Almost immediately following the conclusion of the final round, teams begin signing undrafted rookie free agents. UNC Kicker Casey Barth signed with the Atlanta Falcons, and receiver Eric Highsmith signed with the Minnesota Vikings. These two were probably excited for the next step in their career as neither was projected to get drafted. The case for Kevin Reddick is a little different. Some services projected the former Carolina linebacker to go as high as the second or third round, but Reddick didn’t get drafted and signed a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. Reddick can look to several different players and see that though he’d rather get drafted, this isn’t a death sentence for an NFL career.
Arian Foster: The Houston Texas star wasn’t picked out of the University of Tennessee in the 2009 draft, but he didn’t let that stop him from leading the NFL is rushing in 2010. In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Foster rushed for more than 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl each season.
Kurt Warner: After being undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft, Kurt Warner played Arena Football before sticking with the St. Louis Rams. In his career, Warner played in three Super Bowls, was a Super Bowl MVP, and has the third best all time career completion percentage at 65.5%.
Brian Waters: The North Texas guard didn’t get selected in the 1999 NFL draft. He was signed and released by the Dallas Cowboys, but eventually signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 11 years in Kansas City, Waters was a five time Pro Bowl selection. In the 2011 season, Waters played on the New England Patriots, once again being named to the Pro Bowl roster, and playing for the Super Bowl.
James Harrison: Perhaps known by now for his fines almost as much as his play, the linebacker out of Kent State wasn’t drafted in 2002. Signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Harrison anchored a tough nosed defense, and he was selected to the Pro Bowl five times. The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in the offseason.
Jeff Saturday: Fellow Carolina alum, Jeff Saturday was the heart of the Indianapolis Colts’ offensive line for more than decade. But Peyton Manning’s favorite center wasn’t selected to a team despite being a two time All-ACC player at UNC. Saturday would go on to make five Pro Bowls with the Colts. Saturday ended his career with the Green Bay Packers, making one more Pro Bowl before announcing his retirement.
Not every player who doesn’t get drafted can be a star, and that seems fairly obvious. Also, not every player who gets drafted highly is guaranteed success. As good as NFL scouts and front offices can be at identifying players, they aren’t perfect. Kevin Reddick can look at these examples, and countless others, as reasoning that despite not being drafted, he could still have a productive football career.