The 2019 NFL Draft is behind us, and most teams and prospects walked away pretty happy. But for some less fortunate hopefuls, their lifelong dream of being drafted by an NFL team will never come true.
That was the case for several players with Mississippi ties, but all is not lost. NFL teams and scouts make mistakes — a good many, matter of fact. That’s why so many top-rated talents don’t end up being as good as people thought they might. And then there are those undrafted guys who become stars in the league.
While last week was a good draft for former Ole Miss and Mississippi State players, there were several from each team who were not picked.
Ole Miss’ DaMarkus Lodge wasn’t selected in the draft but has signed a free agent contract with Tampa Bay. Safety Zedrick Woods, who ran the NFL Combine’s fastest 40-yard dash at 4.29, has signed with Jacksonville, and cornerback Javien Hamilton with Green Bay.
For MSU, defensive tackle Braxton Hoyett inked with Tennessee, joining teammate Jeffery Simmons, who was a first-round selection by the Titans.
Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald signed on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, offensive guard Deion Calhoun and defensive tackle Cory Thomas with the Miami Dolphins, tight end Justin Johnson is headed to the Seattle Seahawks and safety Mark McLaurin agreed to terms with the New York Giants.
Cornerbacks Jamal Peters and Chris Rayford signed with Indianapolis, who also drafted defensive end Gerri Green out of MSU in the sixth round. Running back Aeris Williams also received a training camp invitation from the Colts.
You can just about bet a couple of those players will make NFL rosters in August. That’s how it usually works.
Look no further than last year. Denver running back Phillip Lindsay went undrafted but rushed for more than 1,000 yards and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
Despite having an excellent career at Colorado, Lindsay was not picked in the 2018 NFL Draft before signing with his hometown Broncos as a free agent. He finished the season ninth in rushing with 1,037 yards and became the first undrafted offensive rookie to be selected for a Pro Bowl. While we focus so much on the draft, Lindsay is just the latest example that good players can be found after those seven rounds.
So are some of the best NFL players of all time who were not selected in the NFL Draft?
The first that comes to mind is Kurt Warner, quarterback for the St. Louis Rams. He was stocking shelves at a local supermarket when he got the call of his life, and he never looked back. Warner was named the starting quarterback for St. Louis in 1999, following a preseason injury to starter Trent Green. He started off very hot, and by the end of the season, he was named NFL MVP after leading the Rams to their first division title since 1985, and their first playoff appearance since 1989. The team went on to win its first championship in franchise history and Warner was awarded the Super Bowl MVP award.
Others are Warren Moon (QB, Oilers and Titans), Antonio Gates (TE, Chargers), Jeff Saturday (C, Colts), Tony Romo (QB, Cowboys) and Priest Holmes (RB, Ravens and Chiefs).
Maybe the next surprise story lies with one of these Mississippi players. Only time will tell.