US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 07/03/2019
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
I tried to include as many players worthy of consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame as possible. Because of the sheer number of players in the NFL, you won’t see all of the young players who could register a percentage. If you don’t see a veteran appear on this list, chances are it’s because I don’t believe they are worthy of consideration for the Hall of Fame. I took most players with any kind of accolades, so there won’t be many cases of veterans being left out and I don’t think any of them will be controversial.
Players are ranked by the percent chances they have of making the Hall of Fame as of right now, the percentages do not reflect potential future progress. This is based on production, accolades, and how players are viewed by the NFL community in relation to their peers. I also factored in individual statistical accomplishments. So, a sixth-year player might have a low percentage, but that could just be because they haven’t had the time to build up a full resume yet. This is subjective and the percentages have been generated from the categories I listed above. I have tried to remain consistent throughout my judgments. To clear things up a little, I have also included a “YES” or “NO” next to every listed percentage. If the player has a “YES”, then I believe they will be enshrined in Canton one day. “NO” obviously means I don’t see the player making the Hall of Fame.
To help you get a better grasp of what the percentages mean, there’s a key down below. There will be a few interesting cases where a player will bend the rules of the key and have a low percentage but receive a “YES”. These are exceptional cases usually with high production but few accolades or low production but many accolades. Essentially, they are underrated or overrated players. There are also some instances where a player is too young to be a valid candidate for the Hall of Fame, but I expect they will get there with future success.
All players are listed on the teams they will be a part of in 2019, and I am including players who have retired since the end of the season. This section, along with a one including current free agents, will appear in every article of this series. No rookies will appear on this list since they haven’t fully established baselines for production and only have one season officially completed. Second-year players like Saquon Barkley, Darius Leonard, Derwin James, Baker Mayfield, and Bradley Chubb would register some percentage, but that number would be so unstable that I don’t want to even include it. Therefore, the youngest players that will appear have at least two seasons under their belts.
90-100% = Guaranteed Hall of Famer
85-89% = Should be in the Hall of Fame
80-84% = Long wait but should get in
70-79% = Tossups, cases need a little more work
65-69% = Best players who won’t make the Hall/ Players with rare talent still building cases
50-64% = Great players, not enough stats or accolades for serious consideration
40-49% = A few Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections
30-39% = Some sustained success at a Pro Bowl level
20-29% = Rare Pro Bowl or All-Pro selections
0-19% = High peak for short time/ Long career with minor accolades/ Young players
Jason Witten TE- 100% YES
Witten has come out of retirement to resume his career with the Cowboys, good thing too because his broadcasting career was going nowhere. All jokes aside, Witten is in the same class of tight ends as Antonio Gates and will surely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Through 15 seasons, Witten recorded 1,152 receptions, 12,448 receiving yards, and 68 receiving touchdowns. He made 11 Pro Bowls, two First All-Pro Teams, two Second All-Pro Teams, and was the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012.
The Cowboys have three very good offensive linemen on their roster right now. Smith is the most experienced of the trio, having entered the league back in 2011. The left tackle has made every Pro Bowl since 2013, giving him six total, and he’s also made two First and two Second All-Pro Teams. He’s dealt with injuries and declining play lately and will need to maintain his high level of play for at least two to four more years to have a shot at the Hall.
Martin has been the best guard in the NFL since entering the league in 2014. He has yet to miss a Pro Bowl in his five-year career and has also made three First All-Pro Teams along with two Second All-Pro Teams. Martin is already 28 years old, the same as Smith, which puts him at a bit of a disadvantage. However, Martin has already cemented himself as one of the best linemen of this era, which will help his case.
