Wes Welker stopped by Studio 66 for the latest Dave Dameshek Football Program (available on iTunes) and it got me thinking -- with the 2012 NFL Draft looming -- how strange it is that players can still slip through the cracks of the draft during this era.
I mean, when you look over the history of the NFL, there are a lot of great undrafted players like Kurt Warner, Marion Motley, Dick "Night Train" Lane, Willie Wood, Willie Brown, Lou Groza, Emmitt Thomas and some more recent guys like Jeff Garcia, Rod Smith and Adam Vinatieri.
With modern scouting, it just seems like it would be harder to miss guys, but it happens. So with that in mind, and in honor of Welker's visit, here is the list of the best undrafted players currently in the NFL.
Just missing the cut: Miles Austin, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Clark, Jason Peters, Vonta Leach and Brian Waters. (And yes, I thought of who you were thinking of, but sometimes, you have to make the tough calls.)
And without further ado ...
"Victory" Cruz went from preseason standout in 2010 to bona fide star in 2011. Cruz was a major player during the Giants' Super Bowl run, including 10 receptions for 142 yards in the NFC Championship Game and a touchdown catch in the Super Bowl. In 2012, he's going to need to prove that last year was no fluke.
The Chargers tight end has been slowed with injuries over the past two seasons, but he's still one of the most dangerous receiving tight ends in the NFL. Oh, and you might not know this, but Gates actually played basketball in college. And yes, I'm being sarcastic because you can't listen to a Chargers game without hearing it. It's the modern-day version of Ron Brown, who was an Olympic sprinter.
Foster has put up back-to-back impressive performances after emerging from out of nowhere to take control of the Texans' top spot at running back. (Remember, everybody was raving about Ben Tate a few years back.) In these days of running back-by-committee situations, Foster is one of the rare featured backs, and he helped carry Houston to its first AFC South title.
The Cowboys quarterback has had his share of detractors over the years (even from his own team). And despite having the best year of his career in 2011 in terms of passer rating (102.5), there is speculation Romo could be on the hot seat if the Cowboys miss the playoffs this season (don't shoot the messenger). But if that happens, I'm sure there would be no shortage of teams who would love to have him.
Harrison spent two years on the practice squad and was released multiple times, but he became one of the most dominant linebackers of his era. Harrison has been selected to five Pro Bowls and has been a two-time Super Bowl champion. In fact, his 100-yard pick six to close the first half of Super Bowl XLIII was the reason why the Steelers won their sixth title.
Not only was Welker undrafted, two teams (the Chargers and Dolphins) gave up on one of the top receivers in the NFL. Welker has led the league in receptions three times since 2007, including a league-leading 122 receptions in 2011. Welker also set career highs with 1,569 receiving yards and scored nine touchdowns last year.