Pro Football Hall of Fame 2016: NFL Inductees, Class Finalists and Predictions

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Pro Football Hall of Fame 2016: NFL Inductees, Class Finalists and Predictions
AJ Mast/Associated Press

A day before Peyton Manning looks to cement his legendary career with a second Super Bowl title, the Pro Football Hall of Fame will almost certainly welcome another decorated quarterback. 

Brett Favre getting inducted in his first eligible year is as safe a bet as beer commercials airing during Sunday's big game. The gunslinger retired first in all-time passing yards and touchdowns before Manning stole both records, but his prolific numbers came in a less passing-friendly era.

The only doubt surrounding Favre's candidacy is whether he'll get ushered in unanimously. But the best part: After immortalizing the Green Bay Packers icon in Canton, Ohio, everyone will finally have to stop calling for another comeback whenever an active passer hurts his pinkie.

Out of the 2016 class' 18 finalists, Favre is the only virtual lock. As many as five of 15 modern-era finalists can get enshrined, and several noteworthy names certainly boast strong cases for recognition.

Modern-Era Finalists Position/Role Years Active
Morten Andersen Kicker 1982-2007
Steve Atwater Safety 1989-1999
Don Coryell Coach 1973-1986
Terrell Davis Running Back 1995-2001
Tony Dungy Coach 1996-2008
Alan Faneca Guard 1998-2010
Brett Favre Quarterback 1991-2010
Kevin Greene Linebacker 1985-1999
Marvin Harrison Wide Receiver 1996-2008
Joe Jacoby Tackle 1981-1993
Edgerrin James Running Back 1999-2009
John Lynch Free Safety 1993-2007
Terrell Owens Wide Receiver 1996-2010
Orlando Pace Tackle 1997-2009
Kurt Warner Quarterback 1998-2009
Senior Finalists Position/Role Years Active
Ken Stabler Quarterback 1970-1984
Dick Stanfel Guard 1952-1958
Contributor Finalists Position/Role Years Active
Edward DeBartolo Jr. Owner 1977-2000

NFL.com

 

Hall of Fame Predictions

Predicted Inductees
Player POS Year on Ballot
Brett Favre QB 1
Marvin Harrison WR 3
Orlando Pace OT 2
Kevin Greene LB 12
Tony Dungy HC 2

Author's Predictions

After Favre, two elite wide receivers headline this year's hopefuls. Marvin Harrison and ballot-newcomer Terrell Owens will eventually both have busts in Canton. Yet given the committee's tendency to make wideouts wait, it's unlikely the star-studded opposites get inducted together.

As note by Football Outsiders' Scott Kacsmar when forecasting the ballot last year, only five wide receivers have garnered the necessary 80 percent of votes on their first try. One pass-catcher has received recognition in each of the past three years, but not after enduring an extended wait:

Recently Inducted Wide Receivers
Year Player Stats Years on Ballot
2013 Cris Carter 1,101 REC, 13,899 YD, 130 TD 6
2014 Andre Reed 951 REC, 13,198 YD, 87 TD 9
2015 Tim Brown 1,094 REC, 14,934 YD, 100 TD 6

FootballOutsiders.com

Harrison and Owens, however, deserve better. If not for Jerry Rice, both would frequent the discussion for best wideout ever. Although Owens' mercurial persona could hurt his perception, his 15,934 career receiving yards places second behind his former San Francisco 49ers teammate.

He also only trails Rice, by a wide margin, in Pro-Football-Reference.com's Approximate Value. Harrison, at 161, resides third behind Owens' 165. 

While Harrison had the benefit of playing with a sure-fire Hall of Famer, Manning didn't perfect route running. The Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer laid out the top selling points for Harrison's enshrinement:

Harrison hasn't done anything since last year, when he was a deserving choice, to improve his candidacy, but he'll rise to the forefront after waiting his turn. Adhering to the petty process, Owens' moment will get delayed.

Because of fantasy football's boom into a mainstream activity, skill-position players attract extra recognition from most onlookers. Yet the big men up front make those numbers possible by sacrificing their bodies to protect their teammates. Rather than elect Kurt Warner—the engineer of The Greatest Show on Turf—into the Hall of Fame, left tackle Orlando Pace gets his due.

Former St. Louis Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce, absent among the finalists in his second year of eligibility, praised Pace as an invaluable component of their offense to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner:

A lot of us on the perimeter—quarterbacks, running backs—sometimes we could be replaced for a game or two. But there was a guy like Orlando Pace, there’s no replacing him. How do you do what you do without him there? He was the one guy we didn’t want to lose to a knee injury or for two or three games. Oh, no, that changes everything. So to me, he’s the guy. He’s the guy that you didn’t want to have to replace. Thank god we didn’t have to.

From 1999-2005, Pace missed only six games and earned seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. Quietly powering the era's greatest offense, the star lineman will get honored before Warner.

Another former Rams player, however, could join Pace. Only Hall of Famers Reggie White and Bruce Smith have tallied more career sacks than Kevin Greene's 160. If it seems excessive for Harrison getting denied twice and Pace falling short in his opening go-around, imagine what the former pass-rusher is going through.

This marks Greene's 12th attempt at passing the final barrier. He has made progress over the years, advancing as a finalist from 2012 onward and making the top 10 during the last two years. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller called for an end to his purgatory:

That leaves one open spot and several candidates worth admitting. Owens, Warner, Alan Faneca and John Lynch should all get immortalized down the road, but head coach Tony Dungy will instead poach the final spot.

Like Harrison, the former Colts general would owe gratitude to Manning. It must have been tough telling the greatest quarterback ever to score points, but the committee will be blinded by his 65.2 winning percentage (including the playoffs) and a Super Bowl ring.

After going 6-10 in 1996, his inaugural season as head coach, Dungy never oversaw another team with a losing record. He participated in a record 10 straight postseasons and became the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl. After making the final cut to 10 last year, it's clear his time is near.

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