With 53-player rosters per team and injuries aplenty, there is surely no other professional sports league that churns through athletes faster than the NFL. It seems like every season a player emerges as a rising star only to disappear without a trace the following year. Still, one circumstance that may keep some players hanging on to their places is the fact that they were high draft picks.
It stands to reason that teams are more reluctant to give up on players into whom they have invested time and resources. Staying in the league is tough – but it’s even tougher for those who weren’t drafted first time round. With that in mind, here’s a look at ten of the greatest NFL players who were able to find gridiron glory as undrafted free agents.
10. John Randle
John Randle is best known for the decade he spent with the Minnesota Vikings as a defensive tackle – although he also played for the Seattle Seahawks in the twilight of his career. A powerful player, he was skilled at sacking quarterbacks, forcing fumbles and upsetting the opposition’s running game. However, Randle went undrafted in 1990; and unlikely as it may sound, the first team he tried out for that year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, turned him down because they believed he was too small to be an effective defensive player. Those decision-makers might just be eating their words. Randle is currently joint-seventh with defensive end Richard Dent on the all-time career sacks list, with an incredible 137.5. A seven-time Pro Bowl pick, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
Image: Staff Sgt. John H. Johnson
9. Jeff Saturday
Although it’s perhaps not always as easy to evaluate the performance of centers, because there aren’t as many statistics associated with the position, Jeff Saturday (wearing number 63 in the image) was unquestionably one of the most dominant offensive lineman in the league during his 14-year career. Saturday went undrafted in 1998, but he didn’t give up, and he broke into the league in 1999, the Indianapolis Colts signing him as a free agent. This would pave the way for him being chosen to play in six Pro Bowls and winning a Super Bowl ring against the Chicago Bears in 2007. Saturday spent the majority of his time on the field snapping the ball to, and protecting, future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning liked Saturday so much that he apparently wanted the center to move with him to the Denver Broncos when he switched teams, but Saturday opted to join the Green Bay Packers instead.