NFL: 100 Active Players with the Best Chance of Making the Hall of Fame

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IJune 22, 2012

NFL: 100 Active Players with the Best Chance of Making the Hall of Fame

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    It’s extremely difficult to judge an NFL player’s Hall of Fame chances, considering the National Football League doesn’t enforce the 10-year minimum rule that Major League Baseball does. The NFL also focuses much more on postseason success—namely for quarterbacks—and padding statistics doesn’t have the same impact in football as it does in baseball.

    For that reason, neither Drew Bledsoe or Vinny Testaverde (each of whom threw for over 40,000 passing yards in their careers) will sniff the Hall of Fame. These players are broken down into the following categories: lock, near-lock, probably, maybe, doubtful, and on track for the Hall of Fame. The first five are self-explanatory, and a player on track for the Hall of Fame is one who hasn’t done enough yet in the league because he’s still young, but if he keeps it up, he will make it. Players like Aaron Rodgers and Calvin Johnson fit this mold.

    I kept off all players with two or fewer years of experience in this league. Case in point: Cam Newton, Von Miller, and A.J. Green were three players that had phenomenal rookie seasons and all are probably already considered top 10 players in the NFL at their respective positions. Of course if they continue playing like this, they will easily make the Hall of Fame, but injuries play such a prominent role in the league that I held these players off. I have just no way of projecting their careers over a decade or more. For that reason, you won’t see them in this article, along with other superstars like Rob Gronkowski, Jason Pierre-Paul, or Jimmy Graham.

    Players also can’t be retired (obviously), so you won’t see LaDainian Tomlinson on here, and they have to have a current team, meaning Joey Porter, Donovan McNabb, and Terrell Owens are not considered active.

Peyton Manning

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Anyone that’s often referred to as the greatest to ever play the position can start preparing his Hall of Fame speech now.

    Even if Peyton Manning is a colossal bust in Denver and can’t regain the arm strength after undergoing countless neck surgeries, he is still as sure of a Hall of Famer as anyone who ever played the game. Manning is an 11-time Pro Bowler, a five-time First-Team All-Pro, and a four-time league MVP—the only man ever to win four MVP awards in the National Football League.

    Manning has thrown for over 50,000 yards and nearly 400 touchdowns, and he’s won a Super Bowl and played in another.

Tom Brady

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Joining Peyton Manning in the Hall of Fame will be Tom Brady, as the two have frequently spurred “Who’s Better: Manning or Brady?” arguments.

    Brady is a three-time Super Bowl champion and he’s played in five of them, winning the game’s MVP twice. Brady is one of just two quarterbacks ever to have won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP award twice each, and he’s also one of just two quarterbacks to play in five Super Bowls.

    Brady is a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, and he holds the NFL single-season record with 50 touchdown passes in 2007. Brady is at 39,979 passing yards and 300 touchdowns, and he will probably top 50,000 and 400 when he’s finally done—not that he really needs the numbers to validate his Hall of Fame credentials.

Ray Lewis

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Ray Lewis has a chance to go down as a top-10 football player to ever wear a uniform. He’s been in the NFL for 16 seasons and he is still a fearsome linebacker capable of inflicting pain on a wide receiver that dares to cross the middle of the field.

    Lewis has been named to 13 Pro Bowls and 10 All-Pro teams, and he’s been named the AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice. He has led the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title and he’s an extremely versatile defender who holds the distinction of being the only player ever with at least 40 sacks and 30 interceptions in his career.

Champ Bailey

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Champ Bailey holds the NFL record for most Pro Bowls made as a cornerback (11), and he’s still going strong, even at age 35. Bailey is a shutdown corner if there ever was one and he’s recorded 50 interceptions in his 14 seasons, plus a record four in the Pro Bowl.

    Bailey has starred for two teams—the Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncos—and the only thing he really has to worry about at this point is which team he wants to go into the Hall of Fame with when he finally decides to hang it up.

Tony Gonzalez

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Credit Tony Gonzalez’s amazing work ethic for the fact that he is still a productive football player, even at the age of 36. Gonzalez has a chance to one day be regarded as the greatest tight end to ever play the game, and he holds records at his position for career receptions (1,149), receiving yards (13,339), and touchdown catches (95).

    Gonzalez is a 12-time Pro Bowler, a nine-time All-Pro, and he has revolutionized the position in terms of his pass-catching abilities: Gonzalez has totaled 1,000 receiving yards in a season four times, 900 yards eight times, and 800 yards 11 times. Compare that to John Mackey, a no-doubt-about-it-Hall of Famer, who topped out at 829 in a season and averaged 400-500 during his prime.

Ed Reed

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    Status: 100 percent Lock

    Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu are the two best safeties in the league, and I think Reed has a better chance at the Hall of Fame for one reason: interceptions.

    Reed has picked off 57 passes in his career, and he’s led the NFL in interceptions three times. He has the two longest interception return touchdowns in league history (107 yards and 106 yards), and he is second all-time in interception return yards (1,463).

    Reed has made eight Pro Bowls and been named First-Team All-Pro five times and Second-Team All-Pro three times. He’s earned a Defensive Player of the Year award and he could retire right now and still be a guaranteed Hall of Fame lock.

Troy Polamalu

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    Status: Near-Lock

    There’s really no reason to think Troy Polamalu won’t make the Hall of Fame, but given the reckless style of football that he plays, if he were to suffer a career-ending injury in 2012, I don’t think he would be a 100 percent lock.

    I still think Polamalu would make it though, as he’s been the best safety in the league (tied with Ed Reed) for the last seven or eight seasons. Polamalu has made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams, and he’s led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl titles and three appearances.

    He is at his best playing up close to the line, but he can really do anything his team needs: Polamalu has 29 career interceptions, nine sacks, eight forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, and over 600 tackles. He won the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award and when he finally retires, he will probably be regarded as one of the five greatest safeties ever to play the game.

Charles Woodson

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    Status: Near-Lock

    There are two main things about Charles Woodson that put him from a lock to a near-lock: If he is fighting for the Hall of Fame at the same time as Champ Bailey, Ed Reed, and Troy Polamalu, Woodson may miss out the first year. He also had a gap in the middle of his career when he really wasn’t that effective, but fortunately for Woodson, he rebounded with the Green Bay Packers.

