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.
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.
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 09: Antonio Brown attends 2019 Roc Nation THE BRUNCH on February 9, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation )
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.
Football: Jacksonville Jaguars Tony Boselli #71 in action, blocking vs Minn. Vikings John Randle #93. (Photo by Vincent Muzik/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)
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.
SANTA CLARA, CA – DECEMBER 23: Richard Sherman #25 of the San Francisco 49ers looks on against the Chicago Bears during an NFL football game at Levi’s Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Image
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.
ORLANDO, FL – AUGUST 25: Arian Foster #34 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against the Atlanta Falcons during a preseason game on August 25, 2016 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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.
PITTSBURGH, PA – NOVEMBER 08: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers walks onto the field before the start of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Heinz Field on November 8, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty
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
CARSON, CA – OCTOBER 07: Antonio Gates #85 of the Los Angeles Chargers on the sidelines during the game against the Oakland Raiders at StubHub Center on October 7, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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.
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – MARCH 28: Former NFL Player and amateur Tony Romo walks along the eighth fairway during the first round of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on March 28, 2019 in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (Pho
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.
CANTON, OH – AUGUST 05: Kurt Warner and wife Brenda Warner pose his bust during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on August 5, 2017 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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.