US Sports Veteran
While the NFC South doesn’t have any historically successful teams, the division is overflowing with talent. The South already features four future first-ballot Hall of Fame players, including two of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. The division also produces more than its fair share of Pro Bowlers annually, which could lead to more intriguing Hall of Fame cases down the road. The NFC South is teeming with more superstars than the NFC North, which we covered last week.
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 tremendous upside.
Ten players from the NFC South recorded at least a 50% chance of making the Hall of Fame, which is by far the most of any division we’ve covered in this series. However, most of those stars could retire without winning a Super Bowl in the South.
Julio Jones WR – 95% YES
Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, Jones has the best Hall of Fame résumé for an active wide receiver. The seven-time Pro Bowler is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2010s All-Decade Team, has five total All-Pro selections, and averaged 96.2 yards per game in his first nine seasons. That’s true dominance.
Ryan’s entire Hall of Fame case revolves around his 2016 MVP season. Unlike Ben Roethlisberger, who has two Super Bowl rings to carry his résumé, Ryan doesn’t have a title. At 35 years old, he only has four Pro Bowl selections but already ranks ninth all-time in completions and passing yards and eleventh in passing touchdowns. Ryan’s career is a mixed bag that falls short of Hall of Fame status.
A once promising career is grinding to a halt. Gurley earned back-to-back First-Team All-Pro selections in 2017 and 2018, but wear and tear are dragging the former Offensive Player of the Year into mediocrity. During his five seasons with the Rams, Gurley amassed 7,494 yards from scrimmage and 70 total touchdowns.
Short of Jason Kelce and Maurkice Pouncey, Mack is the best center of the past decade. He made six Pro Bowls and earned a spot on the 2010s All-Decade team. Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is tough on offensive linemen, and Mack’s three Second-Team All-Pro selections aren’t enough for a gold jacket.
Jarrett is one of the NFL’s best defensive tackles, but it took him five years to make the Pro Bowl and earn a Second-Team All-Pro nod. Playing in the NFL simultaneously with DeForest Buckner, Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, Cameron Heyward, and Chris Jones reveals Jarrett’s shortcomings.
In 2017, Atlanta’s future looked bright with Jones and Keanu Neal making their first Pro Bowls. However, injuries derailed Neal’s career, and Jones only played six games in 2018. He’s still a great linebacker but not an All-Pro.
Christian McCaffrey RB – 34% MAYBE
Missing a significant chunk of the 2020 season dropped McCaffrey’s odds, which I originally placed around 40%. Once a running back, especially one that touches the ball as many times as McCaffrey, starts getting injured, things can snowball quickly. That fear shouldn’t overshadow McCaffrey’s accomplishments from last season.
In 2019, McCaffrey broke his own record for receptions in a season by a running back and became the third player in history with 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same year. In his first three NFL seasons, McCaffrey compiled 5,443 yards from scrimmage and 39 total touchdowns. At 24 years old, he’s on a Hall of Fame trajectory.
Okung had a few good years in Seattle and revived his value in Los Angeles. However, the 33-year-old continues battling injuries and isn’t the force he once was.
Drew Brees QB – 100% YES
Brees is the all-time leader in pass completions, attempts, yards, and touchdowns. The 13-time Pro Bowler and two-time Offensive Player of the Year is arguably the most accurate quarterback of all-time. Brees never won an MVP, but his résumé has everything else, including a Super Bowl title.
After some inconsistent play early in his career, Jordan stepped on the gas over the past three years. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Jordan is one of the NFL’s most complete defensive ends. He has 40.5 sacks over the past three years, but he only has three total All-Pro selections and 87 sacks entering 2020. Those totals could keep the 31-year-old out of Canton.
Is 47% too high? Probably, especially considering the time Thomas missed this season. However, the Ohio St. product tallied 470 receptions, 5,512 yards, and 32 touchdowns during his first four seasons. Three Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pro selections, an Offensive Player of the Year award, and the single-season receptions record give Thomas a great head start on the road to Canton.