    Woodson made the Pro Bowl his first four years and the last four, and in between, he played six years without making it. He’s still accumulated 54 interceptions for 896 return yards and 11 touchdowns in his career, and he needs just one more pick-six to tie Rod Woodson for the all-time record. Woodson is a tremendous pass-rusher, with 15 career sacks, and he has won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award once and led the NFL in interceptions twice.

Antonio Gates

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    Status: Near-Lock

    Antonio Gates is a great story, as he went from being told he was too small to make the NBA to becoming one of the game’s best-ever tight ends.

    He has made eight Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro five times, and he was selected to the 2000s All-Decade Team. Gates is a touchdown machine, having hauled in 76 during his nine NFL seasons, and he has a chance to pass Tony Gonzalez’s all-time position record of 95. Gates has topped 1,000 yards twice and 900 yards five times, and he still has another three or four years to add to his numbers.

Randy Moss

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    Status: Near-Lock

    Randy Moss should be an absolute 100 percent lock, but I don’t think voters will quite look at him that way. He never played on a Super Bowl championship team (which really isn’t his fault), he was admittedly lackadaisical and played when he wanted to, and he dragged the final years of his career out with the Tennessee Titans, the Minnesota Vikings again, and now the San Francisco 49ers, where he may or may not be productive.

    Still though, Moss’ numbers are sensational: He has caught 954 passes for 14,858 yards and 153 touchdowns in his career, and the only man ever to catch more touchdowns is Jerry Rice. Moss has made six Pro Bowls and four First-Team All-Pro teams, and he pretty much came into the NFL making an impact from day one: 1,313 yards and a league-high 17 touchdowns as a rookie, plus 4-95-2 in his first-ever NFL game. Moss is maybe the greatest jump ball receiver who ever lived and he holds the NFL single-season record for touchdown receptions (23). If he doesn’t make it from day one, that’s a crime.

Drew Brees

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    Status: Near-Lock

    Drew Brees still needs a few more years to be a 100 percent guaranteed lock, but I didn’t quite realize how good his numbers were until I looked.

    Brees has more passing yards (40,742) and passing touchdowns (281) than Joe Montana. He’s got a 65.9 percent completion percentage, which ranks him as the second-most accurate passer ever, and he led the league in that category three times. Brees has made six Pro Bowls, won a Super Bowl with one of the greatest single-game performances ever (32-39-288-2-0), and absolutely shattered the single-season record for passing yards (5,476 in 2011).

    And check out Brees’ career playoff numbers: 22 touchdowns to four interceptions, and he’s thrown for over 400 yards in each of his last three postseason games.

Brian Urlacher

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    Status: Probably

    Brian Urlacher certainly hasn’t been Ray Lewis, but he’s made eight Pro Bowls and been named First-Team All-Pro four times, and that in itself should be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame.

    Urlacher has been named the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000) and Defensive Player of the Year (2005), and he’s a member of the NFL’s exclusive 20-20 club, as Urlacher has 41.5 career sacks and 21 interceptions.

Steve Hutchinson

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    Status: Probably

    It’s difficult to evaluate an NFL offensive lineman by anything other than sheer Pro Bowl selections and All-Pro honors, but Steve Hutchinson has the name and the awards to warrant a strong case.

    He’s been named to the Pro Bowl squad seven times and been named to the AP All-Pro team seven times, and he’s also been named the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year twice. Hutchinson helped Shaun Alexander rush for 1,880 yards and a then-record 28 touchdowns in 2005, helping the Seattle Seahawks go to the Super Bowl. When Hutchinson departed for Minnesota in free agency that offseason, Alexander’s ’06 numbers dropped to just 896 yards, seven touchdowns, and 3.6 yards per carry.

Jason Witten

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    Status: Probably

    If it’s possible for one of the greatest tight ends ever to be overlooked, that’s the way Jason Witten has been during his career. He’s not flashy, but he’s just consistent, and he’s made seven Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams during his nine years with the Dallas Cowboys.

    Witten has totaled more receptions (696-593) and yards (7,909-7,783) than Antonio Gates, even though both debuted in 2003 (although Gates does have significantly more touchdowns, at 76-41). That’s because Witten has been able to stay healthy more, missing just one game due to injury in nine seasons. Witten has been named the NFL Alumni Tight End of the Year three times.

Richard Seymour

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    Status: Probably

    Richard Seymour is that rare player Bill Belichick allowed to walk, and he’s still been productive since. Seymour is a seven-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro who has also been a vital part of three Super Bowl champion teams on the New England Patriots.

    Seymour can line up at defensive tackle or defensive end, and he has flip-flopped multiple times during his 11 years in the league. Seymour was a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team and he should one day be enshrined in Canton, Ohio.

Julius Peppers

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    Status: Probably

    Since he entered the league in 2002—making an immediate impact with the Carolina Panthers—Julius Peppers has been one of the NFL’s finest defensive ends.

    Peppers has racked up exactly 100 sacks, topping 10 seven times. He is an absolute master at the sack fumble, as he has recorded 37 forced fumbles in his career, and he’s recovered nine of those. Peppers is a seven-time Pro Bowler, five-time All-Pro selection, and member of the 2000s All-Decade Team.

Larry Fitzgerald

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    Status: Probably

    If Larry Fitzgerald never played another game, I still think he might sneak into the Hall of Fame. By the time he’s done his career, he will probably be a 100 percent guaranteed lock.

    Fitzgerald has made six Pro Bowl teams and been selected All-Pro four times in just eight years, and he is fourth all-time in career receiving yards per game (76.0). Fitzgerald has led the NFL in touchdown catches in a season twice and his 73 are already 30th all-time.

    The only thing stopping Fitzgerald from breaking all the records in the book is the fact that neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton is anything remotely close to the long-time answer at quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals.

Ben Roethlisberger

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    Status: Probably

    I tried to look at players under the category probably as those that would make the Pro Bowl right now if they retired, and that’s what bumps Ben Roethlisberger up from the “on track” list.

    Roethlisberger has won two Super Bowls and played in three, and the only quarterback ever to win two rings and not make the Hall of Famer is Jim Plunkett, a fine quarterback who is nowhere near in Roethlisberger’s class. Roethlisberger is a proven winner and statistics don’t do him justice.

