The best undrafted players in every team's history

From ESPN - April 17, 2018

Kurt Warner went from stocking grocery-store shelves to playing arena football to eventually starting his Hall of Fame career in the NFL.

He's the poster boy for undrafted free agents. Below are the rest of the best unselected players in league history, as identified by NFL Nation reporters.

AFC East | AFC North| AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West

AFC East

Buffalo Bills

C Kent Hull

Hull's three Pro Bowls with the Bills are tied for second among undrafted players to have played for Buffalo, and his longevity with the team makes him the choice over other candidates such as Fred Jackson, Tony Greene and Booker Edgerson. After beginning his career in the United States Football League, Hull spent 11 seasons snapping to Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly from 1986 through 1996. Hull, who died in 2011, is a member of the Bills' wall of fame and 50th anniversary team. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

DT Manny Fernandez

Coming out of Utah in 1968, few would have predicted that Fernandez would go on to have an eight-year career in Miami, totaling 35 career sacks and playing an instrumental role in two Super Bowl victories. Teammates even made the case that Fernandez could have been the MVP of Super Bowl VII, and, of course, Fernandez did play a big part in the Dolphins' undefeated season in 1972. His place in Dolphins history is secure as he was voted to the franchise's all-time team in 2007. -- Mike Reiss

New England Patriots

CB Malcolm Butler

Save a Super Bowl with an unforgettable interception at the goal line and it vaults you to the top spot. Butler's heroics in Super Bowl XLIX mean he will forever have a special place in Patriots history, even if his tenure ended with him being benched by coach Bill Belichick in a Super Bowl LII loss. Butler joined the Patriots in 2014 at a time when the roster was full at 90 players, but the club brought in a few players for early-May tryouts to see how they stacked up against the lower-level players already on the team. Butler flashed, the team created a roster spot for him and the rest is history. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

WR Wayne Chrebet

The Jets discovered Chrebet in 1995 in their own backyard -- literally. They trained at Hofstra University on Long Island, where Chrebet played his college ball. He was so unremarkable in appearance that a Jets security guard mistakenly thought Chrebet was a gate-crashing fan and would not let him into the facility on the first day. He was the 10th receiver on a 10-man depth chart, but he worked his way into a starting role as a rookie. One of the most popular players in team history, Chrebet currently ranks second in receptions (580) and third in receiving yards (7,365) on the Jets' all-time list. -- Rich Cimini

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

K Justin Tucker

The Ravens have had great success with undrafted players -- including running back Priest Holmes, linebackers Bart Scott and Jameel McClain, safety Will Demps and center Mike Flynn -- but the nod goes to the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Tucker, who has made 202 of 224 field goals (90.2 percent) in his career, has reached two Pro Bowls and is a two-time first-team All-Pro. He also became the fastest pure kicker in league history to reach 800 career points, doing so in his 95th regular-season game. This is an incredible amount of success for someone who was not one of the four kickers drafted in 2012 and did not receive a signing bonus as a rookie because he was initially a tryout player. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

DE Coy Bacon

Although Vontaze Burfict could have an argument for this nod one day, it's hard to argue against Bacon, who played in 14 NFL seasons and made three Pro Bowls. Bacon started his career in the Continental Football League before signing with the Cowboys as a practice-squad player. He eventually made it to Cincinnati, where he made a big impact in just two brief seasons with the Bengals. Although the NFL did not recognize sacks as an official stat in 1976, the Bengals maintain that Bacon had 22 in one season, which is still a franchise record. (Bacon maintained that he actually had 26 that year.) He made the Pro Bowl in both years as a Bengal before he was traded to the Redskins. -- Katherine Terrell

Cleveland Browns

G Robert Jackson

Jackson was the ultimate team guy, and a key member of the offensive line in the Kardiac Kids days. Jackson made the team out of Duke, then started 10 years in a row (1975-85) on the line. He was hard-nosed, hard-working and team-oriented. His annual "Jackson Open" golf tournament for players and staff was always anticipated. Josh Cribbs also did great things with the Browns, but Jackson edges out Cribbs for his tenure and unnoticed contributions. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