Elliott is a member of the elite group of running backs in the NFL today. He’s led the league in rushing yards per game in each of his three seasons in the NFL and also led the league in rushing in 2016 and 2018. He would have had a shot at leading the league in 2017 but he was suspended for six games. Through just three years, Elliott has accumulated 868 carries, 4,048 rushing yards, 28 rushing touchdowns, and 5,247 yards from scrimmage. He has been to two Pro Bowls and has made one First and one Second All-Pro Team. It will be interesting to see how Elliott plays a couple of years from now considering all of the touches he’s racked up so far, but if he can play for another six to eight years I don’t see anything, barring a complete meltdown, that can stop him from making the Hall of Fame.
I know I’m going out of order, but I wanted to address Frederick now since I’m talking about the other offensive linemen. Frederick missed all of 2018 while fighting an illness known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. Before that though, the center was on a hot streak. He made the Pro Bowl in four straight years and was a First Team All-Pro in 2016. He also made two Second All-Pro Teams during those years. We’ll see if the now 28-year-old can return to his dominant form.
Cooper was almost nonexistent with the Raiders in 2017 and 2018, but he resurrected his 2018 season when he was traded to the Cowboys. Cooper made the Pro Bowl in 2015, 2016, and 2018, but he has yet to make an All-Pro team. He’ll only be turning 25 in 2019, but he’s been overshadowed by the true top tier receivers in the league so far.
After an up and down first three years in the league, Lawrence has made the last two Pro Bowls and he was even a Second Team All-Pro in 2017. While he is an excellent run defender and has 25 sacks combined in the last two seasons, he just can’t compete with players like J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack. At age 27, Lawrence is too far behind and too buried under other talented defenders to have a shot at the Hall.
Eli Manning QB- 78% YES
I put off writing about Manning just because of how controversial his Hall of Fame case is. I’m not really in either camp on this one, but I’ve come armed with facts for both sides. Through 15 seasons, Manning has been to four Pro Bowls and has never been an All-Pro. He’s led the league in interceptions on three separate occasions and his 116-114 record as a starter is dangerously close to .500.
I guess all of that sounds pretty bad. However, Manning has two Super Bowls wins and was the MVP in both games. We all know that Super Bowls can be overrated when it comes to analyzing quarterbacks, but Manning does get extra credit for beating Tom Brady twice. Manning is also at least eighth in the three major categories (completions, yards, and touchdowns) for quarterbacks. Nobody above Manning in any of these categories isn’t already in or on their way to the Hall of Fame, and I think that’s important.
Do voters really want to set the statistical precedent for what constitutes a Hall of Fame quarterback in the new era? I’m willing to bet they don’t and won’t. I think Manning gets in after waiting for many, many years. If he doesn’t get in, he’ll become the new Drew Bledsoe; he’ll be the guy with stats and merit, but just not enough to warrant football immortality.
Jason Peters OT- 85% YES
The biggest roadblock between Peters and Canton might be former Browns left tackle Joe Thomas. In eleven seasons, Thomas went to ten Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro six times. In comparison, through fifteen seasons Peters has been to nine Pro Bowls and made two First All-Pro Teams. Besides being overshadowed by his Cleveland counterpart, Peters has another disadvantage. Recent Hall of Fame left tackles like Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden both have more Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro selections than Peters. While I think Peters should make the Hall of Fame, he could have a very long wait ahead of him.
Jackson is an interesting case where his Hall of Fame probability outdoes his career accolades. The speedy receiver has only been to three Pro Bowls and has only made one Second All-Pro Team, and I’ve given him an abnormally high rating for those accolades. What the rewards don’t tell you though is how successful Jackson has been as a deep threat and homerun hitter. He has five 1,000-yard receiving years, over 10,000 career receiving yards, four years where he led the league in yards per reception, and over 12,000 all-purpose yards. While I don’t see Jackson making the Hall since he wasn’t a top receiver in the league for an extended period of time, I still think he’ll be one of the better players to not make Canton.
Cox is hitting his peak. He’s made four consecutive Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro in 2018 after being a Second Team All-Pro three other times in his career. While his accolades are impressive, I’m not sure he can compare to the longevity of Geno Atkins or the peaks of Ndamukong Suh. It will come down to how long the 28-year-old will be able to maintain his All-Pro form, but Cox’s Canton candidacy is a tossup right now.
