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Recent standouts among top 100 undrafted free agents

Dale Zanine / US Presswire
Tramon Williams came up big in the Packers' playoff run to the Super Bowl last season.


If you're a smart head coach or general manager, then for the last five weeks, since the NFL draft reached its conclusion, you've been studying or, at the very least, pondering your next move. Because your're not finished trying to find the next crop of talent for your franchise.

Typically, the draft comes to an end, and almost instantly it triggers the run on undrafted free agents. This year, teams have had time to think it over, with the lockout putting business as usual on hold. The goal is still the same, though: You hope to find yourself the next Kurt Warner, or the next Warren Moon, or the next John Randle.

Or, more recently, the next Tramon Williams. The Green Bay Packers' undrafted cornerback out of Louisiana Tech found his way in his fifth season to make the Pro Bowl in 2010. Not only that, but Williams was instrumental in Green Bay's playoff march to the Super Bowl, coming up with the game-sealing interception against the Eagles in the wild-card round and a big-time 70-yard interception return for a touchdown in the divisional round at Atlanta.

When you make big plays like that, you get noticed, as you'll find that Williams is now included in my list of the 100 greatest undrafted free agents of all time.

1. Kurt Warner, QB, Northern Iowa
Signed by: St. Louis Rams
First year: 1998
NFL seasons: 12
Pro Bowls: 4
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: In addition to being perhaps the greatest Cinderella story in NFL history, Warner is a two-time league MVP who has posted the three best passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history.

2. Dick "Night Train" Lane, CB, Scottsbluff (Neb.) Junior College
Signed by: Los Angeles Rams
First year: 1952
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: 7
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: Hall of Famer still owns rookie record for interceptions (14 in 1952) ... Had 68 career interceptions with three teams (Rams, Chicago Cardinals and Detroit Lions).

3. Emlen Tunnell, DB, Iowa
Signed by: New York Giants
First year: 1948
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: N/A
All-Pro selections: N/A
Notes: One of the great defensive backs in NFL history, second on the all-time list with 79 interceptions.

4. Warren Moon, QB, Washington
Signed by: Houston Oilers
First year: 1984
NFL seasons: 17
Pro Bowls: 9
All-Pro selections: 0
Notes: Hall of Famer ranks in the top six all-time for career attempts, completions, yards and TD passes.

5. Willie Brown, CB, Grambling
Signed by: Denver Broncos
First year: 1963
NFL seasons: 16
Pro Bowls: 9
All-Pro selections: 5
Notes: Starred for Oakland Raiders. ... Had 54 career interceptions and inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1984.

6. Willie Wood, CB, USC
Signed by: Green Bay Packers
First year: 1960
NFL seasons: 12
Pro Bowls: 8
All-Pro selections: 5
Notes: Member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame ... had an interception in Super Bowl I.

Top 10 undrafted players
Whether overlooked or from tiny schools -- such as "Night Train" Lane from Scottsbluff (Neb.) Junior College -- these players rose from obscurity to become NFL greats. More ...

7. Joe Perry, RB, Compton (Calif.) Community College
Signed by: San Francisco 49ers
First year: 1948
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: 3
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: One of the most explosive inside runners in NFL history. Hall of Famer led NFL in rushing two seasons.

8. Lou (The Toe) Groza, OT/PK, Ohio State
Signed by: Cleveland Browns
First year: 1946
NFL seasons: 21
Pro Bowls: 9
All-Pro selections: 4
Notes: Groza doubled as an offensive tackle and kicker for 14 years on Cleveland's championship teams of the 1950s before becoming a kicking specialist in 1961 ... Hall of Famer played until he was 43 years old.

9. Cliff Harris, S, Ouachita Baptist
Signed by: Dallas Cowboys
First year: 1970
NFL seasons: 10
Pro Bowls: 6
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: One of the Cowboys' greatest success stories. Nickname was "Crash," and he was as tough as they come.

10. Cornell Green, DB, Utah State
Signed by: Dallas Cowboys
First year: 1962
NFL seasons: 13
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: Former college basketball player had 34 career interceptions.

11. Emmitt Thomas, CB, Bishop
Signed by: Kansas City Chiefs
NFL seasons: 13
First year: 1966
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 1
Notes: Had 58 career interceptions in a Hall of Fame career.

