Sunday, May 15, 2022

Vikings' All-Time Great Running Backs


 Vikings' All-Time Top Ten RBs

There have been many great running backs in the history of the Minnesota Vikings. It could be said that there have been several for each decade of the team's existence. This list takes a hard look at yards per carry, total yards, touchdowns scored, impact on the offense and team, and awards won. Some were easy to include, but lower down the list I had a harder time choosing between players who had impacted the team in several ways. We'll start off from the bottom.

10. Dave Osborn - Dave Osborn was one of the toughest running backs in the Vikings' history, He was drafted out of the University of North Dakota in 1965 and eventually became one of the workhorses for the Vikings' rushing attack. He was tall and wiry, and could both catch the ball out of the backfield as well as rush the ball. In edition, he returned kicks and was a big part of the team until 1975. The following year, he played part-time with the Packers before retiring.

He also made one Pro Bowl (1970) and was in the top ten in the league in rushing three times - 1967, 1969, and 1970

9. Ted Brown - Ted Brown was drafted in 1979 by the Vikings out of North Carolina State, and played with them until 1986. In his career, he had 4,546 rushing yards on 1,117 attempts, and he rushed for 40 touchdowns. He was a rather versatile player, as he had 2,850 receiving yards for 13 touchdowns in his career. He was also an All-American at North Carolina State in 1978, and All-ACC for his four years in college. 

Brown was inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in 1995. After retiring from football, Brown became a juvenile probation officer in St. Paul, MN.

8. Tommy Mason - Tommy Mason was the first ever draft pick for the Vikings. In 1961, he was drafted first overall by the Vikings, from Tulane University in Louisiana. He played for them from 1961-1966, then in 1967 he went to the Los Angeles Rams, played four years for them, then finished his career with the Washington Redskins.

Mason was a 3-time Pro Bowl selection for the Vikings from 1962-1964, and made First-Team All Pro in 1963. His stats with the Vikings - 70 games played, 3,252 rushing yards and 28 rushing touchdowns.

7. Chester Taylor - Chester Taylor was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the 6th round of the 2002 NFL Draft, out of the University of Toledo. He joined the Vikings in 2006, and spent four years with them. As a Raven, he spent most of his time behind Jamal Lewis, playing sparingly, but made himself valuable as a receiving threat out of the backfield. When he joined the Vikings in 2006, he signed a four year, $14.1 million dollar contract. Later that year, on October 22nd, 2006, in Seattle, Taylor rushed for a Vikings-record 95 yard touchdown, which is also an NFL touchdown record for a 3rd-quarter touchdown. 

Taylor also broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career in 2006. After his time with the Vikings, he signed with the Chicago Bears in 2010, and spent one season with the Arizona Cardinals before retiring. 

6. Dalvin Cook - Dalvin Cook is currently with the Vikings, so his status on this list, barring injury or other unforeseen circumstance, will certainly change in the years to come.

Cook was drafted by the team in the 2nd round (41st pick) of the 2017 NFL Draft out of Florida State, and immediately became the starter. In his career at Florida State, he became the school's all-time leading rusher. He was the third running back taken in the draft, behind Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. In his first NFL game, against the New Orleans Saints, Cook set the rookie rushing record for the Vikings, previously held by Adrian Peterson, rushing for 127 yards on 22 carries, an auspicious debut to say the least. However, in game 4 against the Detroit Lions that season, Cook left with a knee injury, and it was revealed he suffered a torn ACL. His rookie season was done before it could really get started. 

In 2018, Cook suffered a hamstring injury in game 2 against the Green Bay Packers. He sat out a game before returning for game 4 on the schedule. He then missed the next four games. after returning in Week 9, he had limited success the next three weeks.

in 2019, Cook broke the 1,000-yard mark for the first time, rushing for 1,135 yards on 250 carries. He rushed for 13 touchdowns, including a 75-yarder. In 2020, he was even better, rushing for 1,557 yards on 312 carries, and 16 tds. The carries, yards, touchdowns and a 5.0 yards per carry led the NFL.

in 2021, Cook had similar numbers, rushing 259 times for 1,159 yards and 6 tds. At the end of the 2021, cook announced that he would change his uniform number from 33 to 4.

