Each NFL Team's Future Hall of Famer
The word "immortality" might be the most overused word in the sporting world next to "bust."
Though the words are intrinsically different, when talking about football, immortality and bust go hand in hand—but with a different meaning.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio welcomed its newest members this past week, cementing their allure in football history with a bronze bust.
The 2011 enshrined members, such as Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk and NFL Films wizard Ed Sabol, were all very deserving of their Hall of Fame stature and represent the game of football with class.
Watching "Prime Time" Deion Sanders reveal his bronze bust in Deion-esque style brought back some great memories of his playing days and reminded me of the kind of talent it takes to join the exclusive Hall of Fame club.
A Pro Bowl appearance or a Super Bowl ring doesn't justify anyone to be enshrined in Canton; it takes a lot more than that.
Hall of Famers like Sanders and Faulk put up Pro Bowl numbers for years at a time. Hall of Famers are the most consistent players to ever play the game, and each has molded the game to the stature it is at today.
But I know as a fan that sometimes the greatest debates are on the players who are not Canton shoo-ins.
Let's take a look at each NFL team's greatest candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Let the debate begin!
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. If you don't believe me, then just take a look at his stats.
Fitzgerald will be entering his eighth season once September comes around, and he has established himself as one of the best receivers in the game.
Not only does Fitz sport an awesome head of dreadlocks, the man does nothing but produce for a less than stellar Arizona team.
Out of Fitzgerald's seven seasons in the league, he has recorded at least 1,000 receiving yards and 90 receptions five times! (That's a lot, people.)
Fitzgerald has 8,204 career receiving yards, which is almost double future Hall of Famer Cris Carter's 4,577 that he had at the same point in his career.
Fitzgerald also has 65 career touchdowns. That's 23 more than what Carter had when he was at the same point in his career.
Fitzgerald is a great guy, a perennial Pro Bowler and the shining light on a rebuilding team.
Look to see him in Canton after a great career.
Atlanta Falcons: Tony Gonzalez
This one's a no-brainer.
Give it up for Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end to ever step on a football field.
Mr. Reliable, as I like to call him, this 11-time Pro Bowler has only missed two games in 12 seasons.
If you didn't catch that: Gonzalez has only missed two games and has made the Pro Bowl in every season except his rookie campaign.
Gonzalez's 1,069 catches and over 12,000 receiving yards are tops lifetime among tight ends.
Give it up for Tony G.
Though he may go into Canton as a Chief and not a Falcon, he is still a first-ballot Hall of Famer and one of the best ever.
Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis
Ray Lewis is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
His warm-up dance alone gets him there.
Lewis has been a force in the league since he was drafted in 1996.
In his rookie campaign he led the Ravens in tackles with 110 and 15 tackles for loss.
Lewis is possibly the greatest leader in sports history, and it was proven in 2000 when he led the Ravens to a Super Bowl title on what was considered the best defense ever.
Oh yeah, he was Super Bowl MVP.
Oh, and let me not forget he's a two-time Defensive Player of the Year (2000, 2003).
Lewis is just a straight competitor and has 12 Pro Bowl appearances and seven All-Pro selections.
He could be considered one of the best linebackers of all time.
His hits on opposing offenses are bone-crushing, and he puts fear into every offense.
He is the best linebacker of his generation and is a first-ballot HOF'er.
Buffalo Bills: Brian Moorman
I'm sorry Bills fans, but honestly, I could not find one player on your current roster that was worthy of even being mentioned with the words "Hall of Fame."
It was brutal; I went through the entire roster and finally felt the grief that Bills fans go through season after season. It was only a little taste, but it hurt.
I had to just go with the best player on the team:
Yes, I know he is a punter, but Moorman is great at what he does.
Two Pro Bowl appearances and being a two-time first-team All-Pro get Moorman the recognition he finally deserves as one of the game's best...uhh, punters.
Moorman still has a minimum of five seasons in the tank and is only one All-Pro selection behind notorious Hall of Fame candidate and punter Ray Guy.
Moorman may not make it into Canton, but he sure as heck is the most consistent player the Bills have had in recent years.
Give it up for the punter.
P.S. I promise he is the only special teams player on the list.
Carolina Panthers: Jon Beason
Don't start sitting in the corner and sulking, Carolina fans, but no Cam Newton is not your future Hall of Fame member.
