Can a team that has won only eight games in its last 54 really have a half-dozen players bound for the Hall of Fame?
In a word, no.
In two words, no… probably.
For starters, the Detroit Lions that closed out their 2010 season on a 4-0 run is vastly different than the team that closed out their 2008 season on a 0-16 run. Some of the current Lions with the best shot at the Hall of Fame were juniors in college when Detroit was making the Run for Irrelevance.
Consequently, all but one of these players has at least a decade’s worth of work left in front of them to deserve any mention of the Hall of Fame in a non-sarcastic sense.
But hey, speculation is part of the game, no matter how far down the road it is. Will these guys all make the Hall? I guarantee they won’t.
But if I were to pick the six guys with the best shot, this would be them.
The only thing standing in the way of Calvin Johnson and an almost certain Hall-caliber career is consistency.
And a lot of that consistency doesn’t actually have a lot to do with Johnson himself.
Since Johnson was drafted in 2007, the Lions have had eight quarterbacks under center. That’s eight quarterbacks in four years. Not exactly the most optimal conditions for a wide receiver.
Normally, a receiver is only as good as the guy throwing him passes. Given Johnson’s numbers thus far in his career, one could make the argument he’s been better.
But Hall of Fame better? He’ll need a lot more 2008- and 2010-type seasons and less 2009 seasons to earn that honor.
Premature after one season? Absolutely.
But tell me you see a Lion with more raw talent and potential to be a Hall of Famer on the roster right now. Sure, there might be some 2011 draftees, but I'm limiting this to guys who have actually shown their stuff in the NFL already.
It isn’t as though Suh’s dominance just started this year. He was a force all throughout college, and he merely translated that dominance to the NFL.
If it continues at anywhere near the clip that it has at this point in his career, he’ll sack his way right into the Hall.
The biggest question mark on this list has nothing to do with ability.
Nobody knows if Stafford will ever be healthy enough even to play a full 16-game season. Hall of Fame might be jumping the gun just a tick.
Still, Stafford has all the skills he needs, and the added consideration of being a No. 1 overall pick. He also set a rookie NFL record for touchdown passes and passing yards in a game with his miracle performance against Cleveland.
Everybody knows Stafford has those kinds of games in him. His sheer talent is as obvious as it is undeniable.
He just needs to string a whole lot more of those types of games together.
Louis Delmas is a great safety, and one of the lynchpins of the Lions’ defense.
That said, he has yet to even sniff a Pro Bowl, much less the Hall of Fame. He is a longshot, but his potential is certainly there.
Delmas started his career by being the first rookie to score in every way a defensive player possibly can (interception return, fumble return, safety). Since then, he has faced lingering injuries and a middling defense, both of which have slowed him from reaching his potential.
As a result, nobody knows if Delmas has Hall of Fame potential, or just Hall of Pretty Good potential.
The bigger question is about whether Delmas will develop enough to fulfill his potential at all.
Avril is the longest of long shots among those listed here, but he gets the nod because we don't know how high his ceiling goes.
Sure, Avril is a liability against the run. There's no question of that. But his pass-rushing ability is so dynamic, it more than makes up for his weaknesses.
If Avril becomes a 10-12 sack guy every season—which he could, with the combination of his raw talent and Detroit's interior line strength—he could become enough of a stat machine to make a strong Hall case.
That case will get a whole lot stronger if he sticks with the Lions long-term as they become playoff or even Super Bowl contenders.
Jason Hanson is the closest thing the Lions have to a Hall of Fame lock. He has had a long career, and his recovery from a 2010 injury raises the only question mark regarding his longevity.
Most kickers at Hanson’s age have devolved into shells of their former selves. The best thing your average 40-year-old kicker can hope for is to be a short-yardage accuracy specialist with some viability on a team with field goal issues.
Not Hanson. The 41-year-old Hanson has gone a combined 12-16 from 50-plus yards in the last three years alone, including a patently absurd (not to mention NFL record) 8-for-8 in 2008.
Add this to a career 82 percent accuracy, and the seventh-highest scoring total in NFL history, and you have a pretty good case to make for a Hall-worthy player.
If Hanson plays at least two more seasons at his current output, it will make him the third-highest scoring player in NFL history, and the highest-scoring American-born player in NFL history.
That’s a much stronger case.