Kurt Warner

Ten undrafted NFL players who became stars

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For as much as fans tend to obsess about the NFL Draft, some of the best players to ever play the game, never even had their names called during the draft. It’s almost amazing how many all-time greats went undrafted.

Best undrafted NFL players

It’s almost enough to make one question every NFL front office. In lieu of that, let’s look at some of the NFL players who blossomed into stars despite going undrafted.

James Harrison

James Harrison was considered too small to play in the NFL, listed at six-feet. He also spent time in NFL Europe and was released by the Steelers multiple times before getting a legitimate chance.

But he made the most of it, becoming Pittsburgh’s all-time leader in sacks and helping the Steelers win two Super Bowls.

Priest Holmes

Priest Holmes played college football at Texas, so he was a known commodity to NFL teams. But he went undrafted and had to work his way up the ladder. When all was said and done, Holmes had four seasons with 1,000-plus yards, led the NFL in rushing touchdowns twice, led the league in rushing once, won a Super Bowl, and won Offensive Player of the Year in 2002.


Antonio Gates

Since he played college basketball, it’s easy to understand why Antonio Gates went undrafted. Of course, he went on to become an eight-time Pro Bowler and one of the best tight ends of his generation.

Jason Peters

Jason Peters was a tight end in college but was viewed as an offensive lineman in the NFL.

Naturally, it took some time to make the adjustment, but Peters ultimately blossomed into a nine-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s.

Wes Welker

Despite a productive college career at Texas Tech, nobody was eager to draft the 5’8’’ Wes Welker. But when he joined the Patriots in 2007, everything changed.


He had at least 1,000 receiving yards in five of his six seasons in New England and led the league in receptions three times during that span. Walker also made the Pro Bowl five times and is a serious Hall of Fame candidate.

Nate Newton

After going undrafted, Nate Newton was waived by Washington, was hurt in a serious car accident, and then played in the USFL.

Eventually, he caught on with the Cowboys and became a part of the core that won three Super Bowls. Newton was also a six-time Pro Bowler, ultimately playing in the NFL for more than a decade.

Rod Smith

Rod Smith played at the Division II level in college, so it’s not surprising that he went undrafted. But the Broncos gave him a chance and were rewarded handsomely.

His first career catch was a 43-yard touchdown to win a game in the final minute. From there, Smith became one of Denver’s best receivers of all time, helping the Broncos win two Super Bowls.

Kurt Warner

Most people know Kurt Warner’s famous story. More than five years after going undrafted, Warner emerged from NFL Europe to lead the Rams to the Super Bowl as the ringleader of the Greatest Show on Turf. He would eventually play in three Super Bowls, winning two of them, and win two MVPs.

Jeff Saturday

Jeff Saturday is one of the more surprising players who went undrafted. After being signed and cut by Baltimore within a couple of months of the draft, he was working at an electrical supply store. But then the Colts gave him a call, and after one year as a backup, Saturday became the starter in Indianapolis and went on to become a six-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl winner.

Warren Moon

Warren Moon was a victim of the NFL not being ready for a black quarterback, so he went undrafted and had to play six seasons in the CFL before getting a chance.

In the end, Moon is one of the best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl, being named to nine Pro Bowls and twice leading the NFL in passing.

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