Top college football prospects get most of the attention during the NFL Draft process, but some of the league’s most recognizable players on and off the field were late-round selections – or weren’t drafted at all.
Continue Reading Below
NFL teams generally use late-round picks and undrafted rookies to provide roster depth. These players sign contracts with little to no guaranteed money or job security. In most cases, undrafted first-year players sign minimum contracts worth about $480,000 per year.
Still, some prospects have managed to parlay their unheralded starts into lengthy, lucrative careers. Others have played their way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
FOX Business breaks down the most successful NFL players who were late-round picks or went undrafted below.
Selected in sixth round of 2000 NFL Draft
Career earnings: $212 million
An afterthought in the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady became the New England Patriots’ starter late in his rookie season and never looked back. A six-time Super Bowl champion, Brady is also among the most marketable players in the league off the field.
Selected in sixth round of 2010 NFL Draft
Career earnings: $69.9 million
Known for his brash personality, Brown has posted at least 100 receptions in each of the last six seasons and is one of the NFL's most dominant receivers. After forcing a trade to the Oakland Raiders this offseason, Brown signed 3-year, $50 million contract extension.
Undrafted free agent, 2000
Career earnings: $46.4 million (per OverTheCap.com)
Randle recorded 137.5 sacks during his storied career with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks and was named an All-Pro six times.
Selected in fifth round of 2011 NFL Draft
Career earnings: $56.8 million
The former Stanford University standout faced questions about his athleticism entering the NFL, but quickly established himself as a lockdown corner for the Seattle Seahawks. He anchored the Seahawks' vaunted "Legion of Boom" defense and won a Super Bowl title in 2014.
Undrafted free agent, 2009
Career earnings: $37.7 million
Foster exploded onto the scene to twice lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, earning four Pro Bowl selections.
Undrafted free agent, 2002
A feared defender throughout his lengthy NFL career, Harrison is a two-time Super Bowl champion and 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the year.
Career earnings: $43.7 million
Undrafted free agent, 2003
Career earnings: $71 million
A former college basketball player, Gates is credited with redefining the tight end position. He's caught 116 touchdowns in his career, more than any other tight end.
Undrafted free agent, 2003
Career earnings: $127.4 million
Signed as a little-known prospect out of Eastern Illinois University, Romo became the Cowboys' starter and shattered several of the franchise's passing records. He is now a popular broadcaster for CBS.
Undrafted free agent, 1994
Career earnings: $62.8 million
After going undrafted and spending time in the Arena Football League, Warner worked his way into the NFL, ultimately winning a Super Bowl with the then-St. Louis Rams. A two-time NFL MVP, Warner is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.