Getty Images

So much attention is paid toward the three days of the NFL Draft, there are plenty of players that go undrafted after the annual selection meeting is complete. Most undrafted free agents are lottery tickets, with many of them ending up not making it past training camp.

Then, other undrafted free agents become quality NFL players throughout the years and make their own mark in the league. Going undrafted doesn't mean a player doesn't have a chance at a successful career nor does it discourage players to chase their dreams. Some undrafted players ended up becoming Hall of Famers, even if their journey to Canton was significantly different than players that were drafted. 

Who are the best players in NFL history that went undrafted? This list was derived from the common-draft era (since 1967) and does include an active player (even though that player isn't under contract for the 2024 season yet). All of the players on this list are in the Hall of Fame or will be enshrined in Canton someday. 

Players worthy of honorable mention: Rod Smith, Priest Holmes, Dave Krieg, Jessie Tuggle, Jeff Saturday, Tony Romo, Wes Welker, Eugene Robinson, Joe Jacoby, Everson Walls, Jim Langer, Justin Tucker (career far from finished). 

Special mention to Dick "Night Train" Lane, who went undrafted in 1952 and led the NFL in interceptions twice. Lane finished with 68 career interceptions and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The three-time First Team All-Pro is one of the greatest defensive backs in NFL history. 

10. Drew Pearson (Cowboys; 1973-1983)

One of the best wide receivers of his era, Pearson was an undrafted free agent out of Tulsa in 1973. A former quarterback that converted to wide receiver in college, Pearson earned three First Team All-Pro selection in his first five seasons in the league.

A member of the 1970s All-Decade Team, Pearson was the best receiver on the Cowboys' Super Bowl XII championship team (leading the league in receiving yards that season). He finished with 489 catches for 7,822 yards and 48 touchdowns in 11 seasons, earning three first-team All-Pro and three Pro Bowl selections.

Pearson was finally selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. He had the most receiving yards in the league from 1973-79 (5,713). 

9. James Harrison (Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, Patriots; 2002-2017)

Arguably the best undrafted free agent linebacker, Harrison was the anchor of the Steelers defense throughout the late 2000s. The 2008 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-Pro, Harrison led the NFL in forced fumbles in 2008 (7) and had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown off Kurt Warner prior to halftime of Super Bowl XLIII -- one of the key plays in Pittsburgh's championship. 

A former walk-on at kent State, Harrison was on and off the Steelers' practice squad and actually was signed by the Ravens before returning to Pittsburgh in 2004. He didn't become a starter until age 29 as Mike Tomlin named him the starter in place of Joey Porter (who was released). 

Harrison is second on the Steelers' all-time sack list (84.5), finishing with 811 tackles and 34 forced fumbles in his 16-year career. 

8. Jason Peters (Bills, Eagles, Bears, Cowboys, Seahawks; 2004-present)

Peters is bound for the Hall of Fame when he eventually decides to retire (he's still playing left tackle at 41 years old). A two-time first-team All-Pro and member of the 2010s All-Decade team, Peters was dominant at left tackle in Buffalo and Philadelphia -- earning nine consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 2007 to 2016. During that stretch, he was named to an All-Pro team six times (twice on first team and four times on second team). 

Undrafted out of Arkansas as a tight end, Peters converted to the offensive line during his rookie season and became a starter in 2005. Only five tackles in NFL history have been selected to more Pro Bowls than Peters, four are in the Hall of Fame and the other (Trent Williams) is heading to Canton. 

Peters will be bound for Canton when he does decide to hang up his cleats. 

7. Larry Little (Chargers, Dolphins; 1967-1980)

A member of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins and one of the best interior linemen in the 1970s, Little shined at right guard in Miami for 12 years. He earned five consecutive first-team All-Pro selections from 1971 through 1975 and won two Super Bowls with the Dolphins.

Undrafted out of Bethune-Cookman by the Chargers in 1967, Little was traded to the Dolphins in 1969 and began his run as one of the most intimidating linemen in the game. Little was the lead man on the Dolphins sweeps with Mercury Morris and the lead blocker for Larry Czonka (the Dolphins rushed for a then-NFL record 2,960 yards in 1972). 

Little earned Five Pro Bowl selections in his career and was a member of the 1970s All-Decade Team. He was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1993. 

6. Adam Vinatieri (Patriots, Colts; 1996-2019)

Arguably the most clutch kicker in NFL history, Vinatieri had the game-winning field goal in Super Bowl XXXVI and Super Bowl XXXVIII in the final seconds to seal two championships for the Patriots. He led the league in field goal percentage three times while earning three first-team All-Pro and three Pro Bowl selections. 

