NFL Draft: Top 10 Current NFL Players Who Went Undrafted
Myself and a buddy were at the bar last night having a discussion about running backs and how rare it is anymore to see anyone trade for a running back or spend a first-round draft pick on one.
This conversation, sparked by my frustration in the lack of an inked long-term deal for Matt Forte, led to discussing Arian Foster and how someone with his talent goes not only outside the first round, but undrafted all together.
It's surprising to still see these days to see a Pro-Bowler go unnoticed before the draft, but it does happen. So with that, we will take a look at (in my opinion) the top 10 players who are currently in the NFL that went undrafted.
10. Fred Jackson
Fred Jackson went undrafted in the 2003 draft, having played college football for Coe.
No, I have never heard of Coe either.
After going undrafted, Jackson tried out for the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and the Green Bay Packers, none of which gave Jackson an offer. Jackson then played for the indoor football league, and after that for NFL Europe.
Following one year with NFL Europe, Jackson received an invite from the Buffalo Bills to attend training camp, and the rest is history.
Though Jackson has yet to receive a Pro Bowl bid, he has done exceptionally well in Buffalo, rushing for 934 yards while averaging 5.5 yards per carry prior to his injury last season.
9. Miles Austin
Coming out of the 2006 draft, Austin played college football at Monmouth College, breaking the schools record for single-season touchdowns with 12. Austin, oddly enough, did attend the NFL combine, but still went unclaimed come draft day.
He was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie, and while returning a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown in the playoffs, Austin disappeared for the next three years, until the 2009 season.
In his first NFL start in 2009, Austin amassed 250 yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns, breaking the Cowboys record for most receiving yards in a game. Following this outing, Austin saw increased playing time and went on to compile 1,320 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns while also being voted to his first Pro Bowl.
8. Jeff Saturday
They waived him two months later.
Saturday went for six months unsigned by any team in the NFL, but was eventually picked up by the Indianapolis Colts. After earning playing time at left guard in 1999, Saturday was moved to center for the 200 season and started all 16 games that season on his way to a streak of 85 consecutive games.
Later in his career, Saturday was a Pro Bowl selection five times and a member of the Indianapolis Colts' Super Bowl XLI victory.
7. Jason Peters
Believe it or not, Jason Peters played college football at the University of Arkansas as a tight end.
That's one large tight end at 320 lbs.
Coming into the draft, Peters put effort into training as an offensive lineman and was projected to be drafted in the fourth round, but was not drafted.
Buffalo eventually signed him to the practice squad, where he continued his learning of the offensive line position. In 2006, Peters was given his first season as a starting right tackle, and the following season, started at left tackle after Week 7 and was later voted to his first of five consecutive Pro Bowls.
Peters was later traded to the Philadelphia Eagles following a contract dispute with Buffalo for a first and fourth-round draft pick.
6. Victor Cruz
Having attended UMass, Victor Cruz went unnoticed before the draft and subsequently went undrafted, only to later be signed by the New York Giants.
During the preseason, Cruz led the league in receiving yards with 297 and was tied for the lead in touchdowns with four, which helped earn him a spot on the 53-man roster. Unfortunately, Cruz injured his hamstring causing him to miss the entire season.
The following year, after the Giants lost Steve Smith to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cruz became the Giants' No. 4 receiver before injuries paved the way for Cruz to receive a larger role in the offense. Over the course of the season, Cruz compiled 1,536 receiving yards while also reeling in nine touchdowns.
Cruz paired with Hakeem Nicks provides the Giants with arguably the best receiving tandem in the NFL.
5. Tony Romo
Though he attended the 2003 NFL combine and caught the eye of a few scouts, having played at Eastern Illinois University, Tony Romo went undrafted only to later be signed by the Dallas Cowboys
Due to the constant shuffling at the quarterback position, Romo was constantly buried under the depth chart as the No. 3 option. Not until 2006 during a Week 8 matchup against the Carolina Panthers would Romo get a chance to start.