12. John Randle, DT, Texas A&I Kingsville
Signed by: Minnesota Vikings
NFL seasons: 14
First year: 1990
Pro Bowls: 7
All-Pro selections: 6
Notes: Randle, who was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year; had 137.5 career sacks in 219 games.

13. Antonio Gates, TE, Kent State
Signed by: San Diego Chargers
NFL seasons: 8 (active)
First year: 2003
Pro Bowls: 7
All-Pro selections: 4
Notes: Former college basketball player has 529 receptions for 7,005 yards and 69 TD catches in eight seasons.

14. Priest Holmes, RB, Texas
Signed by: Baltimore Ravens
NFL seasons: 10
First year: 1997
Pro Bowls: 3
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: Holmes overcame major injuries in college and the NFL. Had three straight seasons of 1,400-plus yards, scored 86 career rushing touchdowns.

15. Brian Waters, C/G, North Texas
Signed by: Kansas City Chiefs
NFL seasons: 11
First year: 2000
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: Played tight end in college and became one of the best interior linemen in NFL history.

16. Tony Romo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Signed by: Dallas Cowboys
NFL seasons: 7 (active)
First year: 2004
Pro Bowls: 3
All-Pro selections: 0
Notes: Romo's 95.5 career passing rating currently ranks fourth on the all-time list.

17. Coy Bacon, DL, Jackson State
Signed by: Los Angeles Rams
First year: 1968
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: 3
All-Pro selections: 0
Notes: Had 22 sacks in 1976 (before it was an official stat). Outstanding athlete with unbelievable size/speed combination.

18. Nate Newton, G/T, Florida A&M
Signed by: Dallas Cowboys
First year: 1986
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: 6
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: Amazing quickness and ability as a blocker for a man his size.

19. Dave Grayson, CB, Oregon
Signed by: Dallas Texans (AFL)
NFL seasons: 10
First year: 1961
Pro Bowls: 6
All-Pro selections: 4
Notes: Member of the AFL's all-time team, Grayson had 48 career interceptions playing for the Texans, Chiefs and Raiders.

20. Adam Vinatieri, PK, South Dakota State
Signed by: New England Patriots
NFL seasons: 15 (active)
First year: 1996
Pro Bowls: 2
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: Four Super Bowl rings -- and the game-winning field goal in two of those championships -- to go along with 364 career field goals.

21. Larry Little, G/T, Bethune-Cookman
Signed by: San Diego Chargers
First year: 1967
NFL seasons: 14
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 5
Notes: The leader of Miami's great offensive line of the 1970s.

22. Jeff Saturday, C, North Carolina
Signed by: Indianapolis Colts
NFL seasons: 11 (active)
First year: 1999
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 2
Notes: Has been the anchor for Colts offensive line that protects Peyton Manning; part of Super Bowl XLI champions.

23. Donnie Shell, CB, South Carolina State
Signed by: Pittsburgh Steelers
NFL seasons: 14
First year: 1974
Pro Bowls: 5
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: Part of the Steel Curtain defense that helped Pittsburgh win four Super Bowls in the '70s. Played in 19 playoff games.

24. Deron Cherry, DB, Rutgers
Signed by: Kansas City Chiefs
First year: 1981
NFL seasons: 11
Pro Bowls: 6
All-Pro selections: 3
Notes: Always had great ball skills, finishing with 50 career interceptions; currently minority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

25. Jim Langer, C, South Dakota State
Signed by: Miami Dolphins
First year: 1970
NFL seasons: 12
Pro Bowls: 6
All-Pro selections: 4
Notes: One of three Hall of Fame offensive linemen from Dolphins' Super Bowl teams of the '70s ... Played every offensive snap in 1972 perfect season.


