullback and lead blocker.
While he never took the role of a No. 1 tight end, Ellison thrived in his complementary role as a guy who offered great versatility and just loved to hit. Every roster needs a few guys like Ellison, who put in five great years in Minnesota.
Mewelde Moore, Running Back, Toledo – Does anybody else remember this guy? Moore thrived as a change of pace and third down running back that did just as much damage through the air as he did on the ground.
A guy that was notorious for making the first guy miss, Moore showed good athletic ability for his time as well as elusiveness in the open field and on punt returns. Like most backups, Moore looked for a bigger role in Pittsburgh, where in all he put together a rock-solid nine-year career.
Best Fourth-Round Picks (Since 2000)
5 – Tyrone Carter, Defensive Back, Minnesota – The classic local story, Carter had a smooth transition into the league as a standout safety for the Gophers, switching his Metrodome schedule from Saturdays to Sundays. Carter played three seasons in purple, starting 21 games offering outstanding versatility inside the secondary playing nearly every position at one point or another.
Carter got the boot when the tandem of Corey Chavous and Brian Russell came into town and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers during his 11-year career.
4 – Jarius Wright, Wide Receiver, Arkansas – He was the smaller and less electric of the two fourth-round wideouts selected from Arkansas in 2012. However, Wright was the last man standing, literally, after teammate Greg Childs tore both his patellar tendons during training camp — ending his career. Wright took his new playing time and ran with it as a quick and crafty slot man that always made the most of his limited playing time.
Five years later, Wright is still involved in the passing game, despite a quieter than usual 2016 season due to the front office favoring pending free agents Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson getting more playing time.
Wright has never eclipsed 1,000 yards in a season and likely never will, but he’s always been a sure-handed speedster that chews up big chunks of yards from the slot (13.6 yards per catch) and is as reliable as they come when quarterbacks look his way.
3 – Ray Edwards, Defensive End, Purdue – As a 21 year old, Edwards was a high-energy guy off the edge for Purdue known for a relentless motor. It didn’t take long for Edwards to develop into an NFL stud, becoming one of the best young pass rushers in the entire league. A full-time starter for four years, fans had high hopes for the young tandem of Edwards and first-round pick Kenechi Udeze.
Once it was announced Udeze was sick with a form of leukemia, the team brought in superstar Jared Allen, who helped Edwards get one-on-one blocks from opponents. He took full advantage, posting 29.5 sacks over his five years with the Vikings before moving on to the Falcons for his final two years. His career ended quickly when he decided to pursue MMA fighting, which got weird, fast.
2 – Brian Robison, Defensive End, Texas – If you listen closely, you can hear Rick Spielman still doing the Texas Two-Step, celebrating this outstanding pick from the Longhorns in 2007. Much like Ellison, Robison has made a living as a blue-collar, bring-your-lunch-pail-to-work every day kind of guy.
A sneaky athleticly gifted defensive lineman, Robison was an olympian disc thrower for the Longhorns and transferred that athleticism, strength and hand-eye coordination onto the playing field full-time. What’s most unique about Robison’s path, however, is the fact he spent his first four seasons as a rotational player only, starting just seven games from 2007-10.
With Edwards departing in free agency, Robison finally cracked the starting lineup officially in 2011 and has kept the spot that he earned ever since.
With a decade of Vikings games under his belt, Robison has been through the good and bad and lived to tell the tales, all while tallying 56 sacks, 13 forced fumbles and a pesky 18 pass deflections. You can’t draw them up much better than him as a guy who has always been a team-first guy, while being an example for the younger players with hard work and a positive community influence both on and off the field.
All for just a fourth round pick.
1 – Everson Griffen, Defensive End, USC – If you remeber right, Griffen was a first-round talent no matter who you asked. However, coming from USC, Griffin had run into more than his fair share of off the field issues and run-ins with the law.
As much development that came as a player, one could say Griffin has had equally as powerful transformation as a person during his career as well, turning around his life and fixing his mistakes. During the early years Griffen let his freaky athleticism run wild helping him excel at things like standup linebacker and even punt gunner.
Soon Leslie Frazier harnessed those rare movement skills and bulked him up on the defensive line, where Griffen has since exploded into one of the best pure 4-3 defensive ends in the game today. After six starting seasons, Griffin has polished his craft becoming equally aggressive against the run and vs the pass, where he’s complied 48 sacks. His most impressive feat though may be the fact he’s only missed one game over his career proving to be a staple inside the weekly game plans and providing coaches with stability throughout the season.
