US Sports Veteran
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
Khalil Mack DE- 68% YES
Oakland should and will regret trading Mack for the rest of the franchise’s history. Through just five NFL seasons, Mack has 53 sacks, 15 forced fumbles, four Pro Bowl selections, three First Team All-Pro selections, and he was the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year. Mack has checked all of the right boxes so far. If he puts up just three more high-quality seasons, I think he’ll have a good case for Canton. Of course, he’ll probably perform at this level for longer than that and might even enter first-ballot territory.
Long started his career with three straight Pro Bowl seasons. Since then he hasn’t played in more than ten games in a single season. His legacy will be of a potentially great career that was derailed by injuries.
Matthew Stafford QB- 25% NO
The woeful Lions don’t have anyone that I’d peg as a Hall of Fame player. Stafford made a Pro Bowl in 2014 and threw for over 5,000 yards in 2011, which won him Comeback Player of the Year. Those are his biggest highlights. In ten seasons, he has yet to win a playoff game. 2018 was the first time since 2010 that Stafford didn’t throw for more than 4,000 yards. 2019 will be his age 31 season.
Slay has made back to back Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro in 2017. He has eleven interceptions in the last two seasons, but his career before that doesn’t really stand out. In his first four seasons, Slay recorded a combined six interceptions. He’s only entering his age 28 season, but he’s already behind the eight-ball when it comes to career accolades.
Aaron Rodgers QB- 100% YES
I wouldn’t put him there just yet, but Rodgers is arguably a top ten quarterbacks of all-time. His late-game heroics are the stuff of legend and he’s one of the most precise passers to ever play. It helps that he was able to seamlessly replace the legendary Brett Favre in one of the best quarterback transitions any team will ever have. Rodgers has been the league MVP twice, been to seven Pro Bowls, and he won a Super Bowl. While a lot of his career totals don’t stand out amongst other great quarterbacks, his quarterback rating nearly unparalleled.
As for Graham, he’s been relatively disappointing since leaving the Saints. He does have five career Pro Bowls, a First Team All-Pro selection, and a Second Team All-Pro selection, but he hasn’t felt like an unstoppable force in years. He hasn’t been in the best tight end conversation since leaving New Orleans and he just had a horribly mediocre year in Green Bay. While he does have 611 receptions, 7,436 receiving yards, and 71 receiving touchdowns, he needs at least two more elite years before he gets near that 80% mark. It’s doable, but Graham will really have to turn back the clock for this one.
Adams has made two Pro Bowls in five seasons. He reached 1,000 yards for the first time in 2018, but he has 260 receptions, 3,268 yards, and 35 touchdowns over the last three years. It’s an impressive streak, but we’ve seen plenty of Packers receivers fall from grace. Adams only recently turned 26 though, so we’ll get to see just what he and Rodgers can do for a few years.
Harrison Smith S- 47% YES
With Earl Thomas and Eric Berry battling injuries over the past several seasons, Smith has risen to prominence. He’s a versatile, instinctive safety with good size that makes him an asset in almost any part of the defensive game. While he’s only been a First Team All-Pro once and been to just four Pro Bowls, he’s arguably deserved those accolades more often. Through seven seasons, Smith has accumulated 573 combined tackles, 20 interceptions, 46 passes defensed, and 12 sacks. The Hall of Fame doesn’t treat safeties well. Smith will be a rare exception.
Griffen has been to three Pro Bowls, but he’ll be turning 32 this coming season and he took an extended leave from football last season to deal with personal issues. The former fourth-round pick has done well, recording 66.5 sacks in nine seasons, but those aren’t numbers worthy of the Hall of Fame.
There are some overrated players in football, but none strike me as more blatantly obvious than Barr. The outside linebacker is neither a standout pass rusher nor a great run defender. He doesn’t produce the high tackle numbers like Lavonte David or Telvin Smith and he doesn’t have the sack numbers of Von Miller. So, how has he made the last four Pro Bowls? I just can’t understand it. The Associated Press hasn’t bought into the Barr hype though, considering he’s never been an All-Pro.
Rhodes seems to be up one year and down the next. He was a First Team All-Pro in 2017, but he allowed the highest completion percentage of his career when facing opponents in 2018. 2018 was also the first season Rhodes recorded less than ten passes defensed. With his inconsistent play and ten interceptions over six seasons, it’s hard to see Rhodes making the Hall of Fame.
While Thielen is more consistent than Rhodes, he was a late bloomer. The 2013 undrafted free agent didn’t see his first action until 2014 and didn’t become a star until 2017. He’s now put together two consecutive Pro Bowl seasons, but he lacks the quick start most other stars had. With a Second Team All-Pro selection as his only other major accolade, Thielen will have to become a superstar over the next few years if he wants to glimpse Canton.
Besides Smith, Hunter has the most promise of any other player on the Vikings. Maybe Stefon Diggs should be in that conversation, but I’ll wait until he makes his first Pro Bowl. In the meantime, Hunter has developed into a stud defensive end. After four seasons in the NFL, Hunter has 40 sacks and 206 combined tackles. He didn’t become a full-time starter until 2017 and, even with Griffen absent for a good part of the season, Hunter had his best year in 2018. He posted 14.5 sacks and 72 combined tackles which earned him a spot as a Second Team All-Pro. Hunter is only entering his age 25 season, so he’ll be around for a long time.
Joseph is another member of that ridiculous 2010 rookie defensive tackle class. He won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2011 and has worked to build up his body of work over the years. So far, his best years came in 2016 and 2017, and he made the Pro Bowl in both instances. Joseph acts more like a space eater than a sack artist, sort of like a nose tackle. That’s part of the reason why he hasn’t earned more recognition throughout his career.
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 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 Adrian 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 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.
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