A member of the 2000s All-Decade Team and named to the NFL's 100 greatest players list, Vinatieri is first in NFL history in career points scored (2,643) and field goals made (599).

Vinatieri is a four-time Super Bowl champion and is eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2025. He was undrafted out of South Dakota State and missed just 19 games in his career. 

5. Antonio Gates (Chargers; 2003-2018)

A former basketball player at Kent State, Gates was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003 after giving football a shot (he never did play college football). The Chargers immediately signed Gates after a workout with 20 teams and the rest is history.

Gates earned three first-team All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowl nods in his 16-year career, all eight Pro Bowl selections were in a row. He had two 1,000-yard seasons and four double-digit touchdown seasons -- the last of which coming in his age-34 season. 

Amongst tight ends, Gates is first all time in receiving touchdowns (116) and third all time in receiving yards (11,841) -- trailing only Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. Gates is one of the best receiving tight ends in NFL history and will head to Canton at some point. 

4. Donnie Shell (Steelers; 1974-1987)

One of the underrated stars of the "Steel Curtain" defense in the 1970s, Shell went undrafted in 1974 out of South Carolina State. Sheel wasn't part of the draft class that year that produced Mike Webster, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Jack Lambert -- yet ended up in the Hall of Fame with the group. 

A three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection, Shell has one of the top playmaking safeties in football from 1978 through 1982 -- notching 25 of his 51 career interceptions. Shell in third in Steelers history in interceptions and is second in team history in fumble recoveries (19). 

Shell is one of the best defensive players in franchise history. 

3. Warren Moon (Oilers, Vikings, Seahawks, Chiefs; 1984-2000)

One of the greatest passers of his era, Moon led the NFL in passing yards twice and made nine Pro Bowls. Moon was third all time in passing yards (49,325) and fourth all time in passing touchdowns (291) when he retired in 2000, numbers that could have been higher if NFL scouts didn't have flawed evaluations on whether Moon could play the position.

Sticking to his guns, Moon stayed at quarterback and went undrafted. He opted to sign with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and won five straight Grey Cups. Moon didn't enter the NFL until he was 28, yet led the league in passing yards twice, passing yards per game three times, and fourth-quarter comebacks three times. 

Moon was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2006. He's one of the best deep-ball quarterbacks in NFL history, shining in the run-and-shoot offense. 

2. John Randle (Vikings, Seahawks; 1990-2003)

One of the greatest defensive tackles in NFL history, Randle wasn't selected in any of the 12 rounds in the 1990 NFL Draft. The Vikings took a chance on Randle out of Texas A&M-Kingsville and were rewarded with six consecutive first-team All-Pro selections from 1993-98. Randle had double-digit sacks in eight straight seasons and nine of 10 seasons from 1992-2001 (also led the NFL in sacks in 1997).

A 1990s All-Decade team selection, Randle trails only Alan Page in career sacks by a defensive tackle. His eight double-digit sack seasons by a defensive tackle are the most in NFL history and his six first-team All-Pro selections trail only Bob Lilly and Randy White for the most at his position. 

Randle was selected to the Hall of Fame in 2010. 

1. Kurt Warner (Packers, Rams, Giants, Cardinals; 1994-2009)

The best of the undrafted free agents is Warner, a two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXXIV MVP in 1999, leading the Rams to their first Super Bowl title. Warner led the NFL in completion percentage three consecutive seasons, touchdown passes twice, and passing yards once -- all in a stretch from 1999 though 2001 which Warner won two league MVP awards and was selected to three Pro Bowls. 

Warner was the best quarterback in the NFL for that three-year stretch, setting the record for passing yards in a Super Bowl (414) and most completions without an interception (45). He took the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance in Super Bowl XLIII, as 2008 was his fourth and final Pro Bowl appearance. Taking the Rams and Cardinals to Super Bowls is part of what got Warner in the Hall of Fame, despite only having 32,344 passing yards and 208 touchdowns. 

Warner was undrafted in 1994 out of Northern Iowa, as the Packers gave him a shot to make a roster with Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, and Ty Detmer. After not making the Packers, Warner went from stocking shelves to shining with the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League. Warner signed with the Rams in 1997 and was allocated to the Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe shortly after, earning the third-string job in 1998.

Once Trent Green was injured in 1999, the Rams rallied around the 28-year-old Warner as he led the league in completion percentage, touchdown passes, and passer rating en route to league MVP. The quarterback of "The Greatest Show on Turf" led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV, completing one of the greatest stories in league history. 

Hard to believe Warner was an undrafted free agent, taking one of the most unlikely paths to stardom in any sport.