Best of the Firsts, No. 19: Randall McDaniel
As part of our offseason coverage, we’re taking a look back at some of the best first-round draft picks since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. We’ll work our way up the draft board, starting with the best selection made with the No. 32 pick and ending with the top No. 1 pick. Track all the choices here.
The No. 19 Pick: Randall McDaniel, 1988, Vikings
His Credentials: Inducted into NFL Hall of Fame in 2009, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, nine-time All-Pro, named to NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1990s, started 220 career games and 202 consecutively
Others in Consideration: Casey Hampton (2001, Steelers); Shaun Alexander (2000, Seahawks); Marvin Harrison (1996, Colts); Joey Browner (1983, Vikings); Jack Tatum (1971, Raiders)
As the NFL world turns its full attention to Peyton Manning, let’s at least pause for a moment to recognize Marvin Harrison, who easily — easily — could have been given the nod at No. 19 on our list.
Harrison’s 1,102 catches have him in third place on the NFL’s all-time list, passed up by Tony Gonzalez last season. His 14,580 career yards receiving are the sixth-most ever and just eight players have scored more touchdowns than Harrison, who found the end zone 128 times.
He was Manning’s favorite target for a huge stretch of time, including the 2006 season, when Harrison caught 95 passes and the Colts won the Super Bowl. Harrison should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, whether in his first try or not.
No doubt, his career stacks up with some of the greatest players in league history.
The man claiming this spot on our countdown, though, had a pretty decent run of his own. Randall McDaniel was an absolute rock on the interior of Minnesota’s offensive line for 12 seasons before finishing his career with a two-year stint in Tampa Bay.
Amazingly, despite starting more than 220 career games and finishing his career by taking the field in 202 straight contests, McDaniel never seemed to lose a step. Case in point: In 2000, his first season with the Buccaneers, he made his 12th Pro Bowl and even caught a touchdown pass in a 31-10 win over Detroit.
Harrison put up a ton of offensive numbers, but McDaniel helped pave the way for others to succeed. Six different 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers set up shop behind McDaniel, and he was a linchpin on the 1998 Vikings team that put up 556 points (third-most in NFL history).
Minnesota advanced to the NFC title game that year, the closest McDaniel ever got to the Super Bowl.
Ex-Vikings QB Brad Johnson called McDaniel “the best to ever play” the guard position, while Mike Tice, briefly a player for Minnesota during McDaniel’s career and later a coach, said in 2006 that McDaniel was the franchise’s “first Randy Moss … The only difference between McDaniel then and Moss now is that Randall plays an unglorified position.”
In truth, that’s part of the reason McDaniel won out over Harrison here. Our draft list is littered with skill-position players, and there are plenty more to come as we work our way up toward No. 1 overall.
McDaniel was as dominating as they come and equally adept at pass blocking and paving the way for running backs. Few players in NFL history have the sheer numbers that Harrison accumulated during his career.
But just because McDaniel’s impact is not as easily measured, there is no denying that he was a worthy Hall of Famer and one of the best offensive guards the league has seen.