5. Darrin Nelson - Darrin Nelson came to the Vikings in the first round (pick no. 7) of the 1982 NFL Draft, out of Stanford University. His first season was also the strike-shortened season, and he was only able to play in nine games. As a player, he was equally adept at running or catching the ball. He played 8 seasons for the Vikings, and after a holdout that turned rather ugly in 1989, he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in the infamous Herschel Walker trade. He refused to go to Dallas in the trade and was subsequently traded to the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers. He was their third-string running back, behind Marion Butts and Tim Spencer. In September of the 1990 season, he was released and re-signed. 

In 1991, Nelson signed back with the Vikings as a free-agent. He was a back-up to Herschel Walker and Terry Allen, and was also their kick returner. He retired from football in June of 1993.

4. Bill Brown - Bill Brown spent 14 seasons in the NFL, 13 of them with the Vikings. He was drafted by he Chicago Bears in the 2nd round (20th pick) out of the University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and spent one season with them. He was then traded to the Vikings before the 1962 season for a Vikings 4th round pick in the 1964 NFL Draft. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times, after the 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1968 seasons.

Brown holds many Vikings team records, including most games played by a running back (182), most consecutive games played by a running back (101), most career rushing attempts (1,627) and most games started by a running back (111). He is also fourth in career rushing yards, behind Adrian Peterson, Robert Smith and Chuck Foreman. He is also tied for third in team history in rushing touchdown (52), and is fourth in career points scored (456) behind Fred Cox, Fuad Reveiz and Cris Carter. He also ranks third in team history for rushing and receiving yards combined (9,237), behind Cris Carter and Darrin Nelson.

Brown earned the nickname "Boom Boom" from his teammates due to his running style. Brown's son-in-law is former Vikings QB Rich Gannon. Brown passed away November 4th, 2018.

3. Chuck Foreman - Chuck Foreman was one of the best running backs the Vikings ever had, and I think there are several reasons he belongs in the NFL Hall of Fame. 

He was drafted out of the University of Miami by the Vikings with the 12th pick in the first round of the 1973 NFL Draft. He became the Vikings' best running back of the 1970s, and he was named the 1973 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Foreman started immediately for Vikings coach Bud Grant, who was known in NFL circles to not start rookies right away. He became a weapon for the offense in that he thrived at catching passes out of the backfield, in addition to his running prowess. He was named to the Pro Bowl the first five seasons of his career (1973-1977). He was also named to two first-team All Pro teams and two second-team All Pro teams. 

In 1975, Foreman caught 73 passes, an NFL record at the time he set it. He also rushed for 1,070 yards, and scored 22 touchdowns (13 rushing and 9 receiving). His rushing yardage made him the first player in the history of the team to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He followed up in 1976 with almost as good a season as 1975. He increased his rushing yardage total to 1,155, with 13 rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown. In 1977, Foreman had 1,112 rushing yards (3 straight seasons he ran for over 1,000), and ran for 6 touchdowns while catching three.

Chuck also played in three Super Bowls for the Vikings (1973, 1974 and 1976), and holds many Vikings' team records (most total touchdowns in a season, (22); most receiving touchdowns in a season by a running back (9); most consecutive seasons with at least 1 rushing and 1 receiving touchdown (6); playoff rushes in a career (229); playoff rushing yards in a career (860), and playoff rushing touchdowns in a career (7).

Chuck also holds 2 NFL records - Most receiving touchdowns by a 10 touchdown rusher, season (9), and most games with a rushing and receiving touchdown, season (5).

During his career, Chuck earned the nickname "The Spin Doctor", because he had a unique ability to spin away from would-be tacklers and rush for more yardage.