Best undrafted free agents: 26-50 (alphabetical)
Player, Pos., College Signed by First year NFL seasons Pro Bowls Notes
Jim Burt, DT, Miami (Fla.) Giants 1981 11 1 Heart of the great Giants defense of the '80s.
Josh Cribbs, RB/KR, Kent State Browns 2005 6 (active) 2 College QB, now one of most dangerous return specialists in the game.
Kris Dielman, G, Indiana Chargers 2003 8 (active) 4 Played DL in college before converting to OL
Arian Foster, RB, Tennessee Texans 2009 2 (active) 1 Was NFL's leading rusher in 2010 with 1,616 yards.
Jeff Garcia, QB, San Jose State 49ers 1999 11 4 Ultimate "intangibles" player; knows how to win
Frank Gatski, C, Marshall Browns 1946 12 1 Hall of Famer; two-way player anchored Cleveland's great OL
James Harrison, LB, Kent State Steelers 2002 7 (active) 4 2008 defensive player of the year was cut three times
Jim Hart, QB, Southern Illinois Cardinals 1966 19 4 Got by with smarts and accuracy; 209 career TD passes
Joe Jacoby, OL, Louisville Redskins 1981 13 4 Leader of the Hogs; should be in the Hall of Fame
Dave Krieg, QB, Milton (Wis.) College Seahawks 1980 19 3 Threw 261 career TD passes
Sam Mills, LB, Montclair State Saints 1986 12 5 Played in 181 games and had his No. 51 retired by the Panthers.
Wayne Moore, OT, Lamar Dolphins 1970 9 1 College basketball player, another stalwart of Miami's great 1970s offensive line
Marion Motley, FB, South Carolina State Browns 1946 9 1 Hall of Famer was dominant rusher for great Cleveland teams
Adewale Ogunleye, DE, Indiana Dolphins 2001 11(active) 1 Tremendous strong-side DE, great at batting down passes
Drew Pearson, WR, Tulsa Cowboys 1973 11 3 College QB, led NFL in receptions in '77
Rod Smith, WR, Missouri Southern Broncos 1995 13 3 All-time leading receiver among undrafted players
Mick Tinglehoff, C, Nebraska Vikings 1962 17 6 Played in 240 games and had his No. 53 retired by the Vikings.
Jessie Tuggle, LB, Valdosta State Falcons 1987 14 5 Played in 178 games and had his No. 58 retired by the Falcons
Mark Tuinei, OL, Hawaii Cowboys 1983 15 2 College defensive lineman; won three SB rings in Dallas
Everson Walls, CB, Grambling Cowboys 1981 13 4 Only player to lead NFL in INTs first two years
Wes Welker, WR, Texas Tech Chargers 2004 7 (active) 3 432 receptions last four seasons
Pat Williams, DT, Texas A&M Bills 1997 15 (active) 3 One of the NFL's best run stoppers
Tramon Williams, CB, Louisiana Tech Packers 2007 5 (active) 1 Proved to be a major factor in the Packers winning the Super Bowl last season.
Fred Williamson, DB, Northwestern Steelers 1960 8 3 "The Hammer" was big talker who backed it up
Bill Willis, DL/OL, Ohio State 1946 Browns 8 3 Hall of Famer was one of the great two-way players


Best undrafted free agents: 51-75 (alphabetical)
Player, Pos., College Signed by First year NFL seasons Pro Bowls Notes
Bill Bates, S, Tennessee Cowboys 1983 15 1 One of first to shine as special-teams demon
Bob Boyd, WR, Loyola Marymount Rams 1950 7 1 Track star averaged more than 20 yards per catch
Jack Butler, DB, St. Bonaventure Steelers 1951 9 4 Had 52 career interceptions
Jake Delhomme, QB, Louisiana-Lafayette Saints 1999 10 (active) 1 Started for Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVII
Tom Dempsey, PK, Palomar (Calif.) College Saints 1969 11 1 Still shares record with 63-yard FG
Ron East, DT, Montana State Cowboys 1967 10 0 Aggressive inside pass rusher
Herman Edwards, CB, San Diego State Eagles 1977 10 0 Best known as a player for role in "Miracle at the Meadowlands"
London Fletcher, LB, John Carroll Rams 1998 13 (active) 1 Led NFL in tackles for the decade of the 2000s
Ryan Grant, RB, Notre Dame Giants 2007 4 (active) 0 Back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Packers
Cullen Jenkins, DT, Central Michigan Packers 2004 7 (active) 0 One of best interior linemen in the NFL today
Nick Lowery, PK, Dartmouth Patriots 1978 18 3 One of most accurate kickers in history, mostly with Chiefs
Curtis McGriff, DL, Alabama Giants 1980 8 0 Unsung stalwart of Giants defense of '80s
Zeke Mowatt, TE, Florida State Giants 1983 8 0 Blocking TE caught TD in Super Bowl XXI
Stephen Neal, G, CSU-Bakersfield Patriots 2002 7 0 Wrestling champ never played college football
Pettis Norman, TE, Johnson C. Smith Cowboys 1962 12 0 Tremendous blocker in Dallas running game
Shaun O'Hara, C, Rutgers Browns 2000 11 (active) 2 Anchored Giants' line in Super Bowl XLII
Antonio Pierce, LB, Arizona Redskins 2001 9 0 Tremendous leader, heart of Super Bowl XLII champs
Dan Reeves, RB, South Carolina Cowboys 1965 8 0 Threw TD option pass for Dallas in the "Ice Bowl"
Reggie Rucker, WR, Boston University Cowboys 1970 12 0 Caught 447 passes, mostly for Browns
Bart Scott, LB, Southern Illinois Ravens 2002 8 1 Versatile linebacker who is also great leader
Barry Sims, T/G, Utah State Raiders 1999 10 0 Starting LT for Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII
Mike Tice, TE, Maryland Seahawks 1981 14 0 Excellent blocking tight end
Terrence Wilkins, WR/KR, Virginia Colts 1999 6 0 2,000 all-purpose yards as rookie in 1999
Tommy Wilson, RB, none Rams 1956 8 1 Explosive; had 223-yard game as rookie in '56
Jim Zorn, QB, Cal-Poly Pomona Cowboys 1976 11 0 Legitimized expansion Seahawks; 21,115 passing yards


