When you sign-up through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more >

Top 5 Best Undrafted NFL Players: Now and All-Time

Written by: Mike Lukas
Updated October 14, 2022
15 min read
Top 5 Best Undrafted Nfl Players
  • We list the Top-5 Undrafted Athletes Now Playing in the NFL 
  • The (Arguably) Top-5 All-Time Best Undrafted NFL Players

Top-5 Undrafted Players in 2021

For most NFL players, the path to the pros goes directly through the draft where every offseason all 32 football franchises select from the best college players and pay them big money to join their teams.

Then there are the undrafted players.

Undrafted free agents are players who were eligible for the NFL Draft but were not selected, and these men can negotiate and sign with any team that will have them.

Many undrafted players don’t make it at the professional level, but now and again there are the sweet exceptions who make a name for themselves in the league that initially rejected them.

Each most likely carries a chip on their shoulders as big as the hurt they got handed when all 32 teams first passed them by.

Here are (arguably) the top five undrafted players in the league right now – pro football studs forced to take the road to the NFL less traveled.

5) Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills, Wide Receiver

Cole Beasley Buffalo Bills

Buffalo Bills odds to win Super Bowl +750. Bet here:

🔥 Claimed by 112 people this week!



Bet $5, Get $200 in Bonus Bets Instantly

21+ | T&Cs apply

Buffalo Bills slot receiver Cole Beasley is 32-years old now, and at 5’ 8” and 174 pounds, he went unselected in the 2012 NFL Draft due to his less-than-NFL size, but then he was signed by his hometown Dallas Cowboys.

Since then, this 10-year NFL Second-team All-Pro veteran has caught almost 500 balls (491) for over 5,200 yards (5,210) and 33 touchdowns, production that makes him a valuable member of the Buffalo Bills in 2021 and puts him in the top five of this list.

Beasley is already having a productive 2021 (23 catches, 194 yards) but his best NFL season was two years ago in 2019 when he caught a career-high 82 passes and almost cracked 1,000 receiving yards (967) with four touchdowns in fifteen games.

4) Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers, Running Back

Austin Ekeler Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers odds to win AFC West +375. Bet here with Caesars Sportsbook:

🔥 Claimed by 64 people this week!



$1,000 First Bet on Caesars

21+ | T&Cs Apply. Gambling problem? Call or text 1-800-GAMBLER.

The entire NFL passed on running back Austin Ekeler during the 2017 draft, but afterward, the 5’ 10” 200 pound Western Colorado alum was given a three-year, $1.66 million contract to play for the Los Angeles Chargers, a deal that included a $5,000 signing bonus.

Ekeler has become a key playmaker for QB Justin Herbert’s offense, the back now with 436 total carries for over 2,000 yards (2,067) and ten touchdowns averaging 4.7 yards per carry, typically good for 500+ yards on the season.

Now that Ekeler has signed a four-year, $24.5 million contract extension, he’s stepping into a bigger backfield role and with the solid front line he runs behind (including All-Pro center Corey Linsley, guard Matt Feiler and star rookie tackle Rashawn Slater), this 2021 season could be undrafted Ekeler’s breakout year.

3) Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings, Wide Receiver

Adam Thielen Minnesota Vikings

Vikings to win the NFC Championship +2500 at BetMGM. Bet here:

🔥 Claimed by 196 people this week!



Get Up to $1,500 in Bonus Bets!

21+ | T&Cs apply. *Bonus Bets Expire in 7 Days. One New Customer Offer Only. Add’l terms.

Talk about snubbed – wide receiver Adam Thielen was not even invited to the 2013 NFL combine, but his impressive marks at the lesser-known Super Regional Combine in Dallas (40-yard dash: 4.45 secs, 3-cone drill: 6.77 secs) garnered him some attention from the league.

After going undrafted in 2013, the Minnesota Vikings signed Thielen to a three-year, $1.48 million contract but he was waived and then signed to the practice squad and didn’t make the actual 53-man roster until the following season in 2014.

