US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 08/24/2020
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
The AFC North only produced one playoff participant in 2019, but the division featured several of the NFL’s best teams earlier this decade. The remnants of those squads, and some new additions, create a handful of impressive Hall of Fame cases. In this article, we’ll examine which players from the AFC North deserve the greatest individual honor a football player can receive.
Every player with a relevant Hall of Fame case appears under his team. If a player doesn’t appear, he has no case or not enough accolades to register a percentage over ten. The percentages represent accrued achievements. This means a player’s percentage rises over time as he wins awards and accumulates statistics.
Even superstar players who are still on their rookie contracts usually have low percentages. However, that doesn’t mean I think they’ll all miss the Hall of Fame. Next to each percentage is an additional designation that says either YES, NO, or MAYBE. These are my ultimate determinations on whether or not a player will get enshrined in Canton.
Only a few cases received the MAYBE designation. It goes to players who find themselves stuck in a middle ground with good arguments for and against enshrinement. They could go either way but already have a strong foundation to build on.
Keep in mind that the Hall of Fame is highly selective. This process aims only to allow a few elite players in, but I still make some controversial predictions for younger players with huge upside.
The AFC North currently features six players who will receive gold jackets when they retire. The division also includes four MAYBE cases where players could make the hall if they finish their careers strong.
Earl Thomas FS – 90% YES
Thomas made a name for himself as the X-factor in the legendary Legion of Boom secondary. During his nine seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Thomas amassed six Pro Bowls, three consecutive First-Team All-Pro selections, and two Second-Team All-Pro nods.
Thomas was headed towards another All-Pro campaign in 2018 when he suffered a season-ending fractured leg. The Texas product joined Baltimore last year and earned his seventh Pro Bowl. Thomas intercepted the 29th and 30th passes of his career last season.
If Campbell maintained his current pace for another three or four years, he’d be closing in on the 85% threshold. Unfortunately, the 6-8 defensive end is already 33 years old. With 88 sacks, five Pro Bowls, three total All-Pro selections, and a 2010s All-Decade Team spot behind him, Campbell has a dark horse Hall of Fame candidacy. However, he doesn’t stack up well to this generation’s best edge rushers.
Peters is hard to get a read on. The 27-year-old already has 27 interceptions, 77 passes defensed, seven defensive touchdowns, and two First-Team All-Pro selections. Peters also received Second-Team All-Pro honors as a rookie. The only issue is his extreme inconsistency. While Peters was a top-five cornerback in 2016 and 2019, he was a liability in 2017 and 2018.
Morten Andersen gained admission into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the class of 2017. At the time, he was the league’s all-time leading scorer. Since then, Adam Vinatieri broke the record, and he seems destined for Canton as well.
Of the active special teams players in the NFL, only Tucker has a realistic shot at receiving a gold jacket. The 30-year-old kicker is only eight years into his career, which means he’s far from setting any scoring records. For reference, Anderson played for 25 years. Vinatieri played for 24 and still isn’t retired. However, Tucker is a four-time First-Team All-Pro and owns the career record for field goal percentage (90.75%).
Winning the MVP automatically vaults Jackson to the MAYBE category. The former Heisman Trophy winner is stuck here until he proves his record-setting play is sustainable. In his two seasons, Jackson is 19-3 as a starter in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. He’s an incredibly electric player with a bright future.
Ingram should go down in history as a quality running back, but he isn’t Hall of Fame material. The Alabama product has 7,025 rushing yards and 60 rushing touchdowns in nine seasons. He’s made three Pro Bowls but hasn’t ever averaged over 75 rushing yards per game in a single season.
Stanley made himself very rich last season. The former sixth overall pick is entering a contract year, and he’s coming off a First-Team All-Pro selection from 2019. Stanley became one of the league’s best pass-blocking tackles and held his own in the running game last season. No one has filled Joe Thomas’ shoes since he retired. Perhaps Stanley is the NFL’s next great left tackle.
Humphrey only started 13 games during his first two seasons, but the Louisville product came alive in 2019. He intercepted three passes, broke up another 14, and scored two touchdowns on fumble recoveries. The 24-year-old received First-Team All-Pro honors as a defensive back for his contributions.
Geno Atkins DT – 87% YES
While Atkins made his eighth Pro Bowl last year, the 32-year-old began showing signs of decline. Outside of Aaron Donald, Atkins has the best Hall of Fame case of any defensive tackle in the NFL. He has 75.5 sacks, two First-Team All-Pro selections, and a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2010s All-Decade Team.
Green opened his career with seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. However, he only earned two Second-Team All-Pro selections during that time. Green decided not to play in 2019 after suffering an injury, and he only made nine appearances in 2018. That leaves the 32-year-old with 8,907 receiving yards nine years into his career. At one point, I thought the Hall of Fame was within Green’s reach, but it’s getting farther away by the day.