Kelce has been snubbed from the Pro Bowl the last two seasons, but he’s still been selected as a First Team All-Pro both times. Unfortunately, this is a case of too little too late. Kelce is under contract through 2021, but he was talking about retirement as recently as this offseason. With only two Pro Bowls, two First Team All-Pro selections, and a Super Bowl to his name, Kelce falls far short of the eight Pro Bowls and three First Team All-Pro selections that Kevin Mawae, who was just voted into the Hall of Fame, racked up.
Ertz has made two Pro Bowls and has posted four consecutive seasons of 800 receiving yards or more, but I’m not sure how he’ll project moving forward. He’s never been an All-Pro, and just when Rob Gronkowski was declining, George Kittle has emerged as a challenger for Travis Kelce. Ertz will continue to make Pro Bowls moving forward, but he may only be the third-best tight end in the league.
Jenkins will fall very short of Canton, but he did put together a very nice career. The hybrid defensive back has nearly 800 combined tackles, 17 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles, three Pro Bowls, a Second Team All-Pro selection, and two Super Bowl victories. That’s a good career, but it’s not enough to earn a golden jacket.
Adrian Peterson RB- 100% YES
Peterson is the face of a generation of running. He’s one of the last work-horse, trucking, fierce runners in the game. The former MVP broke into the top ten in career rushing yards in 2018 and crossed the 100 rushing touchdown threshold. He’s been to seven Pro Bowls, made four First All-Pro Teams, three Second All-Pro Teams, and he has one of the most historic seasons by a running back in history. Assuming there’s no further off the field issues, Peterson should be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
While the Redskins offensive line as a whole has struggled, Williams has done his best to be a steady rock for the team. Despite injuries, Williams has made seven consecutive Pro Bowls at left tackle. Surprisingly, he’s only made one Second All-Pro Team during his career, but that’s just about the only knock you can make against him. It will be hard to make the Hall of Fame with so few All-Pro selections, but if Williams can make three or four more Pro Bowls it will be really hard to keep him out.
Kerrigan is one of my favorite dark horse Hall of Fame candidates. He often gets overlooked because of the success of his fellow 2011 pass rushing draft-mates, but Kerrigan is putting together a nice career. He’s made four Pro Bowls, including the last three, and has 84.5 sacks in his career, meaning he averages just over ten a season. Because of players like Justin Houston and Von Miller, Kerrigan has never been an All-Pro. Kerrigan’s case for Canton will come down to how many sacks he finishes with. If he can get to that 120-130 range, he’ll have a chance.
Davis will likely get overlooked in the grand scheme of tight ends the same way players like Dallas Clark and Heath Miller have been. While Davis had some fantastic years where he looked unstoppable, he only made two Pro Bowls and one Second All-Pro Team. He does have 573 receptions, 7,439 receiving yards, 62 receiving touchdowns, and a Super Bowl ring. Those numbers might compare well to someone like Greg Olsen, but they can’t touch the Gates’ or Witten’s of the world. Yes, you might be able to put them up against Gronk’s numbers, but we all know he’s an exception.
In his four seasons, Collins made three Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro in 2016. While he has 437 combined tackles during that time, he only recorded eight interceptions. Those kinds of safeties don’t usually do well in the voting process, just ask John Lynch. Collins will have to more than double his numbers and accolades to make the Hall, but he’s only 25 so he has a decade or so to improve his resume.
One of the biggest issues with the Redskins offensive line recently is that Scherff can’t stay healthy. Through four seasons, the right guard has made two Pro Bowls, but he only started eight games in 2018 because of injuries. It would be a shame if his career went the way of Kyle Long’s and was constantly hindered by injuries.
Antonio Gates TE- 100% YES
Gates holds to record for the most receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history. He also ranks third all-time in receptions and receiving yards at his position. Gates has ten seasons with 700 receiving yards or more, making him at least a top-five tight end of all-time and one of the most dominant players in NFL history. He has 955 receptions, 11,841 receiving yards, and 116 receiving touchdowns.
