The Five Greatest Minnesota Vikings Of All Time

April 6, 2022

There is a large, diverse list of greats to be a Minnesota Viking. From “The Purple People Eaters” to Robert Smith, there are so many players to try to narrow it down to. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to look up film and stats. I have done some research, and to the best of my ability and honest opinion picked my five greatest Minnesota Vikings.

The Five Greatest Minnesota Vikings Of All-Time

5) Adrian Peterson (2007-2016)

You can’t have this list without having “AD” on it. He’s the greatest running back that has ever played for the Vikings, no questions asked. Peterson finished his career in Minnesota with the most rushing yards in Vikings history. The fact is, no one is close to the number of yards Peterson had in his Viking career. The total yards are staggering at 11,747. The next closest back, and second on the all-time rushing list is Robert Smith. Smith’s total was 6,818 yards.

There wasn’t a single time Peterson carried the ball that he didn’t have the chance to house it. The explosiveness and elusiveness were off the charts. Once he got outside the tackles he had a burst and extra gear that the NFL had never seen in a back. He was truly a generational talent.

My favorite memory of his is the game against the San Diego Chargers. November 4th, 2007. His rookie year. Peterson put on an absolute clinic against the Chargers. His stats that day read: 30 attempts, for 296 rushing yards, and three touchdowns. A record-breaking day. The single-game rushing record to be exact. With every touch, he ran for nearly 10 yards. I was fortunate to have been present at that game with three friends. It’s fun to say that we witnessed history that day. What a day.

Of course, there were many more games where Peterson was unstoppable. You don’t get to 11,000 plus yards by not being completely dominant. He has a very decorated career besides the single-game rushing record. Toss in seven-time Pro Bowler, the 2007 Offensive Rookie of the Year, and 2012 MVP. Quite the career Peterson had in purple, and it’s no question he lived up to his nickname of “All Day.”

4) John Randle (1990-2000)

Has there ever been a better trash talker as a Viking? My initial answer is no. Not a chance. But that’s not why John Randle is on my list. Randle is my personal favorite Viking on defense that I’ve seen play. There was just something about him that drew me in as a young boy. I loved watching him make offensive linemen look like fools and then crush the quarterback. He was fast, really fast. Watching him swim and spin still replays in my head from time to time when I see him post a photo for “Purple Fridays” on Twitter. He was electric.

He didn’t just smack talk and beat offensive lineman to a pulp. Randle could fire up the defense without effort on the sideline. There are plenty of video clips out there showing Randle rallying the defense by some of the most random acts out there. But, they worked, and are thoroughly entertaining. How about that war paint, and the Batman tattoo? If his smack talk wasn’t intimidating enough, he had the war paint dripping down his face as a backup.

We haven’t even mentioned the stats yet, and they’re impressive. Randle ranks third on the Vikings all-time sack list with 114 of them. He also ranks 12th all-time in tackles with 418. There was no doubt the guy was a presence out there, and one of the most entertaining personalities the Vikings have ever had.

3) Fran Tarkenton (1961-1978)

I don’t think there is even an argument that Fran Tarkenton is the greatest quarterback to ever play for the Vikings right? Personally, I didn’t get to witness it, but I’ve seen enough tape and numbers. His stats alone do most of the talking, but his rhythm and mobility added to all the stats. Tarkenton is the Vikings all-time leader in passing yards and sits on top of the totem with 33,098 yards. Not only that, but he also sits on top of the passing touchdown list with a grand total of 239. The next closest is Tommy Kramer, and he only had 159 passing touchdowns.

Tarkenton is the only quarterback in Vikings history to appear in more than one Super Bowl. In fact, he appeared in three of the four, while Joe Kapp appeared in the other. Of course, we all know he didn’t win, because we can’t have nice things in Minnesota sports.

Awards were also a nice add-on for Tarkenton, as he collected some good ones. Tarkenton is a nine-time Pro Bowler, he won the 1975 Offensive Player of the Year and MVP in that same season. After it’s all said and done, to cap it off Tarkenton is a Hall of Famer.

2) Cris Carter (1990-2001)

If you read my piece on the top five Vikings wide receivers, you already know that Carter sat on top. He also happens to be my all-time favorite Viking regardless of position. But the guy was a leader. He was an incredible talent. He was someone that when the game came on you couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do differently than last week.

As a kid, it was easy to pick “CC” as your favorite. Every game he showed up and showed out. Not only that, but his leadership and drive to be the best in the game were noticeable. He worked hard, he played hard, and he gave his all weekly. There are a ton of things you can say about Carter. The receiving yards. The ability to catch literally everything thrown in his direction. He just did it all as a wide receiver. I previously stated that he lead the Vikings of the ’90s to success, and I truly believe it. In that time span, he saw seven different quarterbacks under center.

There’s a reason why Carter is the Hall of Fame receiver that he is. Numbers. He is the historical leader of the Vikings. Carter caught 1,004 balls for 12,383 yards and 110 touchdowns. Phenomenal career line. Like Randle, I’m extremely fortunate to have witnessed his career on television. It’s one of those moments when you’re excited to tell your kids one day you actually got to watch him. Not just look up his highlight reel, but actually get to watch him live on Sundays while wearing his jersey.

1) Carl Eller (1964-1978)

I could have thrown all of the “Purple People Eaters” on this list but that wouldn’t have gone over well. Instead, I took who I think was the top dog out of the bunch. Carl Eller is the Viking all-time leader in sacks. He resides at the top, with a total of 130.5 sacks in his purple tenure. I went back and looked at his film since I wasn’t even close to being born yet during his career. Not only was Eller the best defensive lineman that we had in Minnesota, but he may have been the best defensive lineman in the NFL at the time.

He was an immediate presence and impact when running on the field. The opposing team knew Eller was going to lead a thrashing attack to the backfield. How does an offense contain “The Purple People Eaters” when all four of them were a legit threat to get to the quarterback. “Meet at the quarterback.” It may be one of the most iconic and renowned quotes in football. When Eller, Alan Page, Jim Marshall, and Gary Larsen were out there, it was a slaughter. Eller was strong, fast, and athletic. He could get past the line in a second, and before you knew it the quarterback was down.

Eller is a Hall of Famer, a six-time Pro Bowler, and the best defensive player in Minnesota Vikings history. Eller averaged at least ten sacks each of those seasons, with his best being 1977 when he recorded 15. He was also extremely durable. He never missed a game, at least not until the last two seasons of his career.

As I said, it was hard leaving out the other three “Eaters” on this list. But there is just something about being the Vikings sack leader in history that propels you to the top. Eller was a force, and a natural-born leader, and one of the reasons why the Vikings tend to pride in their defense. He has some big shoes to fill, and some players have come close, but none have ever duplicated.