The 5 Best UDFAs in Falcons Franchise History

Posted on May 11 2015 - 2:35pm by Chase Irle

5. Brent Grimes

Brent Grimes was considered too small to play in the NFL by many. After graduating from Shippensburg University in 2006, Grimes entered the NFL Draft, but went undrafted. Grimes was 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighed in at 177 pounds coming out of college. It is an understatement to say Grimes was undersized, but the Falcons took a shot on him and got to reap glorious rewards. He spent one season overseas in the NFL Europa league, where he was an integral part to the Hamburg Sea Devil’s championship run. Grimes spent the next 5 years with the Falcons and broke out in 2009 where he recorded 6 interceptions in just 8 games as a starter. He became a full time starter in the 2010 and 2011 seasons in which he played in 28 games, had 113 tackles, and 6 interceptions. He made his first Pro-Bowl appearance in 2010.  In 2012, Grimes tore his Achilles, which became the prime reason the Falcons did not pay him the big dollars he was due that offseason in Free Agency. He signed with the Dolphins on a one-year deal in 2013 and it paid off big time for the Dolphins. Grimes turned in a terrific season starting in all 16 games, recording 102 tackles, and intercepting 4 balls. He was selected to his second Pro-Bowl game and finally got paid big time, signing a four year, $32 million dollar deal with the Dolphins in the 2014 offseason. He rewarded the Dolphins with yet another Pro-Bowl season in 2014.

4. Brian Finneran

Unlike Brent Grimes, Brian Finneran was far from undersized coming out of college. Standing at 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighing 210 pounds, Finneran went undrafted in the 1998 draft. He was signed by the Falcons prior to the 2000 NFL Season after a short stint with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. Finneran’s overall numbers were far from overwhelming, but his leadership and consistency land him at number four on our list of the top UDFAs in Falcons Franchise History. Finneran’s most productive year came in 2002 where he started all 16 games, caught 56 balls for 838 yards, and reeled in 6 touchdown passes. He was slowed down by multiple knee injuries in 2006 and 2007 and was unable to play. He made his return to the field in 2008 and continued to play for the Falcons until he retired after the 2010 season.

3. Rolland Lawrence

Rolland Lawrence played college football in a small town in Kansas as a cornerback. He came out of college, much like Grimes, undersized. He was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed around 175 pounds. He went undrafted in the 1973 NFL draft and was signed by the Falcons prior to the start of the season. After not playing much in his rookie season, Lawrence became the full-time starter in his second season, but only had one interception. He broke out in 1975 intercepting a ridiculous 9 balls. He followed that up in 1976 with 6 interceptions and then made his first and only Pro-Bowl appearance in 1977 when he intercepted 7 passes. He went on to spend his next 3 seasons as a starter for the Falcons, intercepting 15 passes and starting in every game. Aside from the ridiculous amount of passes Lawrence intercepted, he comes in at number 3 on the list because he never missed a game in his career. He retired after the 1980 season with 39 career interceptions, which is still a franchise record for the Falcons.

2. Alfred Jenkins

Alfred Jenkins played in the World Football League in 1974 for the Birmingham Americans, where he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. In 1975, Jenkins signed with the Falcons. In his rookie season, Jenkins started all 14 games catching 38 passes for 767 yards and 6 touchdowns. He was a great receiver for years to come, but really didn’t become a star until the 1980 season, when he made is first Pro-Bowl team. That year, Jenkins caught 58 passes for over 1,000 yards. He upped those numbers in 1981, leading the league in both receptions (70) and receiving yards (1,358). He was named to the All-NFL team and selected to his second consecutive Pro-Bowl. Jenkins career kind of fell off after that, playing in only 19 games in the next two seasons and catching for under 1,000 yards receiving combined. He retired after the 1983 season after spending his whole career in the NFL as a Falcon.

1. Jessie Tuggle

Number 1 on this list was an easy choice. Tuggle went undrafted out of Valdosta State in the 1987 draft. He was signed prior to the 1987 season and started in four games for the Falcons that year. In his sophomore season Tuggle only started in eight games, but recorded over 100 tackles. He was nicknamed “The Hammer” because of the vicious hits he would deliver to the opposing players. In 1989, Tuggle became a full time starter and recorded a staggering 183 tackles. Over his career, he made 5 Pro-Bowls and had over 200 tackles in a single season twice. In 1998, Tuggle made his final Pro-Bowl and helped lead the Falcons to their first and only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. Tuggle was a machine for 14 years as a Falcon, and has a comfortable lead over everybody else as the best UDFA in Falcons Franchise History. Hopefully his son, Grady Jarrett, who was drafted by the Falcons this offseason, can make a big impact on the franchise as well.

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