It’s full speed ahead for Kamara. The 2017 Offensive Rookie of the Year made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons and is off to a hot start in 2020. Kamara amassed 4,476 yards from scrimmage and 37 total touchdowns in his first three years. Even if his rushing totals never near the all-time leader board, there’s still a good shot of Kamara making the Hall of Fame.
One of the hardest working men in the NFL, Jenkins made three Pro Bowls with the Philadelphia Eagles. He became known for his versatility and consistency, which the Saints hope can raise them to another Super Bowl. While Jenkins carved out a small legacy, he lacks the accolades and stats to be a Hall of Famer.
Lattimore is a polarizing defensive back that suffers from inconsistent play. The 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year had two Pro Bowl selections, eight interceptions, 44 passes defensed, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries in his first three seasons.
Ramczyk is possibly the best offensive lineman in the NFL not named Quenton Nelson, but it’s hard for right tackles to gain traction in Hall of Fame debates. With one First and one Second-Team All-Pro selection to his name, Ramczyk has a lot of work to do.
Armstead made both of the last two Pro Bowls, but he’s a cut below the NFL’s top left tackles. With only one Second-Team All-Pro nomination, the former third-round pick doesn’t have a Hall of Fame case.
Tom Brady QB – 100% YES
Brady could’ve retired ten years ago and still made the Hall of Fame. The six-time Super Bowl champion is attempting to establish his legacy in Tampa Bay after raising the New England Patriots to incredible heights. A three-time MVP and member of the 2000s and 2010s All-Decade Teams, many people consider Brady the greatest football player of all-time.
Injuries caused Gronkowski to retire after 2018, but he joined the Buccaneers and Brady this year. The four-time First-Team All-Pro hasn’t been a huge factor this year, but the Patriots version of Gronkowski became one of the NFL’s best players. He’s arguably the most dominant tight end of all-time, capable of dragging tacklers for ten yards and pancaking defenders as a blocker.
McCoy came within one more Pro Bowl season of entering Hall of Fame status. Unfortunately, the last two seasons haven’t been kind to McCoy. He’s battling injuries, and the former Eagle’s explosiveness is sapped. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team with two First-Team All-Pro selections, McCoy is 22nd all-time in rushing yards (11,069) and 26th in yards from scrimmage (14,921).
For a few years, Suh was the NFL’s premier interior defensive force. He racked up three First-Team All-Pro selections and four Pro Bowls in his first five seasons. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Suh also earned two Second-Team All-Pro nods. Even at 33 years old, Suh is making an impact in Tampa Bay. However, his 60.5 career sacks don’t compare well to the totals of Hall of Famers.
David’s lack of accolades is criminal. The former 4-3 outside linebacker is finally gaining recognition for his work over the past decade, but it’s too little too late to put the 30-year-old in Hall of Fame range. David entered the NFL the same year as Luke Kuechly and Bobby Wagner. Their numbers through their first eight seasons are highly comparable.
In his first six seasons, Evans made three Pro Bowls and earned one Second-Team All-Pro selection. Usually, that wouldn’t justify a 40% chance of making the Hall of Fame. However, the 27-year-old already has 7,531 receiving yards, and he has a great chance of climbing up the all-time charts. Evans is an underrated receiver who deserves the attention and hype Odell Beckham gets.
Before a fireworks incident that severely injured his hand, Pierre-Paul made two Pro Bowls and put on a First-Team All-Pro performance in 2011. Even after the injury, Pierre-Paul is still good for seven or eight sacks per year. He already has four this season, bringing his career total to 83.5.
Barrett spent the first five years of his career serving as a rotational pass rusher in Denver. He broke out last season, recording a league-leading 19.5 sacks along with 37 quarterback hits and six forced fumbles. Barrett made the Pro Bowl but only received a Second-Team All-Pro nomination.
Injuries already held Godwin out of two games this season, making a repeat of his outstanding 2019 performance highly unlikely. The Penn State product earned a Second-Team All-Pro selection last year, but that’s his only stellar season. Godwin is only 24 years old.
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