He finished his career with one season with the New England Patriots after two injury-plagued seasons with MN. He ended his career with 5,950 rushing yards, 1,556 carries (3.8 yard average), and 53 rushing touchdowns - all stats good enough to register him among the top 100 in NFL history.

2. Robert Smith - Robert Smith was a running back for the Vikings from 1993-2000. He was track-speed fast, elusive, and he had a great second and third gear when he ran. He, like Chuck Foreman, was adept at catching the ball out of the backfield, and there were many games when the Vikings utilized that skill and speed to maximum effect.

While he suffered from several injuries in his first few seasons with Minnesota, he broke out in 1997 with 1,255 yards, a Vikings record at the time (eventually broken by Adrian Peterson). He rushed for over 1,000 yards for four consecutive season with Minnesota (1,266 in 1997, 1,187 in 1998, 1,015 in 1999, and 1,521 in 2000).

Despite 2000 being his best season, he retired at the end of the year. It was said that he wanted to retire at the top of his game, and to avoid further injuries. He finished his Vikings career first in career rushing yards for the team (eventually passed by Adrian Peterson). He also holds the NFL record for average yards per touchdown run with 27.2.

1. Adrian Peterson - What is there to say about Adrian Peterson that hasn't already been said? All-American at Oklahoma (where he set the freshman rushing record with 1,925 yards), runner-up in the Heisman Trophy that same year, and rookie extraordinaire for the Vikings. 

Below is a list of some of his career highlights and awards:
  • NFL Most Valuable Player (2012)
  • NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2012)
  • NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (2007)
  • 4× First-team All-Pro (2008, 2009, 2012, 2015)
  • 3× Second-team All-Pro (2007, 2010, 2013)
  • 7× Pro Bowl (2007–2010, 2012, 2013, 2015)
  • 3× NFL rushing yards leader (2008, 2012, 2015)
  • 2× NFL rushing touchdowns leader (2009, 2015)
  • NFL 2010s All-Decade Team
  • 50 Greatest Vikings
  • rookie-record 296 rushing yards in one game
  • 2× Bert Bell Award (2008, 2012)
  • Art Rooney Award (2019)
  • Unanimous All-American (2004)
  • Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (2004)
  • Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year (2004)
  • 3× First-team All-Big 12 (2004–2006)
Peterson was a powerful and explosive runner. He could run around and over people, and more often than not would inflict more punishment on the tackler that they would on him. He had the speed to explode through holes made by the offensive line, and also to turn the corner and burn down the sideline. There was a game against the Steelers (don't remember what year) where Adrian literally rammed a Steelers defender with his shoulder and knocked him backwards. No one could seem to catch him when he got a head of steam going, and usually outran any defender chasing him. 

Other Adrian Peterson records held:
  • Most rushing yards in a single game (296; vs. San Diego Chargers, November 4, 2007)
  • Most rushing yards in any eight-game period (1,322)
  • Most 60+ yard touchdown runs in a career (13)
  • Tied-most 50+ yard runs in a single season (7, with Barry Sanders)
  • Tied-most 200+ rushing yard games in career (6, with O. J. Simpson)
  • 3-time NFL rushing yards leader (2008, 2012, 2015)
  • First player in NFL history to score a rushing touchdown with six different teams
Vikings franchise records:
  • Most career rushing touchdowns (97)
  • Most rushing yards in a single season: 2,097 (2012)
  • Most rushing touchdowns in a single season: 18 (2009)
  • Most career rushing yards (11,747)
  • Most career carries (2,418)
In 2017, the Vikings decided not to pick up the option on Adrian, and he was picked up by the New Orleans Saints. In October of that year, he was traded by the Saints to Arizona. Following that season, Peterson signed with the Washington Redskins (now the Commanders). He played for Washington in 2018 and 2019. In 2020 he signed with the Detroit Lions. In2021, he signed with the Tennessee Titans, and later with the Seattle Seahawks. In January of 2022, he became a free agent.

Adrian is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think that's undisputed. He deserves it. 

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