Looking at the best undrafted players in league history

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During the draft, someone pointed out on social media that the Hall of Fame has more undrafted players than No. 1 overall draft picks. Which is obvious, given that there is only one No. 1 overall pick per year, but hundreds of UDFAs.

So we decided on Friday’s PFT Live to look at the best of the best undrafted free agents of all time. It was a draft format, with Big Cat and yours truly going back and forth through three rounds, and then identifying several others who barely missed the cut.

Big Cat started with Kurt Warner, one of the all-time great NFL rags-to-riches-to-mediocrity-to-riches stories. I went with Dick “Night Train” Lane, who like Warner was undrafted and rose to prominence with the Rams. But Lane went undrafted in a 30-round, 360-pick process 68 years ago — and as a rookie he set the single-season interception record, which stands to this day.

So who’s on your list? And who else would you have added? Chime in below. And be sure to check out PFT Live every weekday on NBCSN, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET.

40 responses to “Looking at the best undrafted players in league history

  1. Maybe not a greatest player but he made the greatest play in SB history — that’s gotta count for something?

    Malcolm Butler, please take a bow.

  2. some ravens would be: Priest Holmes, Michael Pierce, Bart Scott, Justin Tucker, Jeff Saturday.

  3. John Randle’s whole life was literally rags to riches. He was the epitome of sheer will power.

  4. Tramon Williams, Tony Romo, Priest Holmes, Bart Scott, Rod Smith, Wes Welker, London Flethcer, James Harrison, Warren Moon

  5. The Noble Prize says:
    May 1, 2020 at 1:38 pm
    Maybe not a greatest player but he made the greatest play in SB history — that’s gotta count for something?

    **********************************************************************************

    Exactly right, which is why I’d argue for James Harrison.

  6. One of the Hogs that should be in the hall of fame.

    Redskins – Left Tackle Joe Jacoby.

  7. Maybe not all-time, but the Packers would have had a tough(er) time making it to Super Bowl XLV without the emergence of Sam Shields.

  8. Rod Smith. Never a more humble and hard working individual. In an era of big mouth wide receivers he let his work ethic and play do the talking which is probably why he flew under the radar as an all time great.

  9. The Great Wall including undrafted FA’s Tuinei and Newton. Can also add Everson Walls (HOF Finalist), Drew Pearson (HOF Finalist), and Cornell Green (3x All-Pro) to the list of outstanding UFA’s.

  10. Jeff Saturday (Who, BTW was a COLT, not a Raven. Baltimore is always confusing the two. Indy never does.)
    Dominic Rhodes
    Gary Brackett

  11. What about the best undrafted Special Teams Player that still has the record for Kick Return Touchdowns and a former Kent State Golden Flash Josh Cribbs?

  12. Night Train Lane. I agree with you on that one, a pre-Ronnie Lott. Also Warner and Romo.

  13. Tramon Williams in 2006.
    I think the Packers resign him for 1 more season.
    Personally,… I’d like to see Tramon stay as a D Back coach.

  14. I hate to agree with Florio but I think he wins this one. Going undrafted in a seven-round draft is one thing. Even with all the compensatory picks this year there were only 255 players selected. Night Train Lane wasn’t drafted in a 360-selection draft in 1952. Then he set the single-season interception record (in 12 games) which still stands today. That’s pretty impressive. He was seven-time All-Pro, seven-time Pro Bowl, and named to the 50th, 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams.

    I never saw him play but very few people have made a mark as big as he has.

  15. Shouldn’t success be part of the criteria?

    No it should not. It’s a team sport that no one wins alone. But some people work so hard or have so much talent, or sometimes both, that they excel beyond anyone’s expectation but their own. If you can’t swallow your hatred of the Vikings long enough to take part in a general football conversation, please go post on Sesame Street.com. The adults are talking. BTW Tony Romo’s name came up several times but that didn’t pull your trigger.

  16. ragnarthegreat says:
    May 1, 2020 at 5:02 pm
    Shouldn’t success be part of the criteria?

    No it should not. It’s a team sport that no one wins alone. But some people work so hard or have so much talent, or sometimes both, that they excel beyond anyone’s expectation but their own. If you can’t swallow your hatred of the Vikings long enough to take part in a general football conversation, please go post on Sesame Street.com. The adults are talking. BTW Tony Romo’s name came up several times but that didn’t pull your trigger.

    ———
    True. No one ever mentions team success when talking about Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers and they never even made the playoffs.

  17. It’s a longshot, but how about Fred Jackson, who played like a beast through Buffalo’s drought years. Also a stand-up guy.

  18. “Going undrafted in a seven-round draft is one thing. Even with all the compensatory picks this year there were only 255 players selected. Night Train Lane wasn’t drafted in a 360-selection draft in 1952.”

    Maybe so, but he only played one year at college, and served with the Army for four years after that.

    Not hard to see why he was overlooked, and not an apples to apples comparison to today.

  19. #The-Best-Fans-in-the-NFL says:
    May 1, 2020 at 3:02 pm
    Tramon Williams in 2006.
    I think the Packers resign him for 1 more season.
    ———
    0 time All-Pro and 1 pro bowl – not in the discussion for best in league history.

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