You’ll remember I posted a top 10 of each round of the draft over the last 10 years, but while the draft is the most obvious way to score the next best young talent, it’s not the only way. Being an undrafted rookie free agent may not be the blueprint way to a successful NFL career, but over the years there’s been some real hits. Every season teams hope that maybe one of these undrafted rookies added to their roster will go on to become a star. Below are the top 10 undrafted rookie free agents of the last 10 years. That means 2004-2013, therefore the players from the 2003 class were not included on this list much like the previous exercise. It is worth mentioning that Tony Romo, Antonio Gates, James Harrison and Kris Dielman were all undrafted rookies that season, making it arguably the best undrafted rookie class in NFL history.
10. FB Marcel Reece (Raiders) 2008
Reece is known as a bruising lead blocker that’s earned his respect in the NFL by setting up the run game consistently. He’s been to two Pro Bowls.
9. WR Miles Austin (Cowboys) 2006
Austin’s career may be coming close to it’s end after the Cowboys finally parted ways with him and he’s now a free agent. But Austin teamed up with Romo to have some really special seasons. He had two 1,000 yard seasons in his career that send him to two Pro Bowls, including a monster 81 catches for 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009.
8. RB Willie Parker (Steelers) 2004
It seems like ages ago that Willie Parker was in the league but it was more recent than you think. Despite his diminutive size and short six year career, Parker had three 1,000 yard rushing seasons and two trips to the Pro Bowl.
7. FB Vonta Leach (Texans, Ravens) 2004
The golden standard at fullback in the NFL over the last decade. He’s been to three Pro Bowls.
6. WR Victor Cruz (Giants) 2010
He’s only been to one Pro Bowl so far but he’s already in just three seasons one of the most explosive playmakers in the league. He took the league by storm right from the very start.
5. KR Josh Cribbs (Browns) 2005
Devin Hester is probably the name everyone identifies when you try to come up with the best kick returner in this era, but Cribbs has consistently been a menace in the kicking game going to three Pro Bowls in his career.
4. CB Brent Grimes (Falcons, Dolphins) 2006
Grimes has been to two Pro Bowls and is still at the top of his game. The Dolphins thought enough of him last year to bring him back for 4 years at $32 million.
3. RB Arian Foster (Texans) 2009
Already having gone to three Pro Bowls, Foster has often been one of the top two or three fantasy football draftees in every league each season. He’s paced the Texans with three 1,000 yard rushing seasons, including twice over 1,400.
2. WR Wes Welker (Chargers, Dolphins, Patriots, Broncos) 2004
Welker’s most impressive feat has been his ability to find such success in multiple organizations. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to play with both Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as your quarterbacks. He’s been to five Pro Bowls and is one of the best undrafted rookies to ever play the game.
1. T Jason Peters (Bills, Eagles) 2004
How did NFL teams miss the boat on Peters as a prospect? At least with Welker he was small, so you can defend the mistake. Peters was a projected fourth rounder that was high visibility in the SEC playing for Arkansas, and his build is every bit the prototypical NFL tackle. It’s hard to explain how he managed to get passed on so many times, including in the 7th round, by every team in the NFL. He makes them all look stupid, though, because he’s been to six Pro Bowls.
honorable mention for Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict who has already been to a Pro Bowl (undrafted in 2012). If he continues at this pace he could easily be on this list very soon.