Potential Hall of Fame Candidates - AFC Part Two
By Alex Wiliams
Which current players could be heading for the Hall of Fame?
This is Part Two of the AFC edition look at which current players might be candidates to make the Hall of Fame in the future, you can find Part One here.
As stated in Part One, each team has been whittled down to two players, who have been categorised on their Hall of Fame 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.
He was a cornerstone for one of the greatest defenses of all time. Looking at the Legion of Boom, three of them will go to Canton. Thomas will be one of them. Since entering the league, he’s been the standard that safeties adhere to. His field awareness and speed are elite. A concern going forward is his recent injuries. He hasn’t completed a full season since 2015.
However, if he stays healthy he will surely join a recent Ravens safety inductee, Ed Reed. His personal honours are already HoF worthy; 6 Pro Bowls, 3 All-Pros and a Super Bowl ring.
A longtime Ravens great. Yanda has consistently been one of the best offensive linemen throughout his career. What is even more impressive is Yanda has played in multiple positions on the line. RG, LG, and RT.
He’s been one of the toughest guards to ever play for the Ravens and his accolades make nice viewing; 7 Pro Bowls, 2 All-Pro’s and a Super Bowl ring. That being said, Yanda plays at a position that rarely finds itself in Canton. The last guard inducted was Jerry Kramer, in the 2018 class. He retired in 1968.
Much like Antonio Brown, it seems Green will be destined for Canton. Depending on your opinions of Andy Dalton, Green has never had an elite quarterback. However, he has put up elite numbers. He also doesn’t garner the same attention of the likes of Brown or Julio Jones.
Some injury concerns in recent years could derail his career, but if he overcomes them, he’s a lock for Canton. 7 Pro Bowls out of 8 seasons (due to injury) and 8,907 yards along with 63 touchdowns. Green also has a career yard per reception of 14.8, which is insane for someone who has played 8 seasons.
In a similar fashion to Green, Atkins is often overlooked to the more flashier players at his position. As an interior defensive lineman, he’s been one of the league’s best pass rushers this decade.
2 All-Pro seasons of 12.5 and 11 sacks show the dominance of Atkins. Furthermore, there’s little sign of him slowing down, with 10 sacks in 2018.
Okay, so he’s not quite a lock right now. However, if he elevates his game from his time in New York to Cleveland, then he’s right on track. Let’s not forget he now as a quarterback the right side of 30.
Yes, he has health issues. When healthy, he’s one of the leagues best. In each of his first three seasons in the NFL, he eclipsed 1,300 receiving yards. He also grabbed at least 10 touchdowns each of those seasons too. The thought of him and Mayfield for the next decade is salivating. It’s also a potential HoF worthy duo.
I nearly wrote Mayfield, but Garrett has a better claim. Albeit a brittle claim. 20.5 sacks through his first two seasons have Garrett on the right tracks, but it’s too early to say whether he’s Canton bound. That being said, he has the size, the athleticism, the technique, to be a truly great pass rusher.
His Pro Bowl vote in 2018 is a testament to his ability right now. A few seasons of high teen sacks and he’ll certainly ask the question of Canton
There’s plenty of question marks off the field. But his on-field antics have Big Ben straight in the Hall of Fame. Similar to Rivers, Roethlisberger’s numbers will set him firmly in the top 10 for passing yards and touchdowns (56,194 and 363 currently).
A 6 time Pro Bowler, along with 2 rings, Ben has the honours. He also has been clutch in postseason. Big Ben becomes the third QB on the list to make it to Ohio.
The Steelers offensive line has been outstanding for many years. DeCastro has been a big part of that. It was a toss-up between him and Maurkice Pouncey, but DeCastro gets my vote.
The last four seasons have seen DeCastro dominant at the guard position. So much so he’s earned 4 straight Pro Bowls and 2 All-Pro selections. Still being only 29, DeCastro only needs to carry on this dominance and he’ll be a lock for a gold jacket.
Honourable mention: Maurkice Pouncey
One of the more easier selections. There are only 2 players in NFL history of have 3 Defensive Player of the Year awards. One is considered the greatest defensive player of all time, Lawrence Taylor. The other is J.J.Watt.
5 Pro Bowls, 5 All-Pros. 2 seasons of 20+ sacks. Even a 2-year injury-riddled stretch couldn’t derail his career. He notched 16 sacks in his comeback season of 2018. He’ll go down as one of the most dominant players of all-time.
Spent most of his short career in the shadow of Brown/Beckham et al. That changed in 2017 through 2018 as he staked his claim as the leagues best receiver. He went 1,378 and 13 touchdowns and followed that with 1,572 and 11. This earned him his second and third Pro Bowls and also 2 All-Pros.
Age is also on Hopkins side. At just 2 months over 27, there’s plenty more to come from Nuk.
The Iceman will become the third kicker in history to go in the Hall. The dude is 46 years young and still hitting over 80% of his field goals. Not to mention nailing 4 from 50+ yards in 2018. Crazy stuff.
He’s hit some of greatest post-season kicks of all time. Two game-winning Super Bowl shots for a start. Need I say much more? How about 4 rings.
The only question that remains is, will he go in as a Patriot or Colt?
He has to be considered a longshot at this point. He’s been an elite quarterback when healthy and a durable offensive line. The question is if he can sustain season upon season of elite play. 2018 was one of his best years and with weapons around him and a solid offensive line, Luck is set up for a few seasons of dominance.
Luck hasn’t exactly shined in the post-season, but his sample size is limited. The Colts need some deep playoff seasons for Luck to sustain a Canton claim.
Like a fine wine, Campbell has aged majestically. He’s vastly improved over the second half of his 9-year career. His two seasons in Jacksonville have yielded 25 sacks, earning 2 Pro Bowls and an All-Pro.
As far as Canton goes, Campbell is still a way off. His 81.5 sacks are impressive, but are they Hall of Fame worthy? Although he’s aged well, Campbell will be 33 when the season starts, so who knows how many stat-packed years he’ll have.
There’s no doubt the start of his career has been in line with previous HoF cornerbacks. He’s been one of, if not the leagues best cornerback since his rookie season. Ramsey also has the personality and definitely the ego to stay atop the league as the cornerback elites.
On the other hand, Ramsey is 24. Give me another decade of dominating play and Ramsey will find his way to Canton.
A late bloomer in the NFL, Wake didn’t play his first snap until his was 27. That being said, he’s currently closing in on 100 career sacks. At the age of 37. Impressive stuff.
He has 5 Pro Bowls and 1 All-Pro in his 10-year career. Only the single playoff appearance puts him at a slight disadvantage, but it shouldn’t hamper his chances of getting a gold jacket. His story of starting in the CFL only helps his cause.
Casey would have to have an unbelievable second half of his career to make the Hall of Fame. Four straight Pro Bowls is a good start though. The DT has quietly become one of the league’s better interior rushers.
He currently sits on 46 sacks for his career, but a couple of productive seasons could see that number shoot up. Like Wake, his playoff career is vastly limited. That doesn’t look to improve much in the coming years. Ultimately, I feel he’ll fall short of the Hall, and into that good but not great area.
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