Griffin heard 99 names called before becoming the 100th pick in the fourth round, and has played with a giant chip on his shoulder ever since out to prove every team wrong by harassing their backfield in the process. A pro-bowl defensive end in the fourth round, how’s that for a day-three selection?
Worst Fourth-Round Picks (Since 2000)
5 – Onterrio Smith, Running Back, Oregon – While Smith had a solid chunk of success as the third band member in the running back trio during 2003 (Michael Bennett and Moe Williams), his off-field mishap will go down as one of the most humiliating of all-time.
Outsiders got a kick out of the Whizzinator (device used to store clean urine to pass drug tests); however, the gaffe was a PR nightmare and Smith’s reputation could never be shaken after that.
Smith could have just as easily wound up on the other side of this list with nearly a 5.0-yard per carry average and a nose for the endzone. He was on pace to become a focal point of the Vikings ground game for years to come.
4 – T.J. Clemmings, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh – Call it tough love for Clemmings getting pegged on the naughty list. The jury is still out as he tries to take 30 games of valuable starting experience and use it towards his development as a tackle in the NFL. Clemmings was considered a raw player coming out of Pittsburgh after only playing two years of offense, so his slow start shouldn’t be much of a surprise.
With that said, when Clemmings has been on the field he’s looked atrocious at times, giving his man a free pass to the quarterback and demanding two and three guys to help stay in and chip. While he isn’t the sole man to blame, Clemmings had an opportunity to step in and make a name for himself early in his career, but instead was a major liability and detriment to the offense and team.
Entering just his third season, there’s still plenty of time for Clemmings, who has all the physical tools you want, to develop into a starting-caliber blocker. Let’s just call this more bulletin board material and motivation for him heading into 2017.
Editor’s Note: There’s a YouTube video called “T.J. Clemmings highlight.” Singular. That seems fair.
3 – Willie Beavers, Offensive Tackle, Western Michigan – It’s tough to throw Beavers on the list considering he hasn’t even played a down yet. However, one of the lowest graded PFF offensive linemen in college history, Beavers was downright undraftable and yet the team threw away a fourth-round pick on him, thanks to a nudge from Tony Sparano.
Now, it’s his job to take the guy he wanted (three rounds too early) and develop him into a starting lineman. Beavers does have adequate size and a great initial pop off the line of scrimmage, but is still miles away from being considered for starting role, even inside at guard.
For now, considering how many undraftable grades were slapped on him during the pre-draft process (myself included after watching him up close at the Senior Bowl all week), using a fourth-round pick on Beavers was nothing but a waste for the time being.
2 – Shawn Worthen, Defensive Tackle, TCU & Cedric James, Wide Receiver, TCU – Its rare to have two selections in any round let alone having two picks in a row, and it’s almost unheard of to use those two picks on players from the exact same college.
Such was the case in 2001, when the Vikings used back-to-back selections (Nos. 130 and 131) on two players from TCU. As cool and unique of an idea as that sounds, the only problem was that neither players turned out to be any good.
The two players combined to play in just nine total games before being released the following offseason. Worthen tallied up a mammoth amount of three tackles during that time span, while James never caught a pass.
1 – Antonio Wilson, Linebacker, Texas A&M – Who?
This poor guy has it bad with a double dose of “bust.” Wilson, a linebacker who played just three seasons and started just one game, tallied a measly 14 tackles over his Vikings career. However, besides the weak statistics and lack of playing time, what makes him the worst fourth-round pick from this century really doesn’t have to do much with Wilson at all. This pick hurts more than any else because of who they didn’t select.
Not far away was lying the greatest quarterback to play of this generation in Michigan’s Tom Brady. Obviously, no one could have known just how good Brady would turn out to be however, when comparing a five-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Fame quarterback to something named Antonio Wilson well, there is no comparison.
Making Wilson a no-brainer as the worst fourth-round pick for the Vikings of this century and a classic bar time trivia answer for us all to remember.
Imagine replacing Tarvaris Jackson, Gus Frerotte, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Christian Ponder, and yes, even Joe Webb for the greatest quarterback to play.
Wilson, an undersized linebacker and his 14 tackles sure do tell one hell of a story in the book of the Vikings franchise history.