    While he has averaged 3,300 passing yards and 23 touchdowns per season since being drafted in 2004, Roethlisberger’s true value is how much he has helped his team win. He’s played in the postseason six times, going to three Super Bowls and four AFC Championship Games. He’s led his team to 20 points in all 14 playoff games he has ever started and he’s led 20 fourth-quarter comebacks and 26 game-winning drives in his career.

    He’s not just a good quarterback riding a great defense; he’s the difference-maker that has put the Pittsburgh Steelers over the top time and time again.

Brian Waters

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    Status: Maybe

    Like all guards, Brian Waters is difficult to evaluate. He’s still got it with the New England Patriots, even in his 12th NFL season. Waters has made six Pro Bowls and been named All-Pro twice.

    Waters has been overshadowed by Willie Roaf and Will Shields, but that shouldn’t negate how good of a player he is. Waters has started 165 games in his career and he could add as many as 32-64 more to that number. He is the only lineman selected as his conference’s Player of the Week (a 2004 game when he helped the running backs account for eight rushing touchdowns) since 1982, and he’s a notorious good guy who won the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

Chad Ochocinco

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    Status: Maybe

    In my opinion, Chad Ochocinco has had a great career, but not Hall of Fame worthy. We’ll see how voters look at it though.

    He’s totaled just over 11,000 receiving yards and 67 touchdowns in his career, earning six Pro Bowl selections and three selections as AP All-Pro. Ochocinco has also made his mark as an icon through social media though, whether that’s a good or a bad thing.

Ronde Barber

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    Status: Maybe

    Ronde Barber has had a very solid NFL career, playing in all 224 games since he took over at the full-time starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1998.

    Barber has made five Pro Bowls and five AP All-Pro teams and he’s registered 43 interceptions in his career, including a league-best 10 in 2001. He has taken seven back for touchdowns and he played a key role in the 2002 Buccaneers team that won the Super Bowl, taking back a Donovan McNabb pass 92 yards for a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.

    Barber is also the only member of the 25-sack, 40-interception club, which is a testament to both his longevity and his versatility as both a cover corner and a pass rusher.

Philip Rivers

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    Status: Maybe

    Philip Rivers certainly has the regular season numbers to put him in the Hall of Fame. He’s made four Pro Bowls, thrown for 4,000 yards four times, and led the NFL in yards per attempt—arguably the single most important passing statistic—three times in a row.

    But he’s lacking a Super Bowl ring and considering he’s never even been to a Super Bowl, I don’t know if he will get in. In this era, quarterbacks are defined by the number of rings they have, and right now, Rivers has zero. I don’t know if he will get in unless he wins one.

Eli Manning

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    Status: Maybe

    Eli Manning certainly has the Super Bowl hardware to make it. He’s won two Super Bowls in just eight years and that should be enough to put him in the Hall of Fame.

    With Eli though, I don’t know if he has the regular season numbers to back it up. He has just a 58.4 percent career completion percentage. He’s led the league in interceptions twice, including 25 in 2010. He has a career passer rating of 82.1, a number less than Brian Griese, Jason Campbell, and Shaun Hill, none of whom will come close to the Hall.

    If Manning tops 40,000 career passing yards (he’s at 27,579) or 300 touchdowns (185), that will really help his chances.

Kevin Williams

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    Status: Maybe

    As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, Kevin Williams is everything I want Fletcher Cox to become. Williams has made six Pro Bowl teams, been selected AP All-Pro five times, and earned a spot on the 2000s All-Decade Team.

    He’s racked up 54.5 sacks and four defensive touchdowns in nine years, including two seasons of at least 10. The problem is I don’t think enough people realize just how good Williams is. He’s been half of the legendary Williams Wall in Minnesota that has helped give the Vikings one of the NFL’s best defensive lines for many years.

    I’m not sure that that will be enough to get him in though, and the fact that he was suspended previously for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy won’t help his case.

Jeff Saturday

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    Status: Maybe

    Jeff Saturday is still chugging along, having signed with Green Bay where he will be snapping the ball to Aaron Rodgers in 2012. He’s made five Pro Bowls (I actually thought it was more like six or seven) and earned All-Pro honors four times—twice for First-Team and twice for Second-Team.

    Saturday was selected as the NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year for 2007, he helped the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl championship in ’06, and he was the 2006 Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP award winner, meaning you could make a case that he was the best lineman in football for two straight years.

    I think he’ll definitely get in.

Jason Peters

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    Status: Maybe

    Jason Peters was well on his way to the Hall before suffering that debilitating Achilles tendon injury this past offseason that will likely keep him out for all of 2012 and possibly beyond. Many athletes have struggled to regain their form after suffering such an injury, and Peters needs more Pro Bowls to make the Hall of Fame.

    He’s a great story, as he’s a former walk-on tight end at college who then went undrafted into the NFL. Peters had made five straight Pro Bowls and been selected All-Pro four times, and last year, Pro Football Focus rated him nearly twice as good as any other offensive tackle in the business. It’s an absolute shame that Peters was hurt—not only because I am a diehard Philadelphia Eagles fan who is totally devastated beyond belief that the team’s best overall player will be missing ‘12—but from a potential Hall of Fame standpoint as well.

London Fletcher

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    Status: Maybe

    I really hope London Fletcher one day makes it into the Hall of Fame because he really deserves it. He’s played all 224 games since signing with the St. Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent in 1998.

    Fletcher went most of his career without making the Pro Bowl before finally making his first one in 2009, then again in 2010, and again in 2011. Fletcher led all defensive players in tackles (1,244) from 2000 through 2009, and he hasn’t missed a beat even though he’s 37. Fletcher is still good in pass coverage and he’s just two interceptions away from joining the 20-20 sack-interception club (he has 34 sacks).

    That really should be enough to get him into the Hall of Fame, despite a low Pro Bowl count.

Justin Smith

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    Status: Maybe

    Justin Smith has had an extremely comparable career to London Fletcher, except he debuted in 2001—not 1998—and was the fourth overall selection in the draft—as opposed to being undrafted.

    Smith has racked up 72.5 sacks in 11 seasons, registering between 6.0 and 8.5 nine times. He also never made the Pro Bowl until 2009 (like Fletcher) but now has made it three straight times, and last year, Smith should have won the Defensive Player of the Year award. Smith rated way above any other lineman in the game, according to Pro Football Focus.

