Wes Welker, Victor Cruz and Arian Foster Prove There's Value in Undrafted Players
If you thought the draft was the end all be all of the NFL, think again
By: Athlon Sports | 1/13/12, 6:40 AM EST
In 2007, Wes Welker lead the NFL in receptions with 112. In 2010, Arian Foster’s All-Pro season came out of nowhere as he led the National Football League in rushing with 1,616 yards. This year, it was the explosive Victor Cruz and his 1,536 receiving yards, good for third in the league. What do these two have in common? Not one of those players was selected by a team in the NFL draft.
Every April, the NFL draft is a wellspring of hope for every team, be it the Super Bowl champions or the worst team in the league. Each franchise’s scouting department scours the college ranks, searching for that one player who will take them to the next level. It is well documented, however, that the draft is an inexact science.
Here Are The Remaining Undrafted Starters Still Left in this year’s playoffs:
Texans undrafted free agent starters:
Mike Brisiel, G
Arian Foster, RB
Vonta Leach, FB
Jameel McClain, LB
Wes Welker, WR
Brian Waters, G
Stephen Neal, G
Kyle Arrington, CB
Daniel Fells, TE
Jed Collins, FB
Remi Ayodele, DT
Jo-Lonn Dunbar, LB
Jabari Greer, CB
Jake Ballard, TE
Victor Cruz, WR
Ryan Grant, RB
Cullen Jenkins, DT
Tramon Williams, CB
It seems like for every Cam Newton there is a Ryan Leaf. Despite this, the conventional thinking is that teams will find their franchise cornerstone in the first round or two. That’s what makes the stories of guys like Welker, Foster and Cruz so amazing. I’m not a general manager and probably never will be, but signing a rookie free agent who goes on to become one of the best at his position has to be an unbelievable feeling.
Judging by the statistics from his years at Tennessee, Foster looks to be one of those guys that might have slipped under the radar because of a weak senior season. After rushing for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior in 2007, he only managed 570 yards and 1 TD as a senior. Either way, Foster has obviously been a huge steal for the Houston Texans, who are hoping he will lead them to a divisional round playoff win over the Baltimore Ravens this weekend.
At least Foster played for a big-time SEC program. Cruz spent his college years at UMass. Not exactly a powerhouse. He managed to garner some attention in the 2010 preseason when he caught 3 TDs against the Jets. The promising start fizzled though, as he missed the season with an injured hamstring. This year, Cruz developed into Eli Manning’s favorite target, setting a Giants single season record for receiving yards. Not too shabby.
They may not all be Pro Bowlers like Welker, Foster and Cruz, but there are certainly a handful of undrafted players who turn out to be reliable starters. The eight remaining playoff teams average 2.25 starters who never got drafted. The Saints and Patriots tie for the most with four, while the 49ers have none.
So Andrew Luck can get all the publicity in the world, but don’t sleep on the guys who slip through the cracks. Your team just may be the one to find that hidden gem ready to break out, leaving Mel Kiper Jr. scratching his head.
By David Schuman
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