^[a]Baltimore traded two 2nd round selections (39th and 52nd overall) and their 5th round selection (123rd overall) to Minnesota to move up 21 spots to the 18th overall selection and draft DE Donnell Thompson.
^[b] Minnesota traded their 3rd round selection (71st overall) and 5th round selection (128th overall) to New Orleans for OT Steve Riley.
After opening the season with back-to-back losses, the Vikings ran off five straight wins and sat near the top of the NFC at midseason. After splitting their next four games, the Vikings were 7–4 and poised for a playoff run—however, the Vikings would lose their last five games to close out the year.
The Vikings were led by quarterback Tommy Kramer, who enjoyed the most productive season of his career by throwing for 3,912 yards and 26 touchdowns. However, Kramer also threw 24 interceptions in 1981. The '81 Vikings set an NFL record for pass attempts with 709.
A trio of offensive standouts paced the Vikings in 1981 at the skill positions. Running backTed Brown was the team's main ballcarrier, rushing for 1,063 yards and also came in third in the NFL with 83 pass receptions. He scored eight touchdowns. Veteran wide receiverSammy White also eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career (1,001) and tight endJoe Senser, who would later become a color analyst on radio for the Vikings, logged 1,004 yards receiving with eight touchdowns; Senser went to the Pro Bowl for the '81 season.