    And check out this statistic: Since 2008, he has a combined total of 167.4 per PFF. The next best defensive lineman is Trent Cole (153.1) and the next-best is Terrell Suggs (128.2). That’s domination, and hopefully people realize how good Smith is when it’s time to vote for the Hall of Fame.

Andre Johnson

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    Status: Maybe

    Andre Johnson certainly has the talent to one day make the Hall of Fame, as he’s one of the top three receivers in the game right now (depending on where you would rank him against Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald).

    A. Johnson is a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time First-Team All-Pro, and he’s led the NFL in receiving yards twice, becoming the only player since Jerry Rice to lead the league in receiving yards two straight seasons. He’s led the league in yards per game three times and his 79.1 yards per game average for his career is the best in NFL history.

    If Johnson can stay healthy—he’s missed 19 games due to injury in five seasons—he will be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

Dwight Freeney

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    Status: Maybe

    After 10 seasons, Dwight Freeney has quite a resume for himself—he’s accumulated 102.5 career sacks, topping 10 in seven different years. He’s led the league once, and he’s an absolute beast at stripping the football. Freeney has forced 42 fumbles in his career, including nine as a rookie in 2002 and at least four in seven different seasons.

    Freeney is a seven-time Pro Bowler, a three-time First-Team All-Pro, and he has nine career sacks in 12 playoff games. He should get in, but the fact that there have been a ton of other great defensive ends during his tenure—Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, Robert Mathis, etc.—hurts his chances.

Nnamdi Asomugha

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    Status: Maybe

    I’m interested to see how Nnamdi Asomugha is perceived when it’s time to vote him in for the Hall of Fame. He was an absolute shutdown corner in Oakland and while he struggled immensely last year in Philadelphia, much of that can be attributed to the scheme that used him incorrectly.

    Assuming Asomugha can rebound in 2012, he will have a chance. Asomugha has made three Pro Bowls and four AP All-Pro teams. He registered eight interceptions back in 2006 with the Raiders and then picked off just three passes in his final four years with the team simply because opposing quarterbacks stopped throwing his way.

    He’s got a chance but a few more years with the Eagles would help his case.

Devin Hester

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    Status: Maybe

    I have no idea how Devin Hester will be voted come his Hall of Fame time. He’s provided very little as a wide receiver but there has never been a kick returner as explosive in the history of the National Football League.

    Hester returned an unbelievable six kicks for touchdowns as a rookie in 2006, plus a kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears. He followed that up with six more return scores in his second season and then added three in each of 2010 and 2011.

    That gives him 18 return touchdowns in his career. He’s made three Pro Bowl teams, four All-Pro teams, and been selected NFL Alumni Special Teams Player of the Year three times. Hester has been named NFC Player of the Week 13 times, he was on the 2000s NFL All-Decade Team, and he has the ability to score every time he touches the football.

    It just depends whether voters will put a kick returner in. I think he deserves it. His impact on the game is enough that he should be enshrined in Canton, and I think he will get in.

Adam Vinatieri

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    Status: Maybe

    Like Devin Hester, Adam Vinatieri is penalized by the position he plays—kickers don’t have a long history of getting selected into the Hall of Fame.

    If Vinatieri makes it though, it will be because of the clutch kicks he’s converted. There are five that come to mind—he kicked a game-tying and game-winning field goal against the Oakland Raiders in the 2001 AFC Division Playoffs, then a walk-off game-winner in the Super Bowl in both 2001 and 2003, and then a 50-yarder with under a minute to play against the New York Jets in the playoffs in the 2009 AFC Wild Card playoffs.

    Vinatieri is a two-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, he’s the only kicker ever with four Super Bowl championships, and he has played in six Super Bowls. He’s also led the NFL in field goal percentage twice, and I think he should and will make it.

John Abraham

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    Status: Maybe

    The case for John Abraham begins with 112 sacks, four Pro Bowl selections, and a ridiculous 37 forced fumbles. He’s registered double-digit sacks six times, topping out at 16.5 in 2008, and he’s now been a top-10 defensive end for the past decade.

    The problem though is that he’s been top-10 but probably hasn’t been top-five, and I don’t think there’s enough to separate himself from players like Dwight Freeney, Julius Peppers, or even Robert Mathis.

James Harrison

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    Status: Doubtful

    James Harrison was one of a bunch of great Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers during the last decade but he may wind up being looked at as just one of the great Steelers linebackers, and not a Hall of Famer.

    Harrison has only really played extensively for four seasons. Remember when he won the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with 16 sacks and seven forced fumbles? That was just his second year as a starter and he’s only started five overall.

    Harrison does have 58 sacks and 27 forced fumbles in his career, plus a Super Bowl title and another appearance, but I don’t think he will make it because he’s already 34 and hasn’t played even 90 games.

David Akers

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    Status: Doubtful

    David Akers doesn’t have the postseason lore that Adam Vinatieri has, but he’s made six Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams. He’s been one of the NFL’s best kickers over the last decade or more and last year he really helped his case with his memorable season in year one with the San Francisco 49ers—Akers set an NFL record with 44 field goals, kicking seven from 50 or more yards.

    Akers won’t make it easily because he’s only 18th all-time in points and neither Gary Anderson or Morten Andersen is in, after making seven and four Pro Bowls, respectively. But if Akers plays a few more years and adds at least two Pro Bowls to his name, he has a chance.

Anquan Boldin

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    Status: Doubtful

    Think about all the good wide receivers there have been recently: Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Hines Ward, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Donald Driver, Keyshawn Johnson and more.

    Anquan Boldin just doesn’t stand out. He’s too much of a Derrick Mason type of player—a very good receiver but never really a top-five in the league—to make the Hall of Fame. Boldin has about the same amount of receiving yards as Amani Toomer, which puts him in the very good player but nowhere near Hall of Fame category. Boldin did make three Pro Bowls, catch 1,000 yards five times, and have a phenomenal 101-catch rookie season, but that’s not enough.

Matt Birk

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    Status: Doubtful

    Matt Birk is a six-time Pro Bowler at center and that probably won’t be enough to put him in. He’s started 171 games for two teams over 12 seasons, helping the Minnesota Vikings and Baltimore Ravens to three conference championship games.

