Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Vikings All-Time Great Wide Receivers

 Top Ten Vikings Receivers of All Time

Time to continue my series of stories on the All-Time Vikings players by position. This week: Wide Receivers. As always, this is based on performances, statistics, time with the team, and of course, my opinion.

10. Percy Harvin (2009-2012) - Percy Harvin was a very talented WR whose time with the Vikings was painfully too short. He was drafted in the first round (22nd pick) in 2009.

His speed was comparable to that of Randy Moss, and he was so explosive that his punt and kickoff returns were amazing to watch. As a rookie, he made his first and only Pro Bowl appearance, while running back 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. He could do it all: in 54 games as a Viking, he caught 20 touchdown passes, ran for four, and ran 5 kickoffs back for touchdowns. He had 3,302 receiving yards and 683 rushing yards. He finished his career in Seattle, New York with the Jets, and two seasons in Buffalo before retiring. If not for his migraine headaches, he could have been so much more.

9. Hassan Jones (1986-1992) - Hassan Jones always seemed to be an underrated receiver when he was with the Vikings. 

He was drafted in the fifth round (120th pick) out of Florida State in 1986, and played 7 seasons with the Vikings. His career consisted of 222 receptions for 3,733 yards and 24 touchdowns. Hassan was always reliable when it came to the Vikings needing a catch or a first down to continue a drive. Hassan finished his career with one year in Kansas City.

8.  Stefon Diggs
 (2015-2019) - It's hard to judge the impact that Stefon Diggs had when he was with the Vikings, for two reasons: 1) He played only five seasons, and 2) his legacy is perhaps tarnished somewhat by the way he left the team. 

There is no doubt that, when he was with the Vikings, he made things happen. You could always count on Diggs to make the tough catch, the big score, or turn the game around in the Vikings' favor by making a big play. He wasn't exceptionally fast, but he could run great routes, cutting corners and making moves that shook defenders. He also had great hands, catching almost anything that would come his way. Had he spent more time with the Vikings, I would have definitely have him higher up on this list. 

Diggs was drafted by the Vikings in the 5th round (146th overall) in 2015 out of the University of Maryland. He became a starter mid-way through his rookie year, and complemented WR Adam Thielen in one of the top WR combos in the league. In 5 seasons with the Vikings, Diggs caught 365 passes for 4,623 yards and 30 touchdowns. In March of 2020, the Vikings traded Diggs and their own 7th-round pick to Buffalo for Buffalo's first round pick in 2020 (which the Vikings used to select Justin Jefferson), along with 5th and 6th round picks in 2020, and a 4th round pick in the 2021 draft. 

Diggs has played two seasons with the Bills, being elected to the Pro Bowl both seasons, and in April of 2022, he signed a four-year, $96 million contract (through 2026) with the club.

7. Ahmad Rashad (1976-1982) - Ahmad Rashad was known as Bobby Moore when he was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals (now the Arizona Cardinals) with the 4th pick in the 1972 NFL Draft. He played in college for the Oregon Ducks, who switched him to running back his first year in college. After being drafted by the Cardinals, he began to play wide receiver again, and played two seasons for the Cardinals, who traded Rashad to Buffalo in 1974. After sitting out the 1975 season with knee injury, he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks before the start of the 1976 season.

After signing with the Seahawks, he was then traded to the Vikings, where he starred for 7 seasons (1976-1982). While with the Vikings, Rashad was named to the Pro Bowl for four straight seasons (1978-1981), and was famous for his Hail Mary catch against the Cleveland Browns at the old Met Stadium in December, 1980. As a matter of fact, that catch gave the Vikings the Central Division Championship (now called the North Division). 

In his career as a Viking, Rashad played 98 games, caught 400 passes for 5,489 yards, and scored 34 touchdowns. After his career in the NFL, Rashad became a broadcaster for NFL, MLB and NBA games, as well as studio anchor and game reporter for NBC and ABC, hosted his own show called NBA Inside Stuff for 16 years, and has done miscellaneous game shows as well. Lastly, he was once married to Phylicia Rashad, TV wife on the Bill Cosby show.

6. Adam Thielen (2014-Present) - Adam Thielen has possibly been one the the NFL's best ever wide receivers to not be drafted in the NFL draft. He played college football for Minnesota State (formerly Minnesota State, Mankato), and was signed as a free agent by the Vikings in 2013. Thielen was a born-and-raised Minnesota boy. He grew up in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, and grew up idolizing former Viking wide receivers Cris Carter and Randy Moss. He participated in four sports in high school (football, basketball, baseball and golf. 

In 2013, after having signed a free-agent contract with the Vikings (3 year, $1.48 million dollars), he was waived during the last round of cuts at the end of training camp. However, he was immediately signed to the practice squad the following day.

in 2014, Thielen played in all 16 games (starting two), mostly on special teams. He debuted in the season opener at the Rams, and for the season, he caught 8 passes for 137 yards and a single touchdown. In 2015, Thielen was named Vikings Special Teams Player of the Year. He also finished the season with 12 catches for 144 yards, as the Vikings clinched the NFC North title.