Romo went on to finish his first season as a starter with 2,903 passing yards accompanied with 19 touchdown passes and a passer rating of 95.1 and his first of three Pro Bowl bids.
4. Arian Foster
Following a poor senior season at the University of Tennessee, nothing seemed to go right to Foster.
Poor reviews from the Tennessee coaching staff, a pulled hamstring which prevented him from attending the NFL combine and an awful showing at his Pro Day, where Foster was clocked at a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash, all contributed to him eventually being undrafted.
Following the draft, Foster signed with the Houston Texans and was placed on the practice squad. Given his first career start against the New England Patriots, Foster posted his first 100-yard rushing performance posting 119 yards and two touchdowns.
At the start of the 2010 season, Foster was named the Houston Texans starter and went on to post 1,616 rushing yards to go with 604 receiving yards on his way to his first of two consecutive Pro Bowls.
Foster was recently rewarded for his stunning play with a five-year, $43.5 million dollar deal from the Houston Texans.
3. Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates played basketball for Kent State, and following his senior year, was told by NBA scouts he was too small to play basketball professionally. This led to Gates' decision to hold workouts for NFL teams in an attempt to play professional football instead.
Boy, how did that work out?
Gates was signed by the San Diego Chargers, and after a solid rookie season in 2003, broke out in 2004, posting 964 yards and 13 touchdowns.
It's continued like that since 2004. Never ending a season with less than 700 yards receiving and twice posting seasons with over 1,000 yards, Gates has established himself as the most prolific tight end in recent history, along with Tony Gonzalez.
Gates, 31, currently has career stats of 7,783 yards on 593 receptions with 76 touchdowns to go along with his eight consecutive Pro Bowls.
2. Wes Welker
Wes Welker almost didn't even play college football. Imagine that.
A last-minute signing by Texas Tech, Welker was a jack of all trades in college doing everything from returning punts (six of which were returned for touchdowns), to rushing and receiving the ball. Despite his versatility, Welker was not invited to the NFL combine.
After going undrafted, Welker was signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2004, only to be released after Week 1 of the regular season. Welker then signed with the Miami Dolphins, where he primarily played on special teams. Not until 2006 would Welker be given an opportunity in the receiving game, where he was named the Dolphins third receiver.
In 2007 is when it all changed.
Welker was traded to the New England Patriots in exchange for a second and seventh-round pick in the 2007 draft. Finally given a chance to start, Welker posted career highs in all receiving categories, recording 112 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns.
In the years following, Welker has been a model of consistency as a receiver recording at least 100 receptions in four of the past five seasons and being elected to the Pro Bowl each of the last four seasons.
Last season, at 30 years old, Welker posted career highs in receiving yards with 1,569 as well as touchdowns with nine.
1. James Harrison
Being measured at just 6'0", Harrison was believed to be too short to play as a linebacker in the NFL, which was the primary reason he went undrafted out of Kent State.
Following the 2002 draft, Harrison was signed to the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad, where he stayed for two seasons. During that time, Harrison was released and resigned multiple times by the Steelers.
Following the 2003 season, Harrison was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens, only to be later released. It was at this time that Harrison considered retiring from football to pursue a career as a truck driver. Harrison was only 26 years old.
Then came the Steelers again.
Harrison signed with the Steelers for the fourth time. It was at this point Harrison's career took off.
During the course of the 2004 season, Harrison received playing time on special teams and defensive end, as well as at linebacker.
Not until the 2007 season would Harrison be named a starter at linebacker. During this season, Harrison terrorized the football field registering 8.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 93 tackles on the year. In his first season as a starter, Harrison was voted to his first Pro-Bowl.
The years following, his performance has been exceptional and is widely considered one of the top linebackers in the NFL. His consistently high level of play has made him a perennial Pro Bowler, being voted to five consecutive All-Star Games.