2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Watch – The Top 50 Active Resumes

Surefire first-ballot players:

  1. QB Peyton Manning
  2. QB Tom Brady
  3. LB Ray Lewis

No one else has been quite as productive for so long as these three. I can’t imagine this is the end of the line for Manning, partly because he just has to play one game to reset the clock, partly because of who else would be up at the same time as him. More on this below.

Borderline first-ballot players:

  1. TE Tony Gonzalez
  2. RB LaDainian Tomlinson
  3. S Ed Reed
  4. CB Champ Bailey
  5. S Brian Dawkins
  6. QB Drew Brees
  7. DT Kevin Williams

Gonzalez would ordinarily be a surefire first-ballot guy, but tight ends getting in on the first ballot is rare to unprecedented, and he’s pretty close to the end of the surefire territory. More likely than not, LDT is going in on the first ballot as well; Reed and Bailey are far iffier and probably depends on who else is out there their first ballot. It’s kind of hard to believe the lofty territory Brees is climbing into, where he’s arguably the fourth-best quarterback of the past decade behind Brady, Manning, and Favre. He probably needs to stick around a few more years to really threaten the first ballot, though.

Surefire Hall of Famers:

  1. TE Antonio Gates
  2. CB Charles Woodson
  3. DT Richard Seymour
  4. S Troy Polamalu
  5. LB Brian Urlacher
  6. DT Jason Taylor
  7. TE Jason Witten
  8. DE Julius Peppers
  9. DE Dwight Freeney
  10. CB Ronde Barber
  11. G Steve Hutchison
  12. LB DeMarcus Ware

Realistically, given his position, Gates’ chances of getting in on the first ballot are basically nil at this point. Getting to the Pro Bowl this year improves his case, but he didn’t really deserve it. Charles Woodson had an All-Pro year that gets him much closer to the first-ballot conversation. Jason Taylor is retiring, and while some people may only know him from Dancing with the Stars, he has a resume to make it into Canton pretty quickly. Ware isn’t higher because he hasn’t actually been doing this for all that long; who knows what his ceiling is?

Borderline Hall of Famers:

  1. WR Chad Johnson
  2. QB Donovan McNabb
  3. RB Adrian Peterson
  4. C Olin Kreutz
  5. WR Andre Johnson
  6. WR Larry Fitzgerald
  7. WR Steve Smith
  8. QB Aaron Rodgers
  9. DE Jared Allen
  10. WR Wes Welker
  11. QB Michael Vick
  12. P Shane Lechler
  13. WR Reggie Wayne
  14. DE John Abraham
  15. DT Kris Jenkins
  16. CB Darrelle Revis
  17. QB Ben Roethlisberger
  18. KR Devin Hester
  19. QB Eli Manning
  20. K Adam Vinatieri
  21. RB Maurice Jones-Drew

Will the HOF voters bring themselves to vote for someone who named himself “Chad Ochocinco”, resume aside? McNabb’s career appears to be over with some pretty good quality production for a number of years, but never quite great, with no All-Pro team appearances and no rings; he’s going to be hotly debated. Peterson is getting pretty close to punching his ticket to Canton already, despite playing for a number of bad Vikings teams; ditto Fitzgerald and his only good Cardinals teams coming with Kurt Warner at the helm.

Rodgers is interesting, as he’s shockingly elevated himself in just a few years into one of the best QBs in the league and a surefire first-ballot HOFer if he keeps it up… but that’s a pretty big “if”. If he somehow falls off the face of the Earth next year and never gets it back, he’ll be remembered as a flash-in-the-pan who was, for a brief time, one of the best QBs in the entire league, a figure on par with Brady and Manning who picked up a ring along the way, and one of the great what-could-have-been stories. Would that be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame? Maybe… but it’d be a pretty long wait. Even more interesting would be Vinatieri: very few non-quarterbacks have been propelled into the Hall of Fame on the strength of their Super Bowls… but Vinatieri could be one of them, despite being a kicker, a position with only one other representative in the Hall at all. And while every quarterback with multiple Super Bowl wins is in the Hall of Fame except Jim Plunkett, they all have substantially better resumes than Roethlisberger and Manning (only two Pro Bowl selections apiece), which is why those two are so low.