Eric Berry S- 83% YES
Berry has played just three regular-season games over the last two seasons. His recent injuries are just the latest in a long list that have plagued the Tennessee product throughout his career. The most famous ailment was when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in 2014. Berry beat cancer just in time to come back for the 2015 season, winning Comeback Player of the Year, and making a First All-Pro Team. Throughout his career, the long-time Chief has made five Pro Bowls and three First All-Pro Teams. Berry and Earl Thomas are the best safeties in the post-Ed Reed/Troy Polamalu era.
Brandon Marshall WR- 74% NO
Marshall hasn’t hung up his cleats yet, but the end must be near. He saw action in seven games in 2018 but averaged less than 20 yards per game. I hope that’s not how Marshall is remembered though. At one point, Marshall was one of the most elite wide receivers in the entire league. He has eight seasons with over 1,000 receiving yards and six seasons with 100 or more receptions, which statistically ranks among some of the game’s greats. However, his numbers are along the borderline of great and all-time great. He’s 16th all-time in receptions and 22nd in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He also has six Pro Bowls, one First Team All-Pro selection, and one Second Team All-Pro selection. I don’t think Marshall will make the Hall of Fame. Consider how players like Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are still waiting for induction, and Anquan Boldin, Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith Sr., and Reggie Wayne are coming down the pipe. Marshall will be left on the outside looking in.
Kam Chancellor S- 60% NO
Chancellor still hasn’t technically retired even though he hasn’t played in a game since 2017. The former enforcer of the Legion of Boom suffered a career-ending neck injury in 2017 but remained on the Seahawks roster until recently. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time Second Team All-Pro, Chancellor was one of the fiercest hitters in recent history. He really was like a linebacker playing safety. He’s a dark-horse Hall of Fame candidate. Being a part of the Legion of Boom could really help his case.
Brent Grimes CB- 27% NO
Even at age 35, Grimes still carries around the chip of being undrafted. Optimus Grimes has made four Pro Bowls in his career and racked up 33 interceptions, but he didn’t post an interception in 2018. The only other times he hasn’t recorded an interception in a season were in 2012 when he played just one game because of an injury, and 2007 when he appeared in just two games as a rookie. Grimes was a Second Team All-Pro in 2014.
Doug Baldwin WR- 18% NO
Speaking of having a chip on your shoulder, Baldwin, like Grimes, was an undrafted free agent determined to make the league acknowledge its’ mistake in not drafting him. Through eight seasons, Baldwin made two Pro Bowls, recorded 6,563 receiving yards, and led the league in receiving touchdowns once. Unfortunately, the Seahawks cut him after it was revealed he might never play again because of injuries.
Julius Peppers DE- 100% YES
Peppers has the fourth most sacks of all-time. He’s easily a first ballot Hall of Famer and no one will question it when he walks into Canton. It’s still hard to believe he recorded 11 sacks at 37 years old. Peppers finishes his career with 159.5 sacks, over 700 combined tackles, 51 forced fumbles, nine Pro Bowls, three First Team All-Pro selections, and three Second Team All-Pro selections. It’s sad to see one of the all-time greats walk away from the game.
Rob Gronkowski TE- 100% YES
Gronkowski, when healthy, was the most dominant tight end in the game since the unfathomable Tony Gonzalez. Gronkowski could have hit heights we’ve never seen before by a tight end if he wasn’t injured so often. His physical dominance makes him nearly unstoppable at points, but it’s also why he’s hurt so often. In his nine seasons, Gronk has made five Pro Bowls and made four First All-Pro Teams. He was also the 2014 Comeback Player of the Year. He finished his career with 521 receptions, 7,861 receiving yards, and 79 receiving touchdowns. He’s only set to turn 30 this year.
