Potential Hall of Fame Candidates - AFC Part One
By Alex Wiliams
Which current players could be heading for the Hall of Fame?
A Hall of Fame game was played between Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos last weekend. You may have missed it, as it passed largely uneventfully. That being said, six new members were enshrined eternally in the Hall of Fame. So, I scoured all 32 rosters to see who of the current players could, one day, be added to the 326 gold jacket members.
Each team has been whittled down to two players, who have been categorised on their HoF potential. The categories are as follows;
All HoF locks are equal, it’s just some are more equal than others. The lock is the player who right now, on his team, has the best chance of going to Canton. Conversely, some of these locks are just the best player on their team. You’ll see.
The on HIS WAY / THE LONGSHOT
It’s as the name says. The players that are currently on course to see their head forever as a golden bust. A few more seasons, along with personal accolades, and these players could journey to Ohio. The Longshots are players that are still trying to make a dent in the league, let alone the Hall of Fame.
Currently 4th all-time rusher with 14,738 yards. Another 500+ yard season and he’ll surpass the great Barry Sanders. All other top ten all-time rushers reside in Canton (we can assume Adrian Peterson will too), so there’s no reason Gore shouldn’t be there. Gores’ ability to stay productive way into his 30’s has been outstanding.
Some would argue that McCoy is closer to “on his way” than a longshot. He currently has six seasons over 1,000 rushing yards. Two All-Pro honours in seasons where he lit up the league; 1,309 yards, 17 touchdowns in 2011 and 1,607 and nine touchdowns in 2013. You’d be hard pressed to find a more productive back than Shady McCoy between 2010 and 2017.
But that’s where McCoy’s problem lies, 2018 was down year. It was his first, since his rookie season, where he didn’t eclipse 1,000 scrimmage yards. If that production slide continues in 2019 and beyond, McCoy will find himself in the “Great but not quite” group. He’ll join the likes of Tiki Barber and Fred Taylor, just on the cusp of Canton.
This is one of the more flimsy locks you’ll come across. Jones has 21 career interceptions, 739 tackles, and 10.5 sacks. He’s made just two Pro Bowls in his nine-year career, yet his play has probably warranted a few more.
I know he won’t be going to the Hall of Fame. You know he won’t. Even Reshad Jones knows won’t so let’s just move on.
It was bad enough trying to find one potential HoF’er in this very bad Dolphins roster. But I tasked myself with finding two. The greatest HoF case Xavien Howard has right now is that he still has a long career ahead of him. But, to date, his production has him on some sort of Ohio track.
The past season was his best in the three years in the league, as he led the NFL with 7 interceptions, earning Pro Bowl and 2nd team All-Pro honours. He also became the highest-paid cornerback in the league. So the talent is there. In this ever increasingly pass-heavy league, defensive backs are going to find it hard work making it to Canton. If Howard keeps up his ball-hawking potential then maybe he comes close.
New England Patriots
I bet you didn’t expect to read Xavien Howard’s name alongside Tom Brady’s in a Hall of Fame discussion piece.
I’m not here to discuss whether he’s the greatest of all time or any of that. That’s for another time. He’s a Hall of Famer for sure though. I won’t go into details but let’s just take a look at his stats. Playoffs only; 11,179 yards, 73 touchdowns, 63% pass completion, 13 game-winning drives. And no, that first number you read wasn’t a typo. I checked that, several times.
14 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro’s, 3 MVP’s, 6 Super Bowl rings. Yeah, you get a gold jacket Tommy.
Yes, you are reading that correct. Julian Edelman. That little dude who isn’t currently top 100 in all-time receiving yards. The guy that’s never been to the Pro Bowl. A wide receiver who has only had two 1,000 yard receiving seasons.
But. There’s only one name ahead of Edelman in career post-season receiving yards. Jerry Rice.
He turns up in the big games, as his SBLIII MVP is a testament to. Okay, so he’s not a HoF’er right now, but a few more seasons with said Hall of Famer Brady, then who knows. Add a couple more rings (to his already three) and say he passes Jerry, then Edelman has a great case to join 12 in Canton.
Honourable Mention – Stephon Gilmore
New York Jets
A little editing had to be done when Kalil came out of retirement. He instantly became the most secure Jet to be a HoF’er. For the past decade, he’s been the steadiest lineman in the league and arguably the best center during that period. He earned five Pro Bowls and two All-Pro’s during his time in Carolina. He was a major part of the 2015 Panthers Super Bowl run and many won’t begrudge him deserving a ring.