From then on, Thielen has caught almost 70 percent of the passes thrown his way, 418 of them for 5,421 yards and 43 touchdowns, numbers that have earned him two Pro Bowl appearances and a Second-team All-Pro nod in 2017.

2) Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens, Placekicker

Justin Tucker Baltimore Ravens

Few kickers are actually drafted by the NFL, and Justin Tucker was no exception, the University of Texas music major going undrafted in 2012 and then signed by the Baltimore Ravens who named him the starter after an impressive camp.

What a ride it has been ever since for Tucker, now a Super Bowl Champion (XLVII) and a 4x First-team All-Pro who is the most accurate kicker in NFL history having converted 90.6 percent of the field goals he’s attempted, now with 1,251 points scored.

In Week 3 of the 2021 season, Tucker broke the NFL record for the longest field goal kick with a 66-yard beauty that took a crossbar doink to help it go through, a boot that also broke the records for the longest game-winning field goal in NFL history and the longest kick in a domed stadium.

1) Shaquil Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Linebacker

The top undrafted player in the league right now is no doubt Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker Shaquil Barret, the 6’ 2” 250 pound 2x Super Bowl Champ (50 & LV) who no pro team selected in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Now Barrett is considered one of the best linebackers in the league, with 277 career tackles and 42.5 total sacks and 15 forced fumbles along with two interceptions, the 28-year old Colorado State alum still posting big numbers for his Bucs.

In March 2021, Barrett signed a four-year contract extension worth $72 million (with $36 million guaranteed), and this season in three games he has already posted a sack, 3 quarterback hits, a pass defended, and 11 total tackles with two of those for a loss.

Top-5 All-Time Best Undrafted Players

Over the years since the first NFL draft in 1936, the league has seen its fair share of undrafted talent, the list far too long to include here.

Below are (arguably) the top-5 undrafted NFL players of all time, these men were selected for their high levels of skill and how important they became to the teams for which they played.

The list, however, goes on and on…

Player Team(s) Position Rookie Year
5) James Harrison Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, NE Patriots OLB 2002
4) Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane L.A. Rams, Chicago Cardinals, Detroit Lions CB / DE 1952
3) Antonio Gates San Diego / L.A. Chargers TE 2003
2) Warren Moon Houston Oilers, MN Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, KC Chiefs QB 1984
1) Kurt Warner St. Louis Rams, NY Giants, AZ Cardinals QB 1998

For weekly NFL predictions have a look at NFL weekly picks against the spread and also, remember to check out our NFL pick’em contest for a chance to win $600.

Image for Mike Lukas


Mike Lukas

1204 Articles

Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]

More info on Mike Lukas
We've been featured on:
espn logo
reuters logo
cbs-news logo
forbes logo
entrepreneur logo
entrepreneur logo
We only list licensed sportsbooks

© Rebel Penguin ApS 2024 (a subsidiary of Gaming Innovation Group Inc.)

We support responsible gambling. 21+ Only. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.

WSN.com is run by iGaming Cloud Inc (a Gaming Innovation Group Subsidiary) and is registered with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) under affiliate vendor ID 89744, with the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) under certificate of registration number SWR-000148, approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as a gaming service provider, under certificate registration number 117656-1, possesses a Vendor Minor sports betting license from the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (account number 94414163), granted a vendor registration number VR007603-20-001 by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, an interim Sports Wagering Supplier license, under license number SWS 066, issued by the West Virginia Lottery Commission, a sports betting vendor registration, under registration number #100400, issued by the Director of Gaming Licensing and Investigations of the Virginia Lottery to operate in the State of Virginia, and a Vendor Registration issued by the Sports Wagering Committee of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation.

Advertising disclosure: WSN contains links to online retailers on its website. When people click on our affiliate links and make purchases, WSN earns a commission from our partners, including ESPN and various sportsbooks.