On Saturday night (August 5), the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrined its 2017 inductees at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. The class consisted of LaDanian Tomlinson, Kurt Warner, Jason Taylor, Terrell Davis, Morten Anderson, Kenny Easley, and Jerry Jones. While the speeches were too long on the whole, some — like Tomlinson’s — were also incredibly poignant and worth the wait. The only real disappointment from this year’s (and most year’s) festivities was the “Hall of Fame Game” between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals, or rather, between a bunch of guys who will be on ten-day CFL tryout contracts in about three weeks. A Cooper Rush vs. Trevor Knight QB duel is about as exciting as Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
But I certainly didn’t come here to spit all over our first glimpse of NFL football in over six months. Instead, let’s focus on the actual Hall of Fame, and take an early look at next year’s class.
The 2017 class included two first-ballot Hall of Famers: Tomlinson and Taylor. The 2018 class will almost certainly match that. The bigger question is whether it will be the first class with four first-ballot Hall of Famers? When you see the eligible names below, you might immediately say yes. But remember, only five modern-era players can be inducted each season.
Let’s get to the odds on who will receive his gold jacket in 2018, both first-timers and returning stars.
You cannot have a conversation about the best inside linebackers to ever play and not have Ray Lewis’ name come up. The former Raven is a seven-time First-Team All-Pro, was selected to 13 Pro Bowls, is one of just seven players to win Defensive Player of the Year more than once, and was a Super Bowl MVP. Lewis is also the only player to have at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career, and was the centerpiece of arguably the most dominant defense of all-time: the 2000 Ravens.
There is no way Ray Lewis is not a member of the 2018 class.
Here’s how good Randy Moss was: I won’t hurl derogatory epithets at you if you argue that he’s the greatest receiver of all-time. He’s not better than Jerry Rice (he trails Rice in virtually every major statistic), but he’s the only player who’s in that conversation, and his athleticism and raw talent was unprecedented.
Moss holds the rookie-record for receiving TDs in a season (17), and the record for most receiving TDs in a season, period (23). He was also the youngest player to ever record 100 career receiving TDs. If you take away his two wasted seasons in Oakland, he might have caught Rice in a few categories.
At the very worst, Moss is a top-three WR all-time. The only reason his odds aren’t shorter is the voters treatment of Terrell Owens. There may be a certain few who remember a certain “disgusting act.”
If Ray Lewis were not eligible, Brian Urlacher’s odds would be shorter. Unfortunately, Lewis’ resume is going to cast quite the shadow over all other LBs vying for a spot in Canton. But four First-Team All-Pro selections and eight Pro Bowls is certainly nothing to scoff at.
If the 2018 class is going to complete the first-ballot quartet, the voters will have to fully appreciate the role Richard Seymour played for the Patriots when they won three Super Bowls in four years. His career sack total isn’t very sexy (57.5), but he wasn’t a specialized edge-rusher. Seymour did it all for the Pats, which was recognized by his three First-Team All-Pro selections.
To call Ronde Barber the best shutdown corner of his time would be absolute blasphemy because Champ Bailey was godlike for about a dozen years. But Barber was certainly one of the best all-around corners of his era. He’s the only player with at least 45 interceptions and 25 sacks in an NFL career. He also holds the record for most consecutive starts by a defensive back (215).
I have zero arguments that the five-time First-Team All-Pro shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame, and he would have a very good chance of being fourth on this list if voters appreciated guard play more. But they rejected Alan Faneca last year and it would be criminal to put Hutchinson in before Faneca. Canton has a hard enough time opening their doors to any guards, let alone two in the same year.
The only player with more First-Team All-Pro honors who is not currently in the Hall of Fame is Ray Lewis, and that’s only because he has yet to become eligible. Stop disrespecting the guards!
I don’t care how many QBs, head coaches, locker rooms, or opposing teams Owens pissed off, his numbers are too good to be snubbed by the Hall of Fame. Ray Lewis is going to get in on his first appearance on the ballot, and it’s pretty likely he was involved in a double homicide.
Owens is second in career receiving yards, and third in career touchdown receptions. Stop these childish games and put him in already.
Brian Dawkins could do anything and everything on the football field. He was one of the best ball-hawking safeties ever; he consistently punished receivers over the middle; and no running back enjoyed seeing him coming down to play in the box. Dawkins is the only player to record at least 25 interceptions (37), forced fumbles (36), and sacks (26).
Entering his final year of eligibility as a modern-era player, there will likely be a strong push for Joe Jacoby to be enshrined. He was the bookend left tackle for the “Hogs,” arguably the most dominant offensive line in the history of the game. Unfortunately, the final push will likely come up short, forcing Jacoby to test his luck in the senior category.
Tony Boselli (OT), John Lynch (S), Ty Law (CB), Kevin Mawae (C), Isaac Bruce (WR), Priest Holmes (RB).
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