Marshawn Lynch RB- 100% YES
I thought Lynch had done enough to make the Hall of Fame when he retired after the 2015 season. He only solidified his candidacy by returning to the Gridiron and surpassing the 10,000-yard rushing mark. Lynch did miss most of 2018 with an injury, but he was averaging 62.7 rushing yards per game before going down. That would translate to just over 1,000 yards if he played in all 16 games. 2019 will be Lynch’s age 33 season, but I’d bet he still has some Beast Mode left in him.
Shane Lechler P- 77% NO
How does a punter finish with a 77% chance to make the Hall of Fame? Let me explain. While I don’t see Lechler making the Hall of Fame, he’ll be just the second full-time punter to garner serious consideration. The first was Ray Guy. In his 18-year career, Lechler made seven Pro Bowls (all with the Oakland Raiders), was a member of six First All-Pro Teams, and was on three Second All-Pro Teams as well. He was also selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame First Team All-2000s Team. He led the league in yards per punt five times and finished first in total punt yards four times. In comparison, Guy played 14 seasons, all with the Raiders, and he made three First All-Pro Teams and led the league in yards per punt three times. Guy is the best punter of all-time and is in the Hall of Fame. What does that say about Lechler?
Jamaal Charles RB- 72% NO
I think it’s too often overlooked that Charles was once challenging Peterson for Pro Bowl and All-Pro bids. He was on that level before injuries stole what looked like a blossoming Hall of Fame career. The star running back missed most of 2011, 2015, and 2016 with injuries. He was a seldom-used backup in 2017 and 2018. Before the fall though, Charles had five 1,000-yard rushing seasons. His yards per carry average was one of the best marks of all-time. He was also a strong pass catcher, recording seven receiving touchdowns in 2013. Even with the injuries and setbacks, Charles still managed to record 10,156 yards from scrimmage in his career. He made four Pro Bowls, was a two-time First Team All-Pro, and a one-time Second Team All-Pro. Among qualified players, Charles’ 5.4 rushing yards per carry trail only Randall Cunningham (6.4), Marion Motley (5.7), and Michael Vick (7.0) on the all-time list.
Haloti Ngata DT- 66% NO
Ngata played football with a style that is dying out in the modern game. While he was listed as a defensive tackle, Ngata ate up space like a nose tackle, which created room for Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs to operate in. The long-time Baltimore Raven finished his career with 515 combined tackles, 32.5 sacks, and 37 passes defensed. He won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, went to five Pro Bowls, was voted to two First All-Pro Teams, and also made three Second All-Pro Teams. Ngata’s numbers will never jump off of the page, it takes a deeper look to see the impact he made during his career.
Ryan Kalil C- 56% NO
Kalil has made five Pro Bowls and been named to two First All-Pro Teams. That’s praiseworthy, but I don’t believe it will be anywhere near enough. Just jump up to the Atlanta Falcons section and see what I had to say about Alex Mack. Offensive linemen really do get the short end of the stick when it comes to the Hall of Fame.
Kyle Williams DT- 52% NO
Williams retired after the 2018 season. He had a great 13-year career with the Bills, racking up over 600 combined tackles and 48.5 sacks. He made the Pro Bowl in his final season, giving him six total. While he was consistent and frequently recognized for his skill, he only made one Second All-Pro Team (2010) and that doesn’t warrant Hall of Fame consideration.
Brian Orakpo LB- 31% NO
While he had a nice career, some of Orakpo’s prime years were sapped by injuries. He recorded seven sacks or more seven times in his career and finished with a grand total of 66. Unfortunately, Orakpo played just nine combined games in 2012 and 2014. He went to four Pro Bowls and never made an All-Pro team.
Max Unger C- 27% NO
Unger’s retirement was a surprise. He made the Pro Bowl in 2018 for the first time since 2013 and is a key reason for why the New Orleans Saints offensive line has improved so much recently. In total, Unger went to three Pro Bowls, was a First Team All-Pro in 2012, and won a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks.