Cris Carter's HOF Induction Does Not End the Logjam at Wide Receiver

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Cris Carter's HOF Induction Does Not End the Logjam at Wide Receiver
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Will more receivers like Carter (bottom-center) be Canton bound in 2014?

For whatever reason, Canton hasn't been kind to wideouts.

Though wide receiver is one of the more talked about positions in football, its representation in the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been surprisingly low. But with the current trends of the league, receivers are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

So when former Eagles Vikings receiver Cris Carter was inducted into the 2013 class over fellow wideouts Andre Reed and Tim Brown, many claimed the end of the logjam at wide receiver. 

With Carter's absence from the ballot in 2014, everything would presumably be restored to order, with Andre Reed getting in (as he made the final cut to 10 this year) and then Tim Brown getting in the year after.

But more receivers are soon to follow.

Next year's Hall of Fame ballot will be the first year of eligibility for Colts receiver Marvin Harrison. Statistically, he has the edge over both Brown and Reed in career receptions and touchdowns catches, while trailing Brown in receiving yardage by less than 400 yards. Harrison is admittedly a long shot to get in first-ballot, but he's certainly a strong enough candidate to split the votes three ways once again.

Should none of the three be inducted then, we're in an even deeper hole come 2015, which is former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce's first year of eligibility. Throw in Hines Ward the following year (though his resume pails in comparison to the rest of the field) and Terrell Owens in 2017, and you've got a serious problem on your hands. Don't even get me started on Randy Moss.

Which wide receiver would you choose for induction in 2014?

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Since it's a skill position and the league is becoming more pass-centric, it would only make sense for our perception and appreciation of wide receivers to improve. In many ways it has—over half of the receivers in the Hall of Fame have been inducted since the turn of the last century. But in the eyes of voters, a great wide receiver with top 10 all-time statistics still lags behind a great running back or quarterback with similar credentials.

Just compare the top 10 players in career receiving yards to the top 10 in career rushing yards. Two things stand out right away among the receivers: All but two retired in the last decade and only three of the ten are even in the Hall. Meanwhile, eight of the running backs are in Canton. The two that aren't, Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson, are locks for the Hall (Bettis was a finalist this year and Tomlinson isn't eligible until 2016).

Another big reason for the lack of Hall of Fame receivers is the statistical dominance of Jerry Rice. Unlike other positions, there's no question who the best receiver of all time is and Rice's career has forever skewed receiving stats. In turn, he's also diminished the great numbers of receivers for years to come. Even with the boom in passing numbers, it's unlikely that players like Larry Fitzgerald or Calvin Johnson will play long enough to come close to Rice's numbers. And even if they do, can they be as productive into their 30s and 40s? I'd bet not.

And more receivers with better numbers are on the way. How will Reggie Waynes or the Andre Johnsons of the world be viewed when they retire? Will their careers be enough to separate them from the rest of the field? Or will they hold up the line even further? Cris Carter's induction was an important step for receivers in Canton, but as far as ending the logjam, it means very little. More logs are coming fast.

 

For more Hall of Fame-related posts, check out the "HOF Worthy" section of my blog.

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