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LAS VEGAS, Nevada, May 24, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Now that NFL Draft Day has come and gone, the true handwringing can begin. Who will live up to their draft pick potential? Who won’t? What diamond in the rough was overlooked in favour of a flashier player who may or may not be what the team needs?
For rookies and teams, the NFL draft is fraught with everything from worry and stereotyping to celebrations and surprise, and while everyone assumes that a higher draft pick means a more successful professional career, there are plenty of players who have proven that assumption wrong on both ends of the spectrum.
Here are six originally overlooked NFL players, who eventually proved to be worth their weight in gold once they were given a chance and a place on the field.
- Wes Welker
No matter which NFL team jersey he dons, Wes Welker has proven to be a surprisingly formidable force over and over again. A hard-working and small wide receiver, at 5′ 9″ Welker was passed over in the draft before bouncing from the Chargers to the Dolphins with little fanfare. Traded to the New England Patriots in 2007, Welker caught 112 passes his first year for almost 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns, and every year after that was more of the same. A five-time Pro Bowl pick and a two-time All-Pro first team member, Welker is once again a free agent who most recently hustled and caught passes for the Denver Broncos.
- John Randle
A defensive tackle who went undrafted in 1990, John Randle found himself with the Minnesota Vikings for 10 years before a three-year stint with the Seahawks. His second season with the Vikings, he started eight games and managed to rack up 9.5 sacks. As a starter in 1992, he garnered 11.5 sacks, and for the next eight straight years he terrorized quarterbacks, racking up sacks in the double digits. In 1997, he turned out the highest sack stat in the league with 15.5. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.
- Adam Vinatieri
One of the most clutch kickers to ever play the game, Adam Vinatieri went undrafted out of South Dakota State but landed with the New England Patriots in 1996 anyway.
He played with the Patriots for 10 years and helped them win three Super Bowls. As their all-time leading scorer, he kicked 18 game-winning field goals when there was a minute or less left on the clock. After his tenure with the Patriots, he joined the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.
- Priest Holmes
Originally picked up by the Baltimore Ravens in 1997 after going undrafted, Priest Holmes became the Ravens’ starting running back in 1998 and rushed for over 1,000 yards. The next year, Holmes played second string to rookie Jamal Lewis, and in 2001, he signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. He led the league in rushing that year with 1,555 yards, and the following year he compiled another 1,650. In 2003, he rushed for 1,420 yards and scored 27 rushing touchdowns – a single season record. An injury cut his career short, but Holmes is still the Chiefs’ all-time leader in rushing touchdowns, rushing yards, and total number of touchdowns.
- Jeff Saturday
A centre who played 12 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Saturday was first picked up by the Baltimore Ravens after going undrafted in 1998. Cut before the season even started, the Colts signed Saturday in 1999, and he started at left guard that November before moving to the starting centre role in 2000. The lynchpin in one of the most formidable offensive lines of all time, Saturday went to the Pro Bowl six times, was selected to the All-Pro first team twice, and helped the Colts secure a Super Bowl victory.
- Warren Moon
After going undrafted, quarterback Warren Moon chose a football career with the Canadian Football League, where he played six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos and won five straight Grey Cup championships. In 1984, he signed with the Houston Oilers, and over the course of the next 15 years, managed to complete almost 4,000 of 6,800 pass attempts to the tune of 49,325 yards with 291 touchdowns and 233 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,736 yards, scoring 22 rushing touchdowns in the process. A nine-time Pro Bowler, Moon was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
While being drafted on Draft Day is every young player’s dream, these six great players make it more than clear that going undrafted is no nail in the coffin of a great NFL career.