Recently I wrote an article for an NFL website that looked at undrafted rookies who scored the most touchdowns in their first year in the league. That story got me thinking about undrafted players who not only had success in their first year in the league, but those who continued on and had successful careers in the NFL. It’s one thing to be an undrafted player who makes the team as a rookie, but another to be an undrafted player who can carve out a long career in the league.
To quantify this curiosity, let’s take a look at two stats (TDs and games played) and which undrafted players have accumulated the most TDs and games played in their careers.
Only one player who was not drafted has scored 100 or more TDs in an NFL career. That honor belongs to tight end Antonio Gates, who has 104 career TDs. There have been 17 undrafted players who have totaled 40 or more career TDs. They are (career years are listed in parenthesis):
104 Antonio Gates (2003-15)
94 Priest Holmes (1997-2007)
71 Rod Smith (1995-2006)
68 Arian Foster (2009-15)
51 Wes Welker (2004-15)
50 Drew Pearson (1973-83)
49 Stephone Page (1983-91)
45 Lance Moore (2006-15)
45 Nate Washington (2005-15)
44 Reggie Rucker (1970-81)
44 Mike Tolbert (2008-15)
42 Paul Coffman (1978-88)
42 BenJarvis Green-Ellis (2008-13)
41 Wayne Chrebet (1995-2005)
41 Pierre Thomas (2007-15)
40 Alfred Jenkins (1975-83)
40 Marcus Pollard (1995-2008)
When it comes to career games played by undrafted players, kickers top the list. In fact, of the undrafted players who have 260 or more career games played in the NFL, all are placekickers or punters. Leading the way is Jeff Feagles, an undrafted punter who amassed 352 career games in the league. Of non-kickers, center David Binn and linebacker London Fletcher top the list of most career games with 256.
Here’s the undrafted players who have 250 or more career games in the NFL.
352 Jeff Feagles (punter)
306 Adam Vinatieri (placekicker)
302 John Carney (placekicker)
284 Sean Landeta (punter)
273 Norm Johnson (placekicker)
263 Phil Dawson (placekicker)
260 Nick Lowery (placekicker)
256 David Binn (center)
256 London Fletcher (linebacker)
250 Pat Leahy (placekicker)
250 Eugene Robinson (defensive back)
If you’re a Packers fan, do you know which undrafted player has scored the most TDs with the Packers? And, do you know which undrafted player has played the most career games with the Pack?
If you guessed Paul Coffman scored the most TDs, you know your Packers trivia. The undrafted tight end tallied 39 TDs with the Packers in his career. Ryan Grant (29), Ed West (26) and John Kuhn (23) are the other undrafted Packers who scored 20 or more TDs with the team.
There is a tie at the top of the list for most career games played with the Packers by an undrafted player. Rob Davis (a center) and tight end Ed West top the list with 167 games played with the team. They are followed by Mark Murphy, 147 (defensive back), Ryan Longwell, 144 (placekicker), Kuhn, 139 (fullback) and Jarrett Bush, 137 (defensive back).
Most people would agree that the NFL is a young man’s league. Save for a few quarterbacks who are in their 30’s having nice seasons (tongue planted firmly in cheek), the league depends on younger, faster, stronger players each year.
Case in point: Just a little over 14% of the TDs scored this season (through games of Week #13) have been scored by players who are in their 30’s. The rest, about 85% have been scored by players in their 20’s.
There have been 61 players in their 30’s that have scored one or more touchdowns for their team this season. Leading the TD race for the 30-something crowd is San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. The 34-year-old has tallied nine TDs for the Chargers, tops in the league for players 30 or older. Just one TD behind Gates is 30-year-old receiver Brandon Marshall with eight TDs for the Chicago Bears. Philadelphia all-purpose threat Darren Sproles, age 31, has seven TDs, five via rushing and two by punt returns.
Leading the 30-something TDs by team are the Atlanta Falcons. They have 14 TDs so far this season scored by 30-something players, five each by running back Steven Jackson and receiver Roddy White, three by Devin Hester, and one by Harry Douglas.
Here’s a look at how many TDs have been scored this season by teams with players who are 30 years of age or older.
13: San Diego
10: Philadelphia, San Francisco
9: Baltimore, Chicago, Tennessee
8: New Orleans
5: Kansas City, N.Y. Giants, Pittsburgh
4: Arizona, Buffalo, Dallas, Green Bay, Houston, Minnesota, Oakland, Tampa Bay
2: Cleveland, Denver. Miami
1: Carolina, Detroit, Jacksonville, New England, St. Louis
0: Cincinnati, N.Y. Jets, Seattle, Washington
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