Best undrafted free agents: 76-100 (alphabetical)
Player, Pos., College Signed by First year NFL seasons Pro Bowls Notes
David Akers, K, Louisville Redskins 1998 13 (active) 5 All-decade team for 2000s as the NFL's leading scorer with 1,169 points.
David Binn, LS, California Chargers 1994 17 (active) 1 One of most reliable long snappers in NFL history
Wayne Chrebet, WR, Hofstra Jets 1995 11 0 Ultimate little guy that always made plays; 580 career receptions, 41 TDs
Paul Coffman, TE, Kansas State Packers 1978 10 3 Played in 154 games and had 339 career receptions
Booker Edgerson, CB, Western Illinois Bills 1962 9 1 Very good corner in pass-happy AFL
Horace Gillom, DE/P, Nevada Browns 1947 10 1 Is Cleveland's all-time leader in career gross punting average and ranks second in punt yards.
Robbie Gould, K, Penn State Bears 2005 6 (active) 1 The most accurate kicker (85.5 percent) in Bears history.
Jimmy Hill, DB, Texas A&M - Kingsville Cardinals 1955 12 3 19 career interceptions
Robert James, CB, Fisk Bills 1969 7 3 Career cut short because of injury
Dave Jennings, P, St. Lawrence Giants 1974 14 4 Played in 205 games and could kick it well
Norm Johnson, K, UCLA Seahawks 1982 18 2 Made 38 field goals in 258 games
Sammy Knight, S, USC Saints 1997 12 1 Started every game for eight straight years
Sean Landeta, P, Towson Giants 1985 22 2 1980s All-Decade team and 1990s All-Decade team
Gene Lipscomb, DL Rams 1953 10 3 Affectionately known as "Big Daddy"
Frank Minnifield, DB, Louisville Browns 1984 9 4 Had 20 career interceptions
Mark Murphy, DB, Colgate Redskins 1977 8 1 Current Packers president and CEO; Super Bowl XVII champion
Joe Nash, NT, Boston College Seahawks 1982 15 1 47.5 career sacks from nose tackle
Willie Parker, RB, North Carolina Steelers 2004 6 2 Didn't start in college; 75-yard TD run in Super Bowl XL
Donald Penn, OT, Utah State Buccaneers 2006 5 (active) 1 Came into his own in 2010 to make his first Pro Bowl
Jason Peters, OT, Arkansas Bills 2004 7 (active) 4 Was a first-team All-Pro in 2007
Sam Shields, CB, Miami (Fla.) Packers 2010 1 (active) 0 Had 29 tackles and two INTs as a rookie last year
Ed Sprinkle, DE, Navy Bears 1944 12 4 Member of 1940s All-Decade Team
Jerry Sturm, C, Illinois Broncos 1961 12 2 Played in 144 games for four teams
Hugh Taylor, WR, Oklahoma City Redskins 1947 8 2 Had 5,233 career receiving yards and 58 TDs
Lionel Taylor, WR, New Mexico Highlands Bears 1959 10 3 First player with 100 receptions in 1961 with Broncos
Matt Turk, P, Wisconsin-Whitewater Redskins 1995 16 (active) 3 Career average punt is 42.4 yards


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