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).
From May 30 and every day until September 5… the start of the 2013 NFL season… Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ will publish “99 Stats Until Kickoff” a daily dose of NFL stats that will get you ready for the 2013 NFL season.)
If you’re looking for one way that the National Football League has changed since, say the start of the century, you don’t have to go much further than looking at how running backs are being used.
In simple terms, NFL teams are looking for ways to get the ball into the hands of their fleet-footed runners. No longer is the game limited to handing the ball off to the best runner and letting him find a way up the field. These days, passing the ball to your running back is just as important as the quarterback handing the ball off to his runners.
Let’s quantify this… using 250 or more rushing attempts and 50 receptions in a season as the yardstick, we see that in NFL history there have been 109 occasions when a running back had 250-plus rushing attempts and 50-plus receptions in the same season. Fifty-one different running backs have accomplished this feat in NFL history.
Last season two players met these numbers: Baltimore’s Ray Rice, who carried the ball 257 times to go along with his 61 catches, and Cleveland rookie Trent Richardson, who had 267 rushing attempts to go along with 51 receptions.
Of those 109 occasions, 57 of them have occurred since 2000, a testament to the fact that teams have increased the workload of their runners with pass catching responsibilities. (The most running backs to meet these numbers were seven in both the 2000 and 2003 seasons.)
Following are the running backs that have had the most seasons with 250+ carries and 50+ receptions.
Seasons with 250+ carries/50+ receptions, Players
8: LaDainian Tomlinson
5: Tiki Barber, Edgerrin James
4: Ahman Green, Ray Rice, Emmitt Smith, Thurman Thomas, Ricky Watters
3: Marcus Allen, Ottis Anderson, William Andrews, Priest Holmes, Lydell Mitchell
If we move the criteria up to 300 carries and 70 catches, only eight players have met those numbers in league history. They are:
Lydell Mitchell, 1977, Baltimore, 301 carries, 71 catches
James Wilder, 1984, Tampa Bay, 407 carries, 85 catches
Roger Craig, 1988, San Francisco, 310 carries, 76 catches
Marshall Faulk, 1998, Indianapolis, 324 carries, 86 catches
Curtis Martin, 2000, N.Y. Jets, 316 carries, 70 catches
LaDainian Tomlinson, 2002, San Diego, 372 carries, 79 catches
Priest Holmes, 2002, Kansas City, 313 carries, 70 catches
LaDainian Tomlinson, 2003, San Diego, 313 carries, 100 catches
Priest Holmes, 2003, Kansas City, 320 carries, 74 catches
Steven Jackson, 2006, St. Louis, 346 carries, 90 catches
Here’s a few more stats concerning running backs with 250-plus carries and 50-plus catches in a season:
* Four players accomplished this feat while in their 30’s: Tiki Barber (2006, 2007 at age 30 and 31), Ricky Watters (2000 at age 31), Tony Dorsett (1984 at age 30) and Priest Holmes (2003 at age 30).
* LaDainian Tomlinson holds the record for most consecutive seasons with 250-plus rushing attempts and 50-plus receptions with eight. He did it from 2001-2008. Tiki Barber did it in five straight seasons from 2002-2006.
* Nine players reached the 250/50 milestone in their rookie season, including this year’s rookie to make the list, the Browns’ Trent Richardson. The others were: Billy Sims (1980), Joe Cribbs (1980), Eric Dickerson (1983), Marshall Faulk (1994), Edgerrin James (1999), LaDainian Tomlinson (2001), Steve Slaton (2008) and Matt Forte (2008).
* Two players in NFL history not only had 250 carries and 50 catches, but also had at least one kickoff return and one punt return in that season. Joe Cribbs did it in 1980, Maurice Jones-Drew did it in 2009.
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