OLB James Harrison

Cornerback Jack Butler, who had 52 interceptions in the 1950s, made this a difficult call. But not many players define the modern Steelers era more than the newly retired Harrison does after going undrafted in 2002 out of Kent State and playing a season of World League of American Football before becoming the franchise's all-time sack leader (84.5). Harrison's 16-sack performance that earned him NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 will forever live in black-and-gold lore. He was a key factor in two Super Bowl wins, recording a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to help seal Super Bowl XLIII. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC South

Houston Texans

RB Arian Foster

The Texans have had success with undrafted players in their short history, but their biggest hit so far has been Foster, who signed with Houston in 2009 and went on to become the Texans' all-time leader in rushing yards (6,472) and rushing touchdowns (54). Foster was initially cut by the Texans, then signed to the practice squad in September 2009 before being added to the active roster just two months later. Foster played all but one of his eight NFL seasons with Houston, making four Pro Bowls over that time. He was named first-team All-Pro in 2010 after leading the NFL in rushing yards (1,616) and rushing touchdowns (16). -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

C Jeff Saturday

Saturday originally signed with Baltimore as an undrafted rookie out of North Carolina in 1998. The Ravens cut him two months later and Saturday moved back to North Carolina, where he spent the next year working in a supply store before the Colts signed him in 1999. Saturday went on to form one of the best center-quarterback tandems with Peyton Manning. He once started 85 straight games at center and was named to the Pro Bowl five times. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

WR Allen Hurns

Hurns signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent out of Miami, the same year the Jaguars drafted Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee in the second round. Hurns finished with more catches than Robinson or Lee as a rookie, and was just two short of Cecil Shorts' team lead of 53. Hurns then caught 64 passes for 1,031 yards in his second season, making him one of only four players in franchise history to surpass 1,000 yards receiving. He ranks sixth in franchise history with 2,631 yards receiving after just four seasons. Hurns was cut in March and later signed by the Cowboys. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

QB Warren Moon

This honor has go to Moon, the best quarterback in Oilers/Titans history and the first -- and only -- African-American QB inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame to this point. Moon went unselected in a 12-round 1978 NFL draft and began his pro career in the Canadian Football League, where he won five straight Grey Cups. The Oilers made one of the best moves of the century signing Moon after his fifth season in the CFL. He became a nine-time Pro Bowler and the all-time leading passer (touchdowns and yards) in franchise history. He led the league in passing in 1990 and 1991, and ranks in the top 13 all time in passing yards (49,325) and passing touchdowns (291). -- Cameron Wolfe

AFC West

Denver Broncos

WR Rod Smith

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. has been selected to three Pro Bowls and is among the best in the league since he arrived as an undrafted rookie in 2011. Then there's Ring of Famer Karl Mecklenburg, who was a 12th-round pick in the 1983 draft, which would be an undrafted player these days in a seven-round draft. But Smith is the pick here. He played 183 regular-season games for the Broncos (1995-2007), and was a part of two Super Bowl wins. He had nine straight seasons with at least 70 receptions and finished his career with 11,389 yards receiving and 68 touchdowns while being an unquestioned leader in the locker room and an unfailing mentor to younger players. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

CB Emmitt Thomas

Thomas joined the Chiefs from the now-defunct Bishop College in Texas in 1966. He wound up playing for 13 seasons and was a member of both of Kansas City's Super Bowl teams. He remains the franchise's all-time leader with 58 interceptions and was inducted into the Chiefs' Hall of Fame in 1986, then the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2008. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

TE Antonio Gates

A power forward in college who led Kent State to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, the athletic Gates changed the tight end position in the NFL. Signed as an undrafted rookie by the Chargers in 2003, he's the NFL leader in receiving touchdowns by a tight end with 114. An eight-time Pro Bowler, he's the team's franchise leader in receptions (927), receiving yards (11,508) and touchdowns (114). Quarterback Philip Rivers and Gates have connected for 87 touchdowns, which are the most in league history for a tight end-quarterback tandem. -- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders

FB Marcel Reece

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

Washington Redskins

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons

Carolina Panthers

New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks


Continue reading at ESPN »