    Birk is one of the truly good guys in the league, as he’s been named Minnesota Vikings Man of the Year six times and the Walter Payton Man of the Year once. That will help him but it’s probably not enough.

Wes Welker

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    Status: Doubtful

    I can’t say for certain but I don’t think there are any 5’9”, 190-pound wide receivers from the modern era in the Hall of Fame. Wes Welker has blossomed like no one else as a slot receiver, hauling in over 110 receptions four times and he’s led the league three times.

    Welker is a four-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, and while he benefits immensely from Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, he’s also a terrific receiver himself. I think his role in the offense—and the fact that the New England Patriots could probably plug anyone in and get 80-90 receptions—will keep Welker out.

Reggie Wayne

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    Status: Doubtful

    Like Anquan Boldin, I don’t know if Reggie Wayne has separated himself enough from the rest of the pack, not to mention that he’s had the fortune of playing with Peyton Manning for his whole career.

    Wayne is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, and he’s hauled in over 1,000 yards seven times. Wayne has led the league in receiving once, and he’s caught 100 passes three separate times.

    I don’t think he will make it in the long run and given that he is 33.5 years old, he is running out of time.

Robert Mathis

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    Status: Doubtful

    You could make the case that Robert Mathis benefits too much from Dwight Freeney, but I also think Freeney benefits a lot from Mathis.

    Mathis is a three-time Pro Bowler and he’s closing in on 100 sacks for his career. He has registered double-digit sacks four times and at least 9.5 sacks seven times. Mathis is also as good at the strip fumble as anyone in the last decade, as he’s forced 39 fumbles in 135 games. That’s astounding, and he’s forced at least three fumbles in eight of the years.

    He won’t make it because he doesn’t stand out enough but he’s had a great career that includes a Super Bowl ring as well.

Steven Jackson

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    Status: Doubtful

    If Steven Jackson makes the Hall of Fame, it will be because of the Curtis Martin Rule—longevity and consistency, but not flashiness.

    A comparison of their numbers from their first eight seasons: Jackson has 9,093 rushing yards, 52 rushing touchdowns, and a 4.3 yards per carry average. Martin had 10,361 rushing yards, 71 rushing touchdowns, and a 4.0 yards per carry average. Both had about the same number of receiving yards and touchdowns—3,003 for Jackson with eight touchdowns and 2,704 for Martin with eight touchdowns.

    Jackson will have a tough time catching up to Martin. He’s already missed 13 games due to injury and at this point, Martin had missed three and he played all 16 games in both his ninth and 10th season. Martin also rushed for 1,302 and a league-leading 1,697 yards at the age of 30 and 31. That’s going to be very difficult for Jackson to do, especially considering the St. Louis Rams offense doesn’t exactly have a lot of playmakers to take the focus off of Jackson (or a good offensive line).

Frank Gore

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    Status: Doubtful

    Frank Gore is a similar player to both Steven Jackson and Curtis Martin, in that he does nothing but grind out 1,000 to 1,200 yard seasons each year.

    Gore’s numbers through seven seasons—7,625 rushing yards, 43 touchdowns. Martin had 9,267 yards and 70 touchdowns. Gore has made three Pro Bowls and Martin had made four. Realistically, I don’t see Gore making it.

Takeo Spikes

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    Status: Doubtful

    If Takeo Spikes makes it, it will be because he’s a similar player to London Fletcher—a very good player who made a contribution for over a decade even though he didn’t make a lot of Pro Bowls.

    Spikes has played in over 200 games, registering 962 tackles (per Pro Football Reference), 28.5 sacks, 19 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries, four defensive touchdowns, and two Pro Bowls. Those are great numbers, but it’s difficult to look at defensive numbers and really know how they compare to the Hall of Fame. Considering Spikes has played on five teams and only made two Pro Bowls, I can’t see him making it.

Tony Romo

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    Status: Doubtful

    I think Tony Romo could throw for 45,000-50,000 yards and he wouldn’t make it if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl. The good news is that Romo won’t come close to that—he’s already 32 years old and he has barely 20,000 yards.

    He simply started his career too late, and despite a phenomenal touchdown to interception ratio (149:72), three Pro Bowl selections, and an 8.0 career yards per attempt rate, Romo really doesn’t have a chance.

Michael Vick

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    Status: Doubtful

    Forgive me for putting Michael Vick, but come on, a quarterback with four Pro Bowl selections and the ability to both pass and run like Vick has to be mentioned.

    Vick has never lived up to the potential of being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft though. Some of his numbers are downright laughable—he’s passed for 3,000 yards in a season just once, he’s played 16 games only once, and he fumbles the ball like it’s his job. Vick has a 56.0 career completion percentage, a 80.9 passer rating, and he’s averaged just 161.4 passing yards per game for his career.

    If he can lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a Super Bowl title this year and put up a few more fantastic seasons like he did in 2010, he may have a slight chance.

Casey Hampton

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    Status: Doubtful

    What will give Casey Hampton a chance to make the Hall of Fame is the fact that he’s made five Pro Bowls and led the Pittsburgh Steelers to two Super Bowl championships and a third appearance.

    What won’t put him in the Hall of Fame is that no one looks at him as a Hall of Famer. He has just nine career sacks, only four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, no defensive touchdowns, and he has benefited largely from players like Aaron Smith, James Harrison, and Troy Polamalu playing on the same team as him all these years.

Jay Ratliff

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    Status: Doubtful

    Jay Ratliff was 26 years old before he became a regular starter for the Dallas Cowboys, and although he’s made four Pro Bowls and an All-Pro team, I think he blossomed too late.

    Ratliff is a great pass rusher for an interior defensive lineman—especially one who plays nose tackle—and 27 sacks and 13 fumble recoveries is a testament to that. But it’s not going to be enough to get him remembered in Canton, Ohio.

Chris Snee

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    Status: Doubtful

    In eight seasons, Chris Snee has played in 122 games as the starting right guard for Eli Manning and the New York Giants. He’s made three Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and helped the Giants win two Super Bowls.

    That’s a great resume, but it’s not Hall of Fame worthy.

Lance Briggs

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    Status: Doubtful

    It really doesn’t seem like Lance Briggs has made seven consecutive Pro Bowls, but that’s the case. He’s also been selected to three All-Pro teams and helped the Chicago Bears to a Super Bowl.