Linebacker Jon Beason has been the consistent bright spot for a Panther team that did nothing but lose last season.
Beason has yet to miss a game in his first four NFL seasons at a position that does not bode well for longevity.
He's only 25 and already has one All-Pro selection under his belt and multiple Pro Bowl appearances.
Beason has put up at least 90 tackles every year he's been in the league and has put up 100-tackle seasons three times.
He's just scary at middle linebacker.
If Beason can stay healthy and continue to rack up the Pro Bowls, look to see him representing the Panthers in Canton.
Chicago Bears: Brian Urlacher
Brian Urlacher has been scary good for the Chicago Bears in his 10 career seasons.
Urlacher has been selected to seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro first teams as a middle linebacker.
Urlacher changes games and creates fear in opposing offenses.
He has been known to just go after the ball carrier and bring him to the ground.
Urlacher averages about 100 tackles in every season he has played and will most likely surpass the 1,000-tackle mark this upcoming season.
Urlacher is a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection.
Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green
The Cincinnati Bengals.
A team that lost its quarterback and future Hall of Fame receiver all in the same offseason.
A team that had zero Pro Bowl players in 2011.
A team that won just four games last season.
Who dey? Dey bad.
So who is their future Hall of Fame Representative? How about the fourth pick in the 2011 NFL draft, wide receiver A.J. Green?
That's right—a receiver who has yet to see the field in a NFL game is the most likely candidate to see his face bronzed in Canton.
Green is explosive, has great hands and dominated the college game. He will immediately be the No. 1 receiver—very rare for a rookie.
Green's potential is through the roof, and he could be one of the best wide receivers of all time.
Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas
Joe Thomas is the best player on the Cleveland Browns.
Saying much? Not really.
He's an animal, though, and one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
Thomas is only 26 years old, and in four career seasons he has four Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro first team selections.
Over 60 percent of offensive linemen who have at least four Pro Bowl appearances by the age of 26 have reached Canton.
Thomas has been on a tear and shows no sign of slowing down.
Five to seven more years of pure dominance at the left tackle position will get Thomas a first-ballot vote to Canton.
It's a safe bet to say Thomas will have his face bronzed in the future.
Dallas Cowboys: DeMarcus Ware
Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware will end up in Canton when it's all said and done.
Ware has been a consistent force on defense for Dallas and has double-digit sacks in five straight seasons.
In those last five seasons, Ware has made the Pro Bowl in every one and has been an All-Pro selection three times.
Ware is only 28 and will soon pass 100 sacks—a stat that's a sure sign of a Hall of Fame member.
Look for Ware to continue his dominance and end up in Canton as one of the best sack specialists from the linebacker position of all time.
Denver Broncos: Ryan Clady
I decided to go away from the obvious selection here of Champ Bailey and go with a sleeper pick in Ryan Clady.
Clady is a monster; he is still very young but has the ability to be great.
He dominates opposing defensive lines and does a fantastic job protecting his quarterback's blind side.
Clady had a slow 2010 coming off a back injury, but he was nothing less then fantastic in his first two seasons in 2008 and 2009.
Clady was a second-team All-Pro in his rookie season and was a Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro during his sophomore campaign.
At age 24, Clady joins the elite company of Jonathan Ogden and Orlando Pace for receiving an All-Pro selection at such a young age.
If Clady can keep up his dominance, he will be a future inductee into Canton.
Good luck, big man.
Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh
If you disagree with this selection, then you clearly have never seen Suh play.
He pushes opposing offensive lines around like they're pee-wee players.
He makes Pro Bowlers look average and average players look like practice squad members.
In one career season, Suh has one Pro Bowl appearance and one first-team All-Pro selection.
Suh joins Hall of Fame members Merlin Olsen and "Mean" Joe Greene as the only rookie defensive linemen to ever make the Pro Bowl.
Probably a good sign for Suh's Hall of Fame candidacy.
I know, I know, he has only played one season in the NFL.
But he made it look easy.
Suh will be in Canton one day and will continue to tear up opposing lines and make great car commercials for the next decade.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Well, this was obvious.
Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now.
Yes, he is playing as well as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, and he can also run.
