20 Best Undrafted Free Agents in NFL History

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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 11:  Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Every year, more than 200 kids will be selected out of college to play for an NFL team. That may seem like a lot, but when you think about how many players are on a college team and how many college teams there are 200 is not much.


Sometimes, even the best players on a team where not drafted that high, or even drafted at all for that matter. Here we take a dive into the 20 best NFL players that went undrafted.

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20. London Fletcher

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 4x Pro-Bowl
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 2,031 tackles career tackles

Coming out of John Carrol University in 1998, Fletcher signed with the then St. Louis Rams and became the starting middle linebacker for the team, helping them win the Super Bowl in 2000. After a five year run with the Bills, Fletcher finished out his final seven seasons with the Redskins. Another impressive stat here is that throught his 16 year career, he never missed a single game.


In an era where Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher dominated the linebacker position in the 2000s, Fletcher is right up there with the rest of them.

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19. Josh Cribbs

  • 3x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • All-purpose years leader in 2007
  • Tied for most kick return TDS all-time
  • 2000s all-decade team
  • 13,448 total return yards

When talking about the best return man in the NFL, Devin Hester is the first name that pops up but Josh Cribbs should also be in the conversation. Originally a QB out of Kent State, the Browns signed Cribbs as a wide receiver and made an immediate impact as a kick returner.


Outside of tying for the most return TDs of all-time, he is also the tied the record with most 100+ yard kick returns for touchdowns in a single game (Ted Ginn Jr. is the other). He also holds multiple Browns records which include most kick and punt return yards as well as leading the Browns in all-time all-purpose yards.


The Browns might not have been good during his tenure but there is no denying that he was one of the games best return men.

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18. Malcolm Butler

  • 2x Super Bowl Champion
  • 1x Pro Bowl
  • 1x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 8 career interceptions

The newest player on this list, Butler came into the 2014 season way below the CB depth chart in New England. He played in 15 games his rookie season, recording only 15 tackles. When the playoff rolled around, Butler started to earn more playing time and possibly made one of the best plays in Super Bowl history, picking off Russell Wilson at the one-yard line to seal the victory.


His impressive Super Bowl game continued into the season being a consistent starter before being benched in last years Super Bowl based on a "coaches decision."


He starts a new era in Tennessee and he will be a key member on this young Titans defense. Let's hope he can continue his play outside of New England.

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17. Cameron Wake

  • 5x Pro Bowl
  • 1x first-team All-Pro
  • 3x second team All-Pro
  • 92 career sacks
  • 324 career tackles

After playing at Penn State, Wake went undrafted in 2005 and signed with the New York Giants. He did not make the roster and took his talents to the Canadian Football League. In two seasons with the BC Lions in Canada, Wake racked up 39 sacks and was named an All-Star for both seasons. In 2009 he signed with the Miami Dolphins and never looked back. 


His 92 sacks are good for second in Dolphins history and have been a defensive nightmare against opposing QBs. After playing all 16 games last year and recording 10.5 sacks, there is still no signs of Cameron Wake slowing down.

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16. Arian Foster

  • 4x Pro-Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • 1x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 2x rushing TD leader
  • Rushing yards leader in 2010
  • 6,527 yards, 54 rushing TDs for his career

In 2009 a single team did not reach out to draft the former Tennessee Volunteer. That was a big mistake as he led the league in rushing yards (1,616) and touchdowns (16) in only his second season. He is the all-time rushing leader for the Houston Texans


Foster was a baller and was considered one of the top backs while he was in the league.

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15. Tony Romo

  • 4x Pro Bowl
  • 1x second team All-Pro
  • 34,183 yards, 248 TDs

Though controversial with not being able to win in the playoffs, Romo should still be in consideration as one of the better quarterbacks of his time. The former undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois owns the Dallas Cowboys' records for passing yards, passing touchdowns, and total passer rating.

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14. Chris Harris Jr.

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 3x Pro Bowl
  • 1x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro
  • All-Rookie Team
  • 16 career interceptions, 3 defensive TDs

Harris Jr. came in as the fifth cornerback in 2011 for the Denver Broncos and quickly climbed up the depth chart to be a consistent starter. He was a key member in the Broncos "No Fly Zone" and helped Denver win Super Bowl 50. He is still one of the top corners in the league today.

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13. Priest Holmes

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 3x Pro Bowl
  • 3x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2002 Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2001 Rushing yards leader
  • 2x rushing TDs leader
  • 8,172 career yards, 86 career TDs

Priest Holmes was a backup for the beginning part of his football career. He backed up Ricky Williams while at Texas and backed up Jamal Lewis for the Ravens. It was not until he joined the Kansas City Chiefs where he showed to be a top running back. In 2003, he set a then-NFL record with 27 total touchdowns in one season. Holmes also has the milestone of being the first undrafted free agent to lead the NFL in rushing with 1,555 yards in 2001.

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12. Jeff Saturday

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 6x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro

The Colts had Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Edgerrin James but Saturday should also get recognition as he was the staple for Manning's offensive line as the Colts were one of the best teams in the NFL during his tenure there. 