Five outstanding years in Baltimore has C.J.Mosley on his way. He has yet to play a snap for Gang Green, but he begins witha very solid base. Mosley burst onto the NFL scene with 150+ tackles his rookie year. He also has great playmaking ability, with nine interceptions and 8.5 sacks. This will have to continue in New York for Mosley to get anywhere near Canton.
If Mosley is to make it, his career will have to go in some way similar to that of Luke Kuechly. The leagues’ best inside linebacker.
Honourable Mention – Le’Veon Bell
Another easy lock. Miller is destined for the Hall of Fame. He’s had double-digit sacks every year, barring 2013, where he only played nine games. All this has accounted to 98 career sacks for Miller, putting him 33rd all-time.
His honours include 7 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pro’s and a Super Bowl ring. With Miller only being a shade over 30, he still has several prime years to add to his already illustrious career.
Chris Harris will go down as one of the greatest slot cornerbacks to ever play the game. The ability to shut down an opposing wide receiver is often regarded higher than being able to intercept the ball, especially in today’s’ NFL. Harris has consistently proved his capabilities of shutting any slot receiver he comes up against.
As previously stated, it’s often difficult for cornerbacks to make it to Canton. But Harris has been one of the more elite defenders of the previous decade. His four Pro Bowls, one All-Pro and an all important Super Bowl ring only add to his HoF argument.
Kansas City Chiefs
You could argue he’s been the best tight-end, outside of Gronk, this decade. Furthermore, he’s only just getting started with Pat Mahomes. 2018 was special for Kelce, with 103 receptions, 1,336 yards and 10 touchdowns. That followed two back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, so you can see a trend forming.
Four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro’s are impressive. His playoff stats might need bumping up if he is to secure a spot in Canton, but a few more seasons with Mahomes should do the trick.
Yes, the one year wonder is on his way. One full season, an MVP award, Pro Bowl and All-Pro honours, 5,097 yards, 50 touchdowns. It’s a pretty good career trajectory. The talent that Mahomes possesses is mesmerising. When Brett Favre says he sees himself in you, you know you’re doing something right.
Barring injuries or a major meteor strike, there’s no reason why Mahomes won’t make it to the Hall Of Fame.
Los Angeles Chargers
If you don’t think Philip Rivers is a Hall of Famer, you’re either an Eli Manning fanboy or delusional (some would argue that’s the same thing). Rivers have been an Ironman throughout his career and continues to play at a high standard as 40 closes in on him. Currently eighth all-time in passing yards, but he will most certainly surpass 60,000, and could creep further up that list. His 374 touchdown passes are good enough for sixth all-time. Again, he’ll bypass 400 and jump a spot or two.
Critics would question his post-season play and lack thereof. But as Hall of Fame voting goes, playoffs often don’t play much of a roll. Rivers will get a gold jacket along with his ’04 Draft compatriots.
As far as Panther fans are concerns, Thomas Davis will go down as one of the franchise greats. But is he deserving of further recognition? His longevity through serious knee injuries is commendable. His off-field efforts have already been rewarded by a Walter Payton MOTY Awards, but would they contribute to his HoF credentials?
On the face of it, Davis won’t have the stats for the HoF; 1,111 tackles, 28 sacks and 13 interceptions currently. He also doesn’t have the honours, having been snubbed from the Pro Bowl on numerous occasions. He has just the three appearances and a solitary All-Pro. It would be a stretch to say Davis will make the Hall of Fame at this point.
He could retire today and it wouldn’t change his chances of getting a gold jacket. Brown has been the gold standard in wide receiver play since becoming a starter in 2011. Seven Pro Bowls, four All-Pro’s and year after year of monster stats. Although a Super Bowl eludes him, Brown has continued his high production throughout postseason games.
When it’s all said and done, he’ll be in the conversation as to who is the best to play the position behind just Jerry Rice.
Since joining the Raiders in 2015, Hudson has been one of the more consistent centers in the league. His two Pro Bowls are a testament to that.
Realistically, Hudson is a major outsider to make it to Canton. He would have to be a pivotal player in a Raiders offense that makes regular postseasons and Super Bowls. At this point, he’s no more than just a very good offensive lineman.
Ron Chenoy, USA TODAY Sports
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