I remember when Packer fans were so upset that the Packers let Brett Favre go and Rodgers was going to step up and be the Packers' starting quarterback.
Well, in three years as a starter, Rodgers has won as many Super Bowls as Favre.
Pretty impressive, huh?
He might not have gotten off to the fastest start for a Hall of Fame quarterback, but Rodgers is too good to slow down and not be the best.
He will go down as an all-time great; expect him to be a perennial Pro Bowler for years to come.
Embrace the championship belt, young fella.
Houston Texans: Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson is the most skilled and consistent receiver the NFL has to offer today. Since joining the league in 2003, Johnson has never had a season with fewer than 60 catches. He has caught over 100 passes in three of those seasons and has had five seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards.
The captain of his team, Johnson has proved to be a very soft-spoken leader. Besides a heated battle on the field with Tennessee Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan last season, Johnson has never gotten himself into trouble.
Johnson finished 2010 averaging 93 receiving yards per game, and there is no reason why he cannot produce like that in 2011.
He is an absolute first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee.
Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning
The best quarterback in the NFL.
I'll let the numbers do the talking:
11 Pro Bowls
Five first-team All-Pro selections
208 consecutive games played
399 touchdowns (third all-time)
One Super Bowl win
141-67 career record
64.9 career completion percentage
Four NFL MVP awards (most ever)
Colts' career leader in almost every offensive category
Do I need to say any more? The numbers say enough.
First-ballot Hall of Famer.
Ladies and gentlemen, Peyton Manning.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew
Blaine who? Let's take a look at the Jaguars' best player, Jones-Drew (that rhymed).
MJD, or Maurice Jones-Drew, came into the NFL at age 21.
Four years later, Jones-Drew already has 7,000 yards from scrimmage and two consecutive Pro Bowls.
Drew has put up back-to-back 1,300-yard rushing seasons, and the little guy is officially a star.
If Jones-Drew can put up about five to seven more years of 1,000-plus-yard rushing seasons and a handful of Pro Bowls, then don't be too surprised to see him making his way to Canton.
Kansas City Chiefs: Jamaal Charles
Until just a few days ago, I had Brian Waters as a lock for this selection.
Now that the Chiefs have let the future Hall of Fame guard go, Jamaal Charles comes in and snags a place on the illustrious list.
Charles has put up back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
Even more impressive because it was his first two seasons at starting running back.
Charles came into his own in 2011, running for 1,467 yards with over 400 receiving yards while being selected for his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro first team.
If Charles can continue his success—with his speed it's very possible—then he will run himself into Canton.
Look for Charles to make a few more Pro Bowls and continue his 1,000-yard seasons.
Miami Dolphins: Jake Long
Making a Pro Bowl every year you've been in the league and adding a first-team All-Pro selection in your third season (2010) is a great start to a Hall of Fame career.
That's exactly what former first overall draft pick Jake Long has done during his first three seasons in the NFL.
Long has established himself as one of the best left tackles in football and will be one of the best for a long time.
I was going to put Chad Henne here, but...okay, I can't even say that seriously.
Long is clearly the best player on the Dolphins, and if he continues his consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, the Michigan man will find himself in Canton.
Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson
This is another one that does not really need any explanation.
Adrian "All Day" Peterson is known for his aggressive running style, elusive quickness and firm handshake.
Oh yeah, he is also known for being the best runner in the NFL today.
Peterson has reached the Pro Bowl in all four of his NFL seasons, and he's only 26.
He's a two-time All-Pro, and in 2010 he became the fifth-fastest player ever to reach 5,000 rushing yards in only his 51st game.
The other four ahead of him? All Hall of Famers.
Peterson only had one blip in his game: fumbling.
In 2010, he only had one fumble, so he seems to have corrected his one sore spot.
Adrian Peterson will go down as one of the best runners of all time and should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Just like I did with Peyton Manning, I'll let the numbers speak for themselves for Tom Brady's Hall of Fame chances:
Six Pro Bowls
Two first-team All-Pro selections
111-32 career record as a starter
Three Super Bowl victories
Two Super Bowl MVPs
NFL record: Most touchdowns thrown in a single season
Led Patriots to first undefeated regular season since institution of 16-game schedule
Two NFL MVP awards
He has too many NFL records to even list.