    I really don’t think he’s going to make the Hall of Fame though. I just don’t think too many people think he’s HOF worthy and I doubt he will make it.

Donald Driver

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    Status: Doubtful

    The fact that Donald Driver has played on one team his whole career, won a Super Bowl, totaled 10,000 yards, and made three Pro Bowls helps his Hall of Fame case.

    He’s never finished with even 1,300 receiving yards in a season though, he’s never caught double-digit touchdowns, and he’s been selected All-Pro just once. That won’t put him in Canton.

Antoine Winfield

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    Status: Doubtful

    In 13 seasons, Antoine Winfield has quietly been one of the more complete corners in the NFL. He has made three Pro Bowls, been selected All-Pro once, and he’s a tremendous blend of both a cover corner, a run stopper, and a pass rusher.

    In 2010, Winfield was rated the best cornerback in the game by Pro Football Focus. Same as in 2008. Winfield has good career totals—826 tackles, 24 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, seven sacks, and four defensive touchdowns. I really hope he makes it because I think he deserves it, but I don’t think voters will put him in.

Steve Smith (CAR)

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    Status: Doubtful

    Steve Smith has had an up-and-down career, and the fact that Cam Newton is now his quarterback should add several productive seasons to his NFL life.

    Smith has made five Pro Bowls and been named First-Team All-Pro twice. He has over 10,000 lifetime receiving yards and he won the receiving Triple Crown in 2005 when he led the NFL with 103 receptions, 1,563 yards, and 12 touchdowns. He’s also been an electrifying return man, running back six kicks for touchdowns in his first three seasons.

    I don’t think he will make it but he could make a case if he plays well in 2012, 2013, and beyond.

Asante Samuel

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    Status: Doubtful

    If Asante Samuel makes the Hall of Fame, it won’t be because he’s a physical corner with a knack for rushing the quarterback and stopping the run. It will be because he’s a tremendous ball hawk who has recorded 45 interceptions in his career.

    Samuel has made four Pro Bowls, earned three All-Pro selections, and helped the New England Patriots win two Super Bowls. He has led the NFL in interceptions twice and he has an absolutely jaw-dropping playoff resume: In his first 10 postseason games, he intercepted a pass seven times, returning four for touchdowns, and running them back for 227 yards.

    I don’t think he will make it though because he’s labeled as a cornerback that baits the opposing quarterback into throwing the ball, and he’s an inferior run defender.

Jeremy Shockey

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    Status: Doubtful

    Jeremy Shockey has seemingly fallen off the face of the earth after leaving the New York Giants, but he’s still a very solid tight end in a two-tight end formation. Shockey is a four-time Pro Bowler with impressive career numbers for a tight end: 547 receptions, 6,143 yards, and 37 touchdowns.

    He has also won two Super Bowls—first with the 2007 New York Giants and then with the 2009 New Orleans Saints. But he just hasn’t stood out enough from other tight ends. He’s also struggled with injuries, as he has never played a full 16-game season in his 10-year career.

Carl Nicks

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    Status: Doubtful

    Carl Nicks has been an instrumental part of the New Orleans Saints’ offensive line for his four-year NFL career thus far. He’s made two Pro Bowls, played in all 64 games, and been voted First-Team All-Pro. And he played a key role in helping the Saints win the 2009 Super Bowl and in helping Drew Brees shatter the single-season record for passing yards (5,486) in a season.

    However, going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really won’t help Nicks’ HOF chances. He will be blocking for Josh Freeman instead, and I don’t think he will be seeing the playoffs quite as often. Maybe Nicks will make the Hall one day, but a lot of players have a good four-year stretch to begin their careers and then don’t make the Hall of Fame.

Vernon Davis

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    Status: Doubtful

    Vernon Davis hasn’t lived up to the potential he had when he was selected sixth overall in the 2006 NFL draft. As a physical freak with unbelievable speed (4.38 40-yard dash) at the tight end position, Davis should have been the one revolutionizing the position before Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham came along.

    Davis has displayed potential and he’s had flashes of brilliance—the 13-touchdown season in 2009, the back-to-back seasons of 900+ receiving yards, and the unbelievable playoff performances last year (10 receptions, 292 yards, and four touchdowns in two games).

    But he needs to put it together, be more consistent, and a better quarterback than Alex Smith would also help his case.

Andre Gurode

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    Status: Doubtful

    Andre Gurode is 34 years old and coming off of 2011 knee surgery, so he probably won’t add anything more to his career credentials.

    He made five straight Pro Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys from ’06 to ’10 and was selected to two All-Pro teams. Gurode will likely go down in history as a very good center, but that’s it.

Adrian Peterson

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    Status: On Track

    Adrian Peterson’s career average during his five-season NFL career: 1,350 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, and a 4.8 yards per carry. He’s made four Pro Bowls, finished All-Pro four times, and led the NFL in rushing once. He also holds the single-game record with 296 rushing yards—and he did that as a rookie, no less.

    AP will need to come back at full form following his devastating injury late in 2011, and there’s no guarantee that that will happen. He tore both his ACL and MCL, and if he can’t return and be the player he was pre-injury, he won’t make the Hall of Fame. If he can return though, he only needs about three more seasons to be in.

Patrick Willis

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    Status: On Track

    Patrick Willis is on pace to be one of the greatest linebackers to ever play—he’s made five Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams in five seasons. He can play every aspect of the game, as he has averaged well over 100 tackles per season since 2007, and he has 17 sacks, five interceptions, and 12 forced fumbles in his career.

    Willis is about four years away from moving onto the “lock” list.

Joe Thomas

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    Status: On Track

    In five seasons, Joe Thomas has started 80 of a possible 80 games, earning five Pro Bowl selections and four AP All-Pro nominations—all just since 2007.

    Thomas has a chance to go down as one of the greatest linemen to ever play the game. He’s a phenomenal pass blocker and he should be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame within several years.

Jake Long

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    Status: On Track

    Like Joe Thomas, Jake Long will one day be one of the greatest linemen to ever play in the NFL. Long was a No. 1 overall draft pick and he has made four Pro Bowls in four seasons. He’s also made AP All-Pro twice and there’s really no reason to think he won’t keep piling up the Pro Bowl nominations and one day, he’ll be in the Hall of Fame.

Mario Williams

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    Status: On Track

    Mario Williams makes five players from 1998 through 2007 that were selected first overall and have Hall of Fame chances.

