Buying or Selling Antonio Gates as a Hall of Famer?

Jamal Collier@@JCollierDAnalyst IIINovember 2, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Tight end Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers carries the ball against the Minnesota Vikings at Qualcomm Stadium on September 11, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Antonio Gates caught his 81st career touchdown pass on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. Is the former undrafted free agent a future Hall of Famer?

Absolutely, according to the numbers.

In fact, Gates' success "paved the way" for that of big-time tight end Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints. Those two guys have quarterback Drew Brees—and collegiate basketball—in common.

What they don’t have in common is their respective resumes. Gates, 32, has statistics that rival, and in some cases, surpass tight ends that are currently in the Hall of Fame. The era in which Gates plays is more pass-heavy than that of the Hall of Famers, but he’s been productive from the tight end position for a long time.

He hasn’t always played in a time that was considered the Year of the Tight End. This is Gates’ 10th NFL season; he started his career during a time when tight ends were frequently afterthoughts in an offense’s hierarchy.

Gates has topped 700 receiving yards in a season eight times, and has scored seven touchdowns to accompany those yards in each occurrence.

Furthermore, Gates has eclipsed the 1,100-yard mark twice and hit double-digit touchdowns in three seasons. Aside from his rookie year, he has never failed to catch 50 passes in a full season.

His career numbers: 614 catches, 8,021 yards and 78 touchdowns in 10 seasons—and he’s not done yet.

Surefire Hall of Fame candidate Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons had comparable numbers through his first 10 seasons: 721 catches, 8,710 yards and 61 touchdowns.

Then, in 2007, he gained 1,172 yards and five touchdowns on 99 catches in his 11th season.

Gates may have to play—and produce—for the next couple of years to cement his Hall of Fame legacy, but even if he stopped playing tomorrow he would still have a strong case to end up in Canton.

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