Tom Brady is not only married to Gisele Bundchen, but he is a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection as well.
New Orleans Saints: Olin Kreutz
This may not be the sexiest pick for Saints fans, but Kreutz is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
I'm sorry it is not Drew Brees, and I'm sorry I picked a guy who has barely been on the team for a day but he has the best chance to make the Hall of Fame out of anyone currently playing in New Orleans.
Kreutz will be an instant leader in New Orleans and was the offensive morale leader in Chicago for the past 13 seasons.
Kreutz has been to six Pro Bowls and has one All-Pro first team selection.
He is one of the best centers to ever play the game.
His blocking ability is impeccable, and he is any quarterback's best friend.
Kreutz may retire after next season, but you'll see his face again soon.
In Canton, that is.
New York Giants: Eli Manning
I want to start off by saying I hate this selection.
Yes, I do not think Eli Manning is good enough to make the Hall of Fame, and I do not think he deserves to be on this list.
The problem? He is the only Giant I think is at least respectable for this list with Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora just being way too inconsistent to garner a spot.
I'm not hating on the Giants; they have good players, but no one is great yet.
Manning's Super Bowl win in 2008 and his draft status are what get him on the list right now, but he has a lot of holes to fix.
He is not a leader and is way too quiet on the field for a so-called "captain."
Manning's one Pro Bowl appearance and 58 percent completion rate are nowhere good enough for the Hall.
If he has a solid run through his early 30s, then maybe Manning can get the nod, but right now he is just pure speculation and a "close but no cigar" inductee.
New York Jets: Darrelle Revis
Revis Island is one of the best shutdown corners in the NFL and has a good chance of making the Hall of Fame.
Since the NFL/AFL merger, only Everson Walls made three Pro Bowls at CB by age 25 and is not in the Hall of Fame. Revis doesn't want to be the second.
Revis is off to a great start to his career and completely shuts down No. 1 receivers on opposing teams.
He already has two first-team All-Pro selections, and if he is healthy he is the best cornerback in the NFL.
Look for Revis to continue his dominant success on a great New York Jets defense and make his way to Canton.
Oakland Raiders: Richard Seymour
"Seymour, he really was a problem for us. He's a great player," said Chiefs coach Todd Haley.
Haley says it all.
Seymour gives problems to every opposing offense, and his numbers did not falter after he left New England for Oakland.
That right there should say he's a great player.
Seymour has six Pro Bowl appearances and is a three-time first-team All-Pro, the exact same accolades as Troy Polamalu.
Seymour is a dominant force on the defensive line and forces teams to work around him.
He also wins.
Seymour has three Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, and they do not win those championships without Seymour on the line.
Richard Seymour is a Hall of Fame player and will be there after his career comes to an end.
Philadelphia Eagles: Nnamdi Asomugha
Eagle fans might be a little surprised at this selection since Asomugha just joined the team a mere week ago.
Nnamdi Asomugha has cemented himself as the best shutdown corner in the NFL today.
His ability to stay with any receiver with great athleticism and superior coverage skills make him a great candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Asomugha has gotten screwed, you could say, when it comes to the awards profile.
At age 29, Nnamdi has three Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro selection—mind you, on a dismal Oakland team.
Asomugha now joins a Philadelphia squad or "Dream Team," and if he puts up a few solid seasons for the Birds, then watch Asomugha earn himself a trip to Canton.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Troy Polamalu
Polamalu is a champion and a leader.
He has earned respect from every opponent in the league and forces quarterbacks to throw in his direction as little as possible.
That's exactly what a Hall of Famer is: a player who wins, and a player who forces opposing teams to change their game play singlehandedly.
His intangibles give him a great case for the Hall of Fame, but it's his numbers that make him a lock.
In eight seasons, Polamalu has six Pro Bowl nods and three All-Pro selections.
Did I forget to mention two Super Bowl rings?
Polamalu is a lock for the Hall.
San Diego Chargers: Antonio Gates
Antonio Gates is a lock for the Hall of Fame and has been the best tight end in football since 2004.
Gates has appeared in seven straight Pro Bowls and is a three-time All-Pro selection.
He has two more Pro Bowl selections than Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow and the same number of All-Pro teams.
Gates is also only 12 catches behind what Winslow had for his entire career.