Devin Hester has stated his intent to become the first kick returner in the Hall, but his already long-shot candidacy may have actually taken a hit this year, as Patrick Peterson beat him out for the Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors. Worse, Peterson’s a rookie; what if Hester isn’t even the best kick returner of the next decade? Dante Hall already beat him out for first-team honors on the all-decade team for the last decade. What Hester may have going against him, no matter how gaudy the numbers he puts up, is that he came in an era where more people than ever were returning more kicks for more yards and more touchdowns than ever, at least before the NFL moved up kickoffs this season. If he’s returning kicks in an era more like past eras, he probably still stands out, but he’s probably not breaking records left and right.

Need work:

  • S Adrian Wilson
  • DE Haloti Ngata
  • LB Lance Briggs
  • QB Phillip Rivers
  • CB Nnamdi Asomugha

G Brian Waters would be next. Not long after this comes a lot of offensive linemen with mediocre resumes all bunched up, including some potentially surprising names, Jeff Saturday and Flozell Adams, the latter of whom has never made an All-Pro team. Saturday’s only been a class lineman since 2005 or so, not quite long enough for a HOF career. Considering his late start, could this lost season for the Colts prove to be poison for his Hall of Fame chances?

Players to watch for the future (exclamation marks indicate players with resumes already strong enough to be among the top 50):

  • LB Patrick Willis (5th year)!
  • OT Joe Thomas (5th year)!
  • OT Jake Long (4th year)
  • RB Chris Johnson (4th year)
  • LB Clay Matthews (3rd year)
  • RB Arian Foster (3rd year)
  • DT Ndamukong Suh (2nd year)
  • C Maurkice Pouncey (2nd year)
  • TE Rob Gronkowski (2nd year)
  • TE Jimmy Graham (2nd year)
  • QB Cam Newton (Rookie)
  • LB Von Miller (Rookie)
  • QB Andy Dalton (Rookie)
  • WR A.J. Green (Rookie)

Cam Newton set the single-season record for touchdowns by a QB, as a rookie, three-fourths of the way through the season. He may do more than any other single quarterback, more than Vick, Young, or Tebow, to redefine the position.

Players to watch for the Class of 2016:

  • QB Brett Favre
  • WR Randy Moss
  • WR Terrell Owens
  • G Alan Faneca
  • S Darren Sharper

Why are we looking at the list for 2016 instead of 2017? Because if we looked at players who retired after the just-completed season, we wouldn’t have looked at Moss or Owens last year, and we’d have looked at Favre the last four seasons at least.

Despite how he’s acted in recent years, Favre is going in on the first ballot unless Peyton Manning is done. That would make it interesting: two all-time first-ballot quarterbacks, seemingly from different eras, set to go in at the same time. Would one go first-ballot at the expense of the other (probably Manning at the expense of Favre), or would a huge rarity happen and two players at the same position go in in the same year? It once seemed unthinkable that Favre or Manning wouldn’t go in first ballot, but unless Manning can play again it could happen solely because of timing. Some might consider it karma that Favre’s constant retirement-delaying could cost him first-ballot status.

Moss is borderline and his attitude issues, combined with going in the year after both Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt (only one of whom at most is going in in 2015), could cost him, although Moss is considered one of the best wide receivers of his era, which you can’t quite say about Bruce and Holt. Everyone else is going to have to wait. Although both Moss and Owens have attitude issues, Owens’ issues are perceived to be worse and he generally isn’t considered as good a player, so Moss is going in first. Faneca will more than likely get in, but expect him to wait a while. Sharper’s chances I’m really skeptical of. Five Pro Bowls in a fourteen-year career doesn’t really cut it; if he gets in it’ll be because his All-Decade team membership saves him.

4 thoughts on “2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Watch – The Top 50 Active Resumes

  1. Mangold is ju-u-u-u-ust off the list, like #52 or 53 or something. He hasn’t had that long a career to pile up the credentials. He’s still good enough for #2 among centers behind someone who’s all but retired, and ahead of Jeff Saturday. If you’re asking why he wasn’t on the “players to watch for the future”, that’s only for people with five years or fewer.

  2. How are Tony Gonzalez & LT not a first ballot Hall of Famer….? I highly doubt they will be passed on during there first ballot.

    For that matter…. Charles Woodson will likely be a sure fire first ballot HOFer as well due to numbers, career span, and how highly he is thought of by voters casting ballots. One of a kind players aren’t passed up on.

  3. “Borderline first ballot” means “there’s a chance they won’t go in first ballot”. Keep in mind in Gonzalez’ case, no tight end has EVER gone in first ballot, though if anyone could it’d be Gonzo.

    Once you factor out raw “numbers” and compare Woodson to his contemporaries, they’re not qui-i-i-ite as impressive as you think. He might make the borderline first ballot section with another good year.

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