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11. Cornell Green

  • Super Bowl Champion
  • 5x Pro Bowl
  • 3x 1st Team All-Pro
  • 1x 2nd team All-Pro
  • All-Rookie Team
  • 34 career interceptions

Cornell Green played basketball at Utah State and never played a down of football before joining the Dallas Cowboys in 1962. The multiple time pro bowler and All-Pro member was a key member in Dallas' 1971 Super Bowl team. 

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10. Warren Moon

  • 9x Pro Bowl
  • 1x 1st All-Pro
  • 1990 Offensive Player of the Year
  • 2x passing yards leader
  • 1990 passing TD leader
  • Hall of Fame

Moon went undrafted in 1978 and played six years in the Canadian Football League for the Edmonton Eskimos. He led the Eskimos to five straight Grey Cups and after his tenure in the CFL, Moon has passed for over 49,000 yards and was a consistent QB for the Oilers. Moon is not only in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but also the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

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9. John Randle

  • 7x Pro Bowl
  • 6x 1st All-Pro
  • 1997 sack leader
  • 137.5 career sacks
  • 1990s all-decade team 
  • Hall of Fame

At 6'1" and 287, Randle was looked at as too small for the defensive tackle. Looking back, a lot of teams are definitely regretting not selecting Randle. He is tied for 9th in all-time sacks and lead a had 10 or more sacks in nine of his 14 seasons.


Safe to say if you had to re-do the 1990 NFL Draft, Randle would easily be a top-five pick, maybe first overall.

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8. Adam Vinatieri

  • 4x Super Bowl
  • 3x Pro Bowl
  • 3x 1st All-Pro
  • 2,487 points

Kickers are players too! While normally kickers go undrafted, it is rare to see a career like Vinatieri has had. With a few game-winning field goals in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII for the New England Patriots under his belt, he is considered to be the greatest kicker in NFL history. His 2,487 points are good for second all-time.


Vinatieri is still going strong as he heads into his 23rd season.

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7. Emmit Thomas

  • 3x Super Bowl Champion
  • 5x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 1974 interception leader
  • Hall of Fame

Thomas is one of the best players in the Chiefs history, being a cornerstone for the Chiefs defense during his tenure as a ball-hawking safety. While he didn't win any Super Bowls in Kansas City, he did coach the Redskins in three Super Bowl victories as the WR/DB coach.

His number 18 is retired by Kansas City.

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6. Dick "Night Train" Lane

  • 7x Pro Bowl
  • 7x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x interception leader
  • 14 picks in a season (record)
  • 68 career interceptions
  • Hall of Fame

Night Train Lane started off working at an aircraft factory. He joined the Los Angeles Rams' 1952 training camp and for the next 14 years, Lane was the NFL’s best cornerback. His 14 interceptions is a record that will likely never be broken. “Night Train” eventually became the first undrafted free agent to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

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5. Antonio Gates

  • 8x All-Pro
  • 3x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 2000s All-Decade team
  • 11,508 yards, 114 TDS

Gates was a former basketball star for Kent State. After giving it a go in football, the then San Diego Chargers gave him a chance to play tight end in the NFL in 2003. The rest is history as he is considered one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He, along with a few others like Tony Gonzalez revolutionized the tight end position in the league.

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4. Joe Jacoby

  • 3x Super Bowl Champion
  • 4x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • 1x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 1980s all-decade team
  • 58 career interceptions

A staple in the Redskins offensive line, Jacoby joined Washington after the 1981 draft. He spent his entire career with the Redskins, making four Pro Bowls in his career and helping the team to three Super Bowl wins while blocking for three different QBs. An impressive run for Washington.

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3. Willie Wood

  • 2x Super Bowl Champion
  • 8x Pro Bowl
  • 5x 1st team All-Pro
  • 4x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 1962 interceptions leader
  • 48 career interceptions
  • Hall of Fame

Wood is considered one of the greatest safeties to ever play the game. He was apart of some legendary Packers teams that won five NFL Championships long before the NFL merger and two Super Bowls later. 

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2. James Harrison

  • 2x Super Bowl Champion
  • 5x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st team All-Pro
  • 2x 2nd team All-Pro
  • 2008 Defensive Player of the Year
  • 793 tackles, 84.5 sacks

After an early stint with Pittsburgh in 2002 followed by a stint with the Ravens and the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, Harrison became one of the games best pass rushers by 2007. Since then, he became a nightmare to opposing QBs. He also has one of the most memorable interceptions in Super Bowl history, returning it for 100 yards. 


He may be retired now, but you would not know that from the insane workout videos he posts on his Instagram page.

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1. Kurt Warner

  • Super Bowl Champion (and MVP)
  • 4x Pro Bowl
  • 2x 1st All-Pro
  • 2x MVP
  • 2001 Passing Yards leader
  • 2x Passing TD leader
  • 32,344 career passing yards, 208 passing TDs
  • Hall of Fame

Kurt Warner’s journey to the Hall of Fame is straight out of a movie. After going undrafted in 1994, Warner spent time in NFL Europe, the Arena Football League and even worked for a time bagging groceries. 


1999 was when things turned around for him. Trent Green tore his knee in a preseason game, and Warner was the next man up on the depth chart. He was the missing piece to “The Greatest Show on Turf” and led St. Louis to their first Super Bowl victory that year. He also had two other Super Bowl appearances in his career, including leading the Arizona Cardinals to their first and only Super Bowl appearance. 

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