Top 25 Undrafted Players in NFL History

Wes StueveContributor IIIOctober 7, 2011

Top 25 Undrafted Players in NFL History

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    Every year after the draft, a small group of fanatics eagerly watches those undrafted free agents. Most fans ignore these players, seeing them as nothing more than camp fodder.

    Usually, these fans are right. But sometimes one of these players will develop into a starter or even more. These stories are usually pretty well known, but some of them are not.

    Nearly everyone knows Kurt Warner's story, but how many know Drew Pearson's?  Let's take a look at these unlikely success stories.

25. Adam Vinatieri

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    Vinatieri signed with the New England Patriots in 1996 and spent 10 years there. With the Patriots, Vinatieri won three Super Bowls and made numerous clutch kicks. The former South Dakota kicker then moved on Indianapolis, where he won another Super Bowl. 

24. Wes Welker

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    In 2004, Welker was signed as an undrafted free agent by the San Diego Chargers. He then moved on to Miami before being traded to the Patriots.

    Tom Brady's favorite target has now had three 1,000 yard seasons and is well on his way to his fourth. In fact, Welker is on pace to shatter records this year.

23. James Harrison

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    Harrison signed with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and bounced around a bit before settling down in Pittsburgh. Harrison has accumulated three 10 sack seasons and is a four time All-Pro selection. The former Kent State star also won Defensive Player of the Year in 2008.

22. Drew Pearson

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    Pearson signed with the Dallas Cowboys following the 1973 NFL draft. The former Tulsa quarterback was a three time first-team All-Pro selection and won a Super Bowl in 1978. Because of Pearson, the No. 88 on the Cowboys is reserved for special players.

21. Emlen Tunnell

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    Tunnell spent 14 seasons in the NFL and made nine Pro Bowls. The long time Giant recorded 79 career interceptions and was All-Pro eight times. Tunnell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1967.

20. Marion Motley

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    Motley spent the majority of his career with the Cleveland Browns and was the AAFC's leading rusher when the league disbanded. The fullback also played linebacker and was an excellent pass blocker. Motley retired following the 1954 season and was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1968.

19. Jeff Saturday

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    Saturday was never a dominating blocker, but remains extremely intelligent. As Peyton Manning's center, Saturday has to execute many complicated line calls and understand Manning's many audibles. A four time All-Pro selection, Saturday was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in 1998.

18. Frank Gatski

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    Gatski played center for the Cleveland Browns for 11 seasons and also spent one year with the Detroit Lions.

17. Dick Lane

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    Lane recorded 68 interceptions in 14 seasons. The former Lion also still holds the record for the most interceptions in a season with 14.

16. Bill Willis

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    A defensive lineman for the Cleveland Browns, Willis was an eight time All-Pro player and was selected to three Pro-Bowls. Willis was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

15. Joe Perry

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    When Perry retired in 1963, he held the NFL all time rushing record. Perry was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

14. Willie Brown

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    Brown signed with the Houston Oilers in 1963 after going undrafted and went on to be selected to four Pro-Bowls. Brown retired in 1978 with 54 interceptions and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.

13. Willie Wood

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    Wood was an eight time Pro-Bowl selection and was elected to five All-Pro teams. Wood retired with 48 interceptions and two touchdowns and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989.

12. Emmitt Thomas

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    Thomas retired after 13 seasons in the NFL and accumulated a total of 58 interceptions and five touchdowns. He made five Pro-Bowl teams and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.

11. Antonio Gates

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    An undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2003, Gates has recorded five seasons with 900 or more yards. Gates has been elected to seven Pro-Bowls and five All-Pro teams. He may not be there yet, but the Charger star is well on his way to being the best tight end of all time if he can stay healthy.

10. Jim Langer

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    Considered one of the best centers of all time, Langer played with the Dolphins and Vikings from 1970-1981. He was elected to six Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987.

9. Larry Little

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    An undrafted free agent in 1967, Little made the Pro Bowl five times as a guard. Though he started out in San Diego, Little spent the majority of his career with the Dolphins and was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1993.

8. Jessie Tuggle

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    In 14 seasons, Tuggle recorded 1,640 tackles, 21 sacks and six interceptions. The career Falcon made five Pro Bowls and was a three time All Pro selection.

7. John Randle

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    Randle recored 137.5 sacks in 14 seasons and made seven Pro Bowls. The longtime Viking was also a first-team All Pro selection six times and led the NFL in sacks once. Randle was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

6. Jeff Garcia

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    Garcia spent much of his career with San Francisco and made three of his four Pro Bowls with the 49ers. The 41-year-old is likely done and will not be a Hall of Famer, but an undrafted starting quarterback is quite the find.

5. Priest Holmes

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    Holmes rushed for over 1,000 yards four times in his career and was selected to the All-Pro team three times. The former Chief may end up in the Hall of Fame someday and put up some truly phenomenal numbers in Kansas City.

4. Rod Smith

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    Smith accumulated eight 1,000 yard seasons over the length of his career and was one of the NFL's most consistent players. The career Bronco has elite career numbers, and though he may not have been dynamic enough to be a Hall of Famer, he is close.

3. Lou Groza

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    Groza played for the Cleveland Browns for an astonishing 21 seasons. The Hall of Famer played left tackle and kicker for Cleveland and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.

2. Kurt Warner

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    Warner was a four time Pro Bowler and two time All-Pro selection. The former Ram won to MVP awards and was also the Super Bowl XXXIV MVP. Warner is a likely Hall of Famer due to his impressive body of work with both St. Louis and Arizona.

1. Warren Moon

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    Moon was a nine time Pro Bowler and three time All-Pro selection. The longtime Oiler never won a Super Bowl but was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2006.


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