Discover the Players NFL Teams Missed on SInce 2000
Exposing the Inexact Science that is NFL Player Evaluation
Top-10 Undrafted NFL Players Since 2000
With all the hoopla surrounding the 2012 NFL Draft, it’s easy to understand the inexact science that player evaluation at the college level has always been. Dozens of Pro-Bowl caliber players have gone undrafted since 2000. The top-ten performers who were deemed unworthy of a draft choice are ranked here.
10. Mark Herzlich (All-Heart Team) - (2010) – Projected as a top-fifteen pick in the 2009 NFL Draft after his junior season at Boston College, the linebacker and team leader was a first-team All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. In May of 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer that forced him to miss the remainder of the season while undergoing treatment. Herzlich returned in 2010, and in 2011 received the “Most Courageous Athlete” award from the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association. Signing with the New York Giants in July of 2011, Herzlich made the 53-man roster and made his first professional start in November 2011 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
9. Cameron Wake (2005) – Wake emerged in 2010, being selected to his first Pro Bowl and being named to the All-Pro team after totaling 14 sacks in his second season in the league. Undrafted out of Penn State, Wake spent time with the New York Giants and the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League (where he accumulated 39 sacks in two seasons) before finding a home in Miami. In May of 2012, Wake signed a four-year extension with the Dolphins worth $49 million, not bad for a player deemed undraftable a few seasons earlier.
8. Victor Cruz – (2010) Coming out of a school known more for basketball than football, UMass receiver Victor Cruz was signed by the New York Giants in 2010 after being passed over by all 32 teams in the NFL Draft. Emerging during the 2011 season after injuries decimated the Giants receiving crew, Cruz hauled in 82 passes for 1,536 yards (third in the NFL) and nine touchdowns in his first season in the league. He impressed the Giants enough that the team allowed former starting receiver Mario Manningham to leave the team during the 2011 off-season. Cruz has become known for his salsa dance after every touchdown, a tradition that seems likely to continue as his relationship with quarterback Eli Manning evolves.
7. Miles Austin (2006) – Undrafted out of Monmouth University, Austin began his professional career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006 primarily as a kick returner. He emerged as a star in 2009, catching 81 passes for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns and combining with quarterback Tony Romo to make up one of the most prolific tandems in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowl selection signed a six-year contract with America’s Team in 2010, ensuring that he and his undrafted quarterback partner will continue to dominate the league for years to come.
6. Arian Foster (2009) – Accumulating close to 3,000 rushing yards in the SEC for the Tennessee Volunteers wasn’t enough to get Arian Foster drafted in 2009. The 6’1”, 229 lb. running back found himself signing with the Houston Texans in 2009 and earned the starting job in 2010, when he led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,616 and was named to the first of his two consecutive Pro Bowls. Named to the All-Pro team in 2010 and ’11, Foster needs just 99 yards to pass Domanick Williams as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher to go with his franchise record 29 rushing touchdowns.
5. Brian Waters (2000)– Signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent out of North Texas, Waters excelled as a key member of the Kansas City Chief’s offensive line from 2000 to 2010, earning five Pro Bowl selections in the process. In 2011, in his first year with the New England Patriots, Waters was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl. A tight end for his first three years of college, Waters also played defensive end and fullback for the Mean Green before being converted to an interior lineman in the NFL.
4. Wes Welker (2004) – Considered undersized coming out of Texas Tech’s “gimmicky” offense in 2004, Welker originally signed with the San Diego Chargers and spent time with the Miami Dolphins before finding Tom Brady in New England, where he quickly became the quarterback’s favorite target. The four-time Pro Bowl selection (2008-2011) and All-Pro (2007, 2008, 2009, 2011) has led the NFL in receptions three times. Coming into the 2012 season, the diminutive receiver needs just four catches to pass Troy Brown for first place in the Patriots all-time record book.
3. Tony Romo (2003) – Known for his relationship with high-profile celebrity Jessica Simpson, Romo was signed after the 2003 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys but waited until the 2006 season to take an NFL snap. The three-time Pro Bowl selection has the second-highest passer rating in the history of the league at 96.9 and has been the Cowboys starter ever since. With 149 career touchdowns and a long-term contract, Romo trails Troy Aikman for the franchise record by only 16 touchdowns, a mark he should pass in 2012 if he stays healthy.
2. James Harrison (2002) – The controversial linebacker signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after the 2002 NFL Draft after seeing 261 players selected over him. A two-time Super Bowl champion and five-time Pro Bowl Selection, the Kent State product played briefly for the World League of American Football’s Rhein Fire and the Baltimore Ravens in 2004 before returning to the Steelers. Although Harrison was named the 2008 AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the NFL’s All-Pro team four years in a row between 2007 and 2010, he will forever be remembered for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “crook and a puppet” and saying “I hate him and will never respect him” in a 2011 interview in Men’s Journal magazine.
1. Antonio Gates (2003) – Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2003 by the San Diego Chargers, Gates did not play college football before entering the NFL. It didn’t take long for the 6’4”, 260 lb. Gates to join Tony Gonzalez as one of the premier tight ends in the NFL. Gates has been named to eight consecutive Pro Bowls (2004-2011) and five All-Pro teams during that time. On October 3, 2010, Gates became just the seventh tight end in the history of the NFL with 500 career receptions.