    Williams has been a superb pass rusher and if he can stay healthy, he will one day be enshrined. Williams has racked up 53 sacks in just six seasons, he’s made two Pro Bowls, and he’s been voted All-Pro once. He will get a new start with the Buffalo Bills and considering he’s playing with Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, his numbers should blossom again in 2012.

Calvin Johnson

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    Status: On Track

    Calvin Johnson has averaged over 70 receptions, close to 1,200 yards, and 10 touchdowns per season since he was drafted in 2007. Johnson had by far his best year in 2011, leading the NFL with 1,681 yards while putting up 16 receiving touchdowns.

    Johnson just received a mammoth contract and he has a stud quarterback in Matthew Stafford throwing the ball to him. Johnson has phenomenal size, strength and leaping ability, and he has the physical tools to dominate defensive backs for the next decade still.

DeMarcus Ware

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    Status: On Track

    How ridiculous is it that DeMarcus Ware has 99.5 sacks in just seven NFL seasons? He’s topped 10 every year since 2006, leading the league twice and topping out at 20 in 2008.

    Ware is also a strip fumble machine, as he’s forced 27 fumbles in 112 games. He already ranks 29th lifetime in sacks and a few more years of dominating could get him in the top 10.

Jared Allen

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    Status: On Track

    Jared Allen has similar career numbers to DeMarcus Ware, with 105 sacks in eight seasons. He led the NFL with 22 last year, the second-most in a single season in league history, and he has led the NFL in sacks twice in his career.

    Allen has 27 forced fumbles—just like Ware—and he has recovered 16 fumbles while intercepting five passes. Allen has made four Pro Bowls and been selected First-Team All-Pro four times as well.

Aaron Rodgers

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    Status: On Track

    Sitting on the bench for three seasons really did Aaron Rodgers well. Since taking over for Brett Favre as the starting quarterback, Rodgers has averaged the following numbers: 65.5 completion percentage, 4,259 passing yards, 33 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, and a 105.0 passer rating.

    He’s won a Super Bowl, a Super Bowl MVP, a regular season MVP, and he’s been named to two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. If he retired now, Rodgers would have the highest career passer rating ever, lowest interception percentage ever, third highest yards per attempt average, and fifth highest passing yards per game average.

Clay Matthews

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    Status: On Track

    In just three NFL seasons, Clay Matthews has compiled quite the resume. He’s made three Pro Bowls, averaged 10 sacks per year, and scored three touchdowns.

    Matthews can single-handedly take over a game. He ended the Kevin Kolb Era and started the Michael Vick Era in Philadelphia. He led the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl championship, and he has 4.5 career sacks in six postseason games.

Nick Mangold

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    Status: On Track

    In six NFL seasons, Nick Mangold has started 94 of a possible 96 games and made four Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams. Mangold is the league’s best young center and he’s going to be a regular on the AFC Pro Bowl roster for the next decade still.

    He’s a top-notch run blocker but also a terrific pass blocker, and he has the talent to one day go into the Hall of Fame.

Logan Mankins

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    Status: On Track

    Logan Mankins has quietly been a top guard in the league over the past seven seasons, and he’s made four Pro Bowl teams. He has been named All-Pro four times and he was so good in 2010 that he was First-Team All-Pro despite playing in just nine games.

    Mankins has led the New England Patriots to two Super Bowl appearances and he is still just 30 years old and in the prime of his career.

Terrell Suggs

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    Status: On Track 

    Since he debuted in the NFL in 2003, Terrell Suggs has been one of the league’s top defensive players. His accolades are so much more than just five Pro Bowl selections. He’s a premier pass rusher who debuted as a rookie with 12 sacks, an interception, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries in 2003.

    He has topped 10 sacks four times, and he won the Defensive Player of the Year award last year when he registered 14 sacks, two interceptions, seven forced fumbles, and six passes defensed. He will miss most of 2012 with the torn Achilles tendon he suffered in the offseason and like Adrian Peterson and Jason Peters, if he can recover from his injury, he will be right on track for the Hall of Fame.

Haloti Ngata

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    Status: On Track

    Haloti Ngata is by far one of my favorite players given the way he plays the game. He’s just a massive body that plugs the defensive line, and he’s had a huge influence on prolonging Ray Lewis’ career.

    Ngata has missed just two games in his six-year career and he’s made three straight Pro Bowls and two All-Pro First-Team selections. He can play anywhere on the defensive line, from nose tackle to defensive tackle in a 4-3 to defensive end in a 3-4. Ngata is a good pass rusher who can get to the quarterback and he’s also a great run stopper.

Vince Wilfork

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    Status: On Track

    Vince Wilfork has been a mainstay in the New England Patriots’ defense since 2004. You realize they’ve never really a truly elite defensive player? Richard Seymour was fantastic until he left for Oakland but most of their players have been the solid/very good types like Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas, or Mike Vrabel.

    Wilfork has been probably the best since ’04. He’s missed just six games due to injury in eight years. He’s made four Pro Bowls, led the Patriots to three Super Bowl appearances and a championship, and he had probably his best year by far in 2011—3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, 32 tackles, and he made a huge impact on a defense that was playing guys like Sterling Moore at cornerback in the AFC Championship Game.

Darrelle Revis

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    Status: On Track

    I can’t remember too many better cover corners than Darrelle Revis. He has made four Pro Bowls and three First-Team All-Pro teams since 2008, and he rated as the best overall corner in the league in 2011, according to Pro Football Focus. Revis allowed just 41.2 percent completions on passes thrown his way and an incredible 45.6 passer rating. Revis’ numbers were even better back in 2009, when he allowed 36.9 percent completions and a 32.3 passer rating, leading the NFL with 23 passes defensed.

    As long as he can stop with the holdout threats and just play ball, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer one day.

Ray Rice

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    Status: On Track

    It’s very difficult to project running backs given how much they get injured on a regular basis. Rice’s numbers in his first four seasons: 1,094 rushing yards, six touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry and 62 receptions for 559 receiving yards.

    As a pure running back, he’s not good enough. When you factor in his receiving skills, he’s good enough. Rice compares well to a player like Marshall Faulk (at a lesser rate), given his success as both a rusher and receiver. Obviously it’s too early to tell but he’s on track for now.