He joins Tony Gonzalez as two of the most dominant tight ends of the decade, and both will surely view their bronze busts in Canton.
Not bad for a former basketball player.
San Francisco 49ers: Patrick Willis
One of the most dominant linebackers since the turn of the century, Patrick Willis has the opportunity to tackle his way into Canton.
If Willis can stay healthy for just a few more seasons, then he is a lock for the Hall.
He's one of the most dominant defensive superstars to ever play the game and puts fear into every opposing offense.
In four seasons, Willis has 595 tackles.
Let me repeat: 595 tackles in just four years.
He has made the Pro Bowl every year of his career and is a three-time All-Pro.
Nobody in the league plays his position better than Patrick Willis, and he proves it game in and game out.
Willis will go down as one of the best.
Seattle Seahawks: Aaron Curry
Before you flip out, let me explain.
I am completely aware that Aaron Curry has done little to nothing to garner an appearance on this list.
He has not shown once that he can even put up Pro Bowl numbers.
Why is he on this list?
Ah, the glorious word "potential."
Curry is entering his third season in the NFL, and the former fourth overall pick of the 2009 NFL draft has a ton of upside.
He is a monster linebacker at 6'2", 255 lbs. and is still only 25 years old.
In only 12 starts last season Curry had 61 tackles and two sacks.
Not terrible, not great.
Hopefully Curry just has yet to reach his potential and will turn into the future Hall of Fame candidate he was projected to be coming out of college.
Step it up, Curry—your time is now.
St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford
Based on pure potential right here, Sam Bradford has the best shot out of all current Rams to make the hall of fame.
Don't fret, Steven Jackson fans. Jackson is a great player, but not of Hall of Fame-caliber.
Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, had an exceptional rookie campaign.
It couldn't get much better for Bradford, as he was awarded the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
He looked poised and calm under center and is on his way to a long, Hall of Fame career.
Bradford changed the Rams franchise and increased its win total by six games in one year.
When Peyton Manning was a rookie, he only won three games; Bradford won seven. Just something to think about.
Bradford, if healthy, could have an amazing career.
Tampa Bay Buccanneers: Ronde Barber
Barber is the only remaining member of the 2002 Super Bowl-winning squad, and for good reason.
Ronde Barber, not to be confused with his identical twin brother Tiki, is the only player to ever record 25 sacks and 40 interceptions in his career.
Only player ever; those are Hall of Fame words right there.
Barber has over 1,000 tackles and has led the NFL in interceptions and defensive touchdowns in two different seasons.
He is one of the best cornerbacks to every play the game and is also the better Barber.
Only future Hall of Famer Darren Sharper and 2009 inductee Rod Woodson have more defensive touchdowns than Barber, putting him in elite company.
Barber is on his way to Canton.
Tennessee Titans: Chris Johnson
CJ2K is in the top echelon of running backs alongside another member of this list, Adrian Peterson.
Johnson has been to the Pro Bowl in all three of his professional seasons and has one All-Pro team selection.
He has run for over 1,200 yards every season of his career, and in 2009 he ran for over 2,000 yards.
On top of that, he averages over 10 rushing touchdowns per season.
CJ2K, meaning Chris Johnson 2,000, is right now a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Yes, I know it is very early in his young career and he currently is in a contract dispute, but his ability to run through defenses is spectacular.
Chris Johnson is on his way to Canton.
Washington Redskins: Brian Orakpo
Orakpo is young—extremely young, actually—while only entering his third season, but the numbers don't lie.
Those numbers make him deserving to be on this list.
Orakpo has recorded 19.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons (11 his first year and 8.5 his second) and already has one Pro Bowl selection from his rookie campaign.
Orakpo made this list because he has already established himself as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL today, and he's only 24 years old.
He has the speed (running a 4.6 40-yard dash) and is an enforcer at 6'4", 260 lbs.
In comparison, 2010 Hall of Fame inductee John Randle had about half the number of sacks that Orakpo does at the same points in their careers.
Orakpo will be entering 2011 for his second season under Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and should only improve his numbers from 2010 due to strengthened familiarity with the system.
If Brian Orakpo can put up solid sack numbers and Pro Bowl selections for the next decade, then look to see him joining Randle and others as a defensive end Hall of Fame member.