In 2016, Thielen led the Vikings with 967 receiving yards, with a personal-best 69 catches and 5 touchdowns. He only dropped two potential targets for the whole season. In 2017, Thielen signed a three-year extension and became one of the Vikings' most accomplished receivers. He had 91 catches for 1,276 yards and 4 touchdowns. He was also named to the first of two consecutive Pro Bowl teams, as the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship game, only to lose 38-7 in Philadelphia.

In 2018 Thielen became a catching machine, starting the first eight games of the season with at least 100 yards receiving in each game. He finished the season as the Vikings' leading receiver, with 113 catches for 1,373 yards and 9 touchdowns.

In April of 2019, he signed a 4-year, $64 million extension through 2024. Through the first 6 games, his play was up and down, and in Week 7, he injured his hamstring and did not return until Week 14. Through the season, he had 30 catches for 418 yards and 6 touchdowns.

2020 was a better year for Thielen, until he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on November 23rd. As such, he missed the next game, but was activated the following week. He finished the season with 70 receptions, 925 receiving yards, and 14 receiving touchdowns.

In 2021, Thielen was the starter alongside Justin Jefferson, and played well until he went out with an ankle injury in Week 13, and was out two weeks. After returning in Week 16, he re-injured his ankle, which required surgery, and was out for the rest of the season. He finished with 67 catches for 726 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Thielen will be 32 next season, and with two consecutive years of missing time with injuries, it's hard to say how much Thielen has left in him physically. I think, however, that he is a workout monster during the offseason, and could have 3 pretty good years left in him. Time will tell.

5. Sammy White (1976-1985) - Sammy White was drafted by the Vikings in 1976 in the 2nd round (54th pick), out of Grambling State , a primarily black college in Louisiana, who famous coach Eddie Robinson coached them for 55 years. At Grambling State, White's quarterback was NFL player Doug Williams, who was the MVP of Super Bowl XXII.

 Sammy played for the Vikings for 10 seasons (1976-1985), and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 1976 and 1977. He was also NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year. For the first six seasons of his career, White was one of the best wide receivers in the league. For eight of his ten seasons, White had a touchdown catch of at least 43 yards, with his longest being 69 yards in 1977. In his first three seasons, he had 28 touchdown catches. 

For his career, White finished with 393 receptions for 6,400 yards and 50 touchdowns. After his retirement, Sammy worked as a receivers coach (1998-2003 and 2007-2009) and offensive coordinator (2004-2006).

4. Jake Reed (1991-1999, 2001)- Like Sammy White before him, Jake Reed was drafted by the Vikings out of Grambling State, in the third round (68th pick) of the 1991 NFL Draft. Also like White, Jake Reed became one of the Vikings' top 5 receivers of all time. 

His first three seasons with the team (1991-1993), Reed was used sparingly, mostly on special teams. In his fourth season (1994), Reed became a starter and player in all 16 games. He rewarded the Vikings' faith in him by catching 85 passes for 1,175 yards and 4 touchdowns. Reed also became part of "Three Deep", the name that the fans and media gave the trio of Vikings receivers Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Reed. 

Reed followed his 1994 season with three more consecutive seasons each with at least 1,000 yards receiving. In those 4 seasons, he scored 26 touchdowns. Reed and Carter became the first set of teammates to both have 1,000 yards receiving in four consecutive seasons. Reed left the Vikings for New Orleans for the 2000 season, returned to the team in 2001, then played one more season in New Orleans. For his career as a Viking, Reed had 413 receptions for 6,433 yards, and 33 touchdown.

3. Anthony Carter (1985-1993) - Carter played college football at the University of Michigan, and was one of the best wide receivers to ever play for the Wolverines. He was used sparingly as a freshman, but as a sophomore, he became their primary receiver, and when his college career ended, he held nearly every Michigan receiving and return record. He was first in:
  • touchdowns
  • receptions
  • receiving yards
  • receiving touchdowns
  • punt returns
  • punt return yardage
  • kick returns
  • kick return yardage
Awards at Michigan:
  • Michigan MVP (1980, 1982)
  • Big Ten Conference MVP (1982)
  • All-Big Ten (1980-1982)
  • All-American (1980-1982)
  • Heisman Voting (1980 - 10th, 1981 - 7th, 1982 - 4th)
When Carter graduated, he joined the USFL, an upstart league, and played 3 seasons in the league. In 1985, Carter signed with the NFL's Miami Dolphins, but never played a game for them. He was traded to the Vikings in 1985, and led the team in receptions in five of the first six years with Minnesota. He made the Pro Bowl in 1987-1989, and in the playoff in 1987, Carter led the team to two decisive victories on the road - 44-10 in New Orleans and 36-24 in San Francisco. He played two final seasons in Detroit before retiring.

The last two players could very well be interchangeable on this list, as they are both in the NFL Hall of Fame (deservedly). They need no introduction here, as their careers are well-know around the NFL and with fans. So, I will just list them in the order in which I feel they deserve to be on this list.

2. Randy Moss (1998-2004, 2010)

1. Cris Carter (1990-2001)

11. Justin Jefferson - (2020-2021) - honorable mention. 

That's it for now. I'm sure there will be much debate in regard to my list, but I call 'em as I see 'em. 

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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