Maurice Jones-Drew

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    Status: On Track

    In six seasons, MJD is averaging 1,150 rushing yards per year, and since 2009, he’s averaging 1,440 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 4.5 yards per carry. And he led the NFL in rushing yards last year (1,606) with Blaine Gabbert as his quarterback and Jason Hill and Jarret Dillard as his wide receivers.

    Maurice Jones-Drew may break down given the fact that he’s the main source of offense for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but if he approaches 10,000-12,000 rushing yards, he’s got a real shot.

Chris Johnson

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    Status: On Track

    Rushing yards in their first four seasons: Barry Sanders (5,674). LaDainian Tomlinson (5,899). And Chris Johnson—5,645.

    That’s a good list of players. CJ2K has already rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. He’s made three Pro Bowls in four years. And even his miserable 2011 campaign included 1,047 yards and four touchdowns on a 4.0 yards per carry average.

    If he can regain his form—if he wants to regain his form in 2012—he has all the potential to be a Hall of Fame running back.

LeSean McCoy

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    Status: On Track

    There are several things LeSean McCoy has going for him. He’s just 23 years old. He plays in the Philadelphia Eagles offense, which with playmakers like Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Brent Celek, will get him tons of yards. And he has a fantastic injury history (just two missed games in three seasons).

    McCoy can get probably two more seasons out of his career than a normal running back because of how young he was when he debuted in the NFL. Let’s hope he keeps up the pace.

Trent Cole

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    Status: On Track

    Why can’t people recognize just how good of a football player Trent Cole is? Among 4-3 defensive linemen since 2008, here are his rankings, according to Pro Football Focus:

    Fourth. Third. First. And first.

    That’s amazing. There are few players in the NFL that are a better combination of rushing the passer and stopping the run than Cole.

Jon Beason

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    Status: On Track

    Jon Beason is a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time All-Pro who is coming off an absolutely devastating injury in 2011. Obviously he needs to come back at full strength in 2012 and he has good players around him—Luke Kuechly, Chris Gamble, Charles Johnson—that should help him play like a perennial Pro Bowler.

Adrian Wilson

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    Status: On Track

    When Brian Dawkins left for the AFC and Sean Taylor (R.I.P.) was killed, the NFC became a whole lot weaker for safeties. Adrian Wilson has now made five Pro Bowls and he’s a terrific all-around player.

    Wilson has 22.5 sacks and 26 interceptions, and he holds the single-season record for a defensive back with eight sacks in a season (2005). He has recorded multiple sacks and interceptions in four different seasons.

Mike Wallace

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    Status: On Track

    Mike Wallace has all the potential to be an absolute stud at wide receiver, and the fact that he has Antonio Brown opposite him will really help.

    Wallace has averaged close to 1,100 yards and eight touchdowns since he was drafted in 2009. Obviously he will need many more seasons like that to make the Hall of Fame but he’s on track.

Hakeem Nicks

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    Status: On Track

    Very similar case to Mike Wallace. Hakeem Nicks is a third-year player who plays with great teammates, notably Victor Cruz and Eli Manning. He had enormous hands that should help him catch any pass his way, and he’s averaged about the same numbers as Wallace during his three seasons: 1,000 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Arian Foster

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    Status: On Track

    Arian Foster is an amazing story, as he was undrafted out of the University of Tennessee, and he blossomed into one of the game’s best running backs in 2010.

    Foster has averaged 1,420 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, 4.7 yards per carry, plus 60 receptions, 610 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns in two years as the feature back of the Houston Texans. The way the Texans run their offense maximizes Foster’s talent, and he’s got a ton of talent around him that should help him continue to produce the yards.

Brian Cushing

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    Status: On Track

    It’s tough to project a three-year linebacker, but Brian Cushing has done everything right so far. He’s started 44 of a possible 48 games, making one Pro Bowl (2009), one AP All-Pro team (2011), and one Sporting News All-Pro team (’09).

    Cushing was the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year back in 2009 and he’s a great all-around player who can rush the passer, accumulate tackles, and stop the run.

Brian Orakpo

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    Status: On Track

    Brian Orakpo probably has a slightly better chance than Brian Cushing—even though they’re incredibly similar players. He has made two Pro Bowls in three seasons, played in 47 of a possible 48 games, and racked up his fair share of sacks, especially for an outside linebacker—an average of 9.5 per season since 2009.

Matthew Stafford

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    Status: On Track

    It seems too early to rank Matthew Stafford considering he didn’t really play much his first two seasons, but I did say I would rate players as long as they have in the league since at least 2009.

    Stafford had an absolutely amazing first season—5,038 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and a 97.2 passer rating. He has all the potential to succeed for the next decade or more, with Calvin Johnson as his big-play wide receiver. I think Stafford is the type of quarterback that could put up at least 45,000-50,000 passing yards in his career, but I guess we’ll find out.

Roddy White

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    Status: On Track

    Roddy White started his career slowly but he’s made three Pro Bowls now in four years and he’s averaging 94 receptions, 1,282 yards, and eight touchdowns per season since 2007.

    He has a great quarterback in Matt Ryan, a great tandem wide receiver in Julio Jones, and if he can reach 12,000 or so receiving yards (he’s already at 7,374), he has a chance.

Slightly Below Track

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    Jay Cutler: Very talented quarterback who will need a ring and many more seasons.

    Matt Ryan: Terrific quarterback through four years but that 0-3 playoff record doesn’t help.

    Jamaal Charles: Unbelievable yards per carry average; must recover from ACL injury.

    Dwayne Bowe: First round pick from 2007 averaging 70 catches, 1,000 yards per season.

    Greg Jennings: Terrific wide receiver but I think his pace is a little off Hall of Fame.

    D’Brickashaw Ferguson: Blossomed late but now becoming one of the game’s best O-linemen.

    Jordan Gross: Former first round pick, two-time Pro Bowler who now plays blind side.

    Ryan Kalil: Coming off three straight Pro Bowls but no one knows his name.

    Michael Roos: Probably will go down as a Jon Runyan: very good, not HOF.

    Tamba Hali: Became a star too late in his career even though he’s unstoppable now.

    Darnell Dockett: Incredibly durable, three-time Pro Bowler but not a Haloti Ngata.

    Shawne Merriman: Ridiculously successful start to his career but needs a jumpstart.