Vikings Draft History: Best and Worst Third-Round Picks (Since 2000)

Since the beginning of the century, we’ve seen 17 draft classes come and go. In those 17 years, the Vikings have netted only 12 third-round draft picks. In fact, in the Spielman era alone, they’ve had three drafts with zero third-round selections (2011, 2013, 2016), although with his reputation for wheeling and dealing on draft weekend, those statistics may not surprise anybody.

This year, the team has two scheduled third-round picks after trading with the Miami Dolphins last year and acquiring extra capital. The last time they had multiple selections in the third round was 2014, where they drafted Jerick McKinnon and Scott Crichton.

With the Vikings having just 12 third-round picks this century, I take a look at the best and worst of the bunch.

Best Third Round Picks (Since 2000)

5 – Eric Kelly, Cornerback, Kentucky

The Vikings actually moved up to the 69th pick with the Patriots, giving up their originally third rounder (86) and their fourth round pick (119) as compensation. Kelly came out hot his first two years starting right out the gate to form a solid playmaking secondary with the likes of Brian Williams, Corey Chavous and Brian Russell. In fact, in his rookie season where he started 11 games, he had two interceptions and 7 pass break-ups.

Kelly never continued to develop though and plateaued not long after that. A lot changed just two years later, when the Vikings signed Antoine Winfield and Denard Walker in back-to-back offseasons, burying Kelly on the depth chart. While he may not have warranted the trade up, Kelly was still a solid contributor for the team early on before some big-name acquisitions.

4 –  Josh Robinson, Cornerback, UCF

A fan favorite and a guy everyone seemed to enjoy rooting for, Robinson was selected with the 66th pick under the Leslie Frazier regime. Robinson was short of stature but loaded with a box of physical tools that you saw equate to success on the field.

Robinson technically only “started” 21 of his 47 games played because of his nickel cornerback role. However, during that time frame, he produced quite well at a rapidly difficult position during the new trend of putting star receivers in the slot in hopes of finding mismatches. Robinson tallied five interceptions with the Vikings and 15 pass deflections over four years while playing next to a young Xavier Rhodes and Chris Cook.

3 –  Jerick McKinnon, Running Back, Georgia Southern

Of their two third-round picks in 2014, McKinnon was viewed as the reach but quickly shed that label, looking every bit as impressive out in the open space that his freaky combine numbers would suggest.

Fans scoffed at the idea of using another day-two pick on a running back with Adrian Peterson’s wheels still spinning, after second rounder Toby Gerhart turned out to be a flat tire.

McKinnon may not be a 30 touches workhorse running back; however, you see his rare athletic ability when he gets the ball out in open space and is able to create special plays on his own with outstanding acceleration and elusiveness.

With an average of 6.2 yards per catch in his career for a running back, getting him the ball as a slot receiver should be a priority this upcoming season.

2 –  Danielle Hunter, Defensive End, LSU

How good has this guy been? Hunter came into the league as a bit of an unknown after not starting for his Tigers defense, but after just two seasons has become a major household name already. In a light role where he was sprinkled into the rotation, Hunter already has a whopping 18.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown on his resume.

The youngest player in the league when drafted, Hunter is still just 22 years young. It’s scary to think just how good he could be in a full time starting role, with so much untapped potential still to develop under Mike Zimmer.

1 –  Nate Burleson, Wide Receiver, Nevada

His long and illustrious career trumps Hunter — for now — with a longer resume and longevity to back it up. The “project” pick out of Nevada came out with a chip on his shoulder and played his entire NFL career out to prove people wrong.

After Burleson became the all-time receptions leader in his division, scouts knew he had great hands and natural pass catching ability. That was exactly what the Vikings needed as they searched high and low for someone to help ease the pain after the departure of Hall of Famer Cris Carter.

Burleson was brought in to consistently win against single coverage, and make defenses pay for double and triple covering Randy Moss.

His best season came in 2004, when he posted 1,006 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, helping the Vikings sneak into the playoffs and steal the Wild Card game away from the Packers in Lambeau Field.

While he ended being swept away by the Seahawks in a revenge move after the Vikings pulled one of the greatest free agency tricks of all-time acquiring All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson in the notorious “Poison Pill,” Burleson was the best third-round pick of this century.

Worst Third-Round Picks (Since 2000)

5 –  Scott Crichton, Defensive End, Oregon State

High hopes and expectations quickly faded as Crichton started his career off injury-riddled and that’s exactly how he ended it, too. Crichton was a junior standout for the Beavers who decided to leave a year early after wreaking havoc as a versatile lineman from both the inside and outside positions.

Mix in the fact he had the measurables coaches covet with great strength to develop and long arms and Crichton looked like the possible steal of the class of all the Vikings picks. This was not the case, though, after spending nearly his entire career in the rehab center. Crichton played just a handful of games and was a major disappointment before his eventual release.

4 –  Doug Chapman, Running Back, Marshall

The 2001 selection was never meant to be the workhorse with Michael Bennet already on the roster. With that said, using early-round picks on a back up positions, especially running back, has never sat well with me.

Over three years, Chapman did little with his change-of-pace role, rushing 90 times for 317 yards for a below average 3.5 yards per carry. His only touchdown of his career came didn’t even come on the ground but instead the passing game.

Of course it’s easy to say in hindsight looking back but a stud like Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila would’ve been a nice little pick up instead.

3 – Asher Allen, Cornerback, Georgia

I had to do a double take when realizing Allen actually started 21 games of three seasons of play, not by earning the job outright if you remember, instead filling in for the oft-injured Cedric Griffin.

Allen was a smaller cornerback who never had a chance against bigger more physical receivers was picked apart when thrusted into action working opposite of shut down cornerback like Winfield.

With teams avoiding Winfield, Allen was tested early and often during his starting experience and didn’t fare well. The only silver lining for Allen was his all-star supporting cast that were in their prime like Jared Allen, Chad Greenway, EJ Henderson and the infamous “Williams Wall”.

Those guys forced quarterbacks to get the ball out quickly after putting them in continuous 3rd-and-long situations with their run defenses that absolutely swallowed opponents in the backfield.

2 – Marcus McCauley, Cornerback, Fresno State

After the Vikings selected Adrian Peterson and Sidney Rice, I along with the entire fan base was hoping for the hat trick pick with McCauley, who offered rare size and length at the time for a cornerback at 6-foot-1, 202 pounds.

Instead, McCauley (like most rookies) struggled during training camp, but never gained any momentum or confidence throughout the process, looking lost and outmanned when finally seeing the field. He started nine games his rookie year for Griffin (the first time he tore his ACL), and like Asher Allen, was saved some embarrassment thanks to the riches of talent around him.

It didn’t take long for coaches to admit their wrongdoing and the fact he didn’t fit well inside Frazier’s cover-2 defense ultimately releasing him after just two seasons. That’s not what you want from a top-75 pick. Peterson, Rice, McCauley. Two out of three aint bad.

1 – Dustin Fox, Safety, Ohio State

Known for having a strong football IQ, Fox put together a solid collegiate career for the Buckeyes at the safety position, earning him enough praise to be selected with the 80th overall pick.

Fox started his career off with a bang by fracturing a bone in his left arm during training camp while trying to tackle running back Mewelde Moore in the first padded practice of the season. He never played a single snap for the Vikings, being released just a year later.

His final stat sheet reads; zero games started, zero games played, zero tackles.

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