He isn’t the most versatile back, but Mixon stands out amongst his teammates. Despite dealing with poor quarterback play and a horrendous offensive line, Mixon averaged over 100 rushing yards per game in the final eight weeks last year. He’s a top-ten running back but hasn’t put together a signature campaign yet.
Odell Beckham WR – 43% NO
Beckham could be the most talented wide receiver in the world, but he hasn’t lived up to the lofty standards he set during his first three seasons. Beckham opened his career with three consecutive Pro Bowls and received two Second-Team All-Pro selections. He amassed 288 receptions, 4,122 yards, and 35 touchdowns during that time.
Since the start of 2017, Beckham only has 176 receptions for 2,389 yards and 13 touchdowns. His status as an elite receiver is up in the air. Beckham needs at least another 6,000 receiving yards and multiple First-Team All-Pro selections if he even wants a shot at the Hall of Fame.
Landry isn’t far behind his former LSU teammate. The 27-year-old has 564 receptions, 6,188 yards, and 32 touchdowns over his first six seasons. Landry made the last five Pro Bowls, but he’s never been an All-Pro. All-Pro selections are crucial in the Hall of Fame voting process. Without them, a player doesn’t stand a chance at gaining entrance to Canton.
Bitonio joined the Browns as a second-round pick in 2014. He remained unacknowledged for several years, but the Nevada product recently began gaining a national following. He’s made the last two Pro Bowls and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors in 2018 and 2019.
Along with the Bosa brothers and Danielle Hunter, Garrett is a part of the next generation of great defensive ends. The former first overall pick made 30.5 sacks through his first three seasons, but he’s missed a lot of time. If Garrett can stay healthy and out of trouble, he’ll become a perennial Pro Bowler and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Ben Roethlisberger QB – 92% YES
Big Ben can’t stand toe-to-toe with Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but he’s a two-time Super Bowl champion with six Pro Bowls to his name. Roethlisberger has an impressive 144-71-1 regular season record as a starter and two passing yardage titles. He’s in the top-ten all-time for completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns, and Roethlisberger is the best quarterback from the legendary 2004 draft class.
If not for two seasons almost lost entirely to injuries early in his career, Pouncey could be closer to the 80% range. The 31-year-old Florida product has eight Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pro selections, three Second-Team All-Pro nods, and a spot on the 2010s All-Decade team to his name. However, Jason Kelce’s recent dominance of the center position is pushing Pouncey farther from the limelight.
Center Kevin Mawae entered the Hall of Fame in 2019 with eight Pro Bowls, three First-Team All-Pro selections, and four Second-Team All-Pro selections. Those are Pouncey’s targets if he wants a significantly better shot at joining the all-time greats.
Aaron Donald is the only defensive tackle that outperformed Heyward over the past three years. Since the start of 2017, Heyward has three Pro Bowl nods and received First-Team All-Pro honors twice. Unfortunately, he’s already 31 years old, and the Ohio St. product didn’t win any noteworthy awards during his first six seasons. It would take another three or four years of elite production before Heyward could even enter the Hall of Fame discussion.
Early in DeCastro’s career, Steelers fans believed they were witnessing the next great Pittsburgh lineman. There was a lot of hope that DeCastro would make the Hall of Fame, especially after he earned All-Pro honors in three consecutive seasons (2015-2017). However, DeCastro hasn’t made an All-Pro team in several years, and he’s already 30.
If Alan Faneca, who has a Super Bowl, nine Pro Bowls, and eight total All-Pro selections, isn’t in the Hall of Fame yet, then DeCastro is years away from even competing for a gold jacket.
The NFL loves sack artists, especially dynamic ones like Watt. During his first three seasons, the younger Watt amassed 34.5 sacks and 15 forced fumbles. He’s made the last two Pro Bowls and earned a First-Team All-Pro spot last year. It’s still early, but the 25-year-old looks immensely promising. If he follows his older brother’s track to stardom (minus the injuries), two Watts could find themselves in Canton.
Fitzpatrick got off to a hot start. The Alabama product requested a trade from Miami last season and found himself in the Steel City. Fitzpatrick quickly bonded with his fellow defensive backs and helped complete one of the league’s most dominant defenses. He made the Pro Bowl and received a First-Team All-Pro nod. However, the league already features plenty of talented safeties and the Hall of Fame doesn’t treat the position kindly.
Haden won’t make the Hall of Fame unless he experiences a miraculous late-career breakout. The 31-year-old cornerback made his third Pro Bowl in 2019 and recorded his 27th interception.