In last week’s edition of this series, we covered the NFC South, which has five sure Hall of Famers and five players who could earn gold jackets with several more dominant seasons. Even compared to the ultra-talented South, the NFC West stands out as a Hall of Fame powerhouse. No wonder seven of the past eight NFC Champions have come out of the West or South.
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.
I feel confident that at least eight players from the NFC West will finish their NFL journeys in Canton, Ohio. At least two more have a chance to join them if things go well over the next five to seven years. There isn’t a more talented division in the league. Someday, we’ll all look back and reflect on the many Hall of Famers that dominated this division.
Larry Fitzgerald WR – 100% YES
Fitzgerald could’ve retired after 2013 and still had a high chance of making the Hall of Fame. At 37 years old, Fitzgerald is finally turning over his role as Arizona’s primary pass-catcher to a younger star. The 17-year veteran has 11 Pro Bowl selections and a spot on the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2010s All-Decade Team.
Despite playing with some awful quarterbacks over the years, Fitzgerald is second all-time in receptions and receiving yards and sixth in receiving touchdowns. The former third overall pick built a legacy by dominating in the playoffs and demonstrating his class as a competitor.
After opening his career with eight consecutive Pro Bowls, Peterson ran into trouble last year. The NFL suspended him six games for using PEDs, and it took a while for the LSU product to get back into rhythm. At 30 years old, Peterson is showing signs of regression. However, he already has two First-Team All-Pro selections as a corner, one as a kick returner, and a spot on the 2010s All-Decade Team.
Hopkins did not receive a spot on the 2010s All-Decade Team despite earning First-Team All-Pro selections in each of the past three seasons. The former Texan made a seamless transition to Arizona this year and is on pace for another All-Pro campaign. In his seven seasons with the Texans, Hopkins tallied 632 receptions, 8,602 yards, and 54 touchdowns.
Jones finally began garnering the respect he deserves last season when he recorded 19 sacks and tied for the NFL lead with eight forced fumbles. Unfortunately, Jones landed on IR after five appearances this season. His year is done. However, the former Patriot is a 2010s All-Decade Team member, a two-time First-Team All-Pro, and former Super Bowl champion.
Jones amassed 96 sacks in his first eight seasons. For comparison, Von Miller recorded 98 sacks in the first eight years of his career.
Aaron Donald DT – 100% YES
Donald could retire tomorrow and still earn a first-ballot induction. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Donald is one of a few legends with two Defensive Player of the Year awards. Donald could join Lawrence Taylor and J.J. Watt as the third player with three DPOYs at the pace he’s going this year. The 29-year-old is truly a generational talent.
Between 2015 and 2017, Whitworth was arguably the NFL’s best left tackle. He made three Pro Bowls and earned two First-Team All-Pro selections. However, those aren’t nearly enough accolades for an offensive lineman to make the Hall of Fame. Players like Jason Peters and Marshal Yanda have decent chances, but not Whitworth.
The Hall of Fame is opening its doors to the best special teams players of all-time. Unfortunately for Hekker, he doesn’t have a legacy on par with Ray Guy’s. The 30-year-old is a four-time First-Team All-Pro, but he hasn’t received that recognition since 2017. Hekker falls short of Shane Lechler’s résumé as well.
In 2017, Ramsey announced his arrival as the successor to Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. At least, that’s what many of us thought. Since receiving a First-Team All-Pro nod in his second season, Ramsey hasn’t posted another All-Pro campaign. Without All-Pro selections, his three Pro Bowls are meaningless. Luckily for Ramsey, he’s only 25 and has plenty of time to rack up awards.
It’s hard to say what Goff is at this point. He dominated in 2017 and 2018, posting a 100.8 passer rating over those two seasons. However, Goff threw 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last year as the Rams missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Goff looks back to his usual self this season, but he’s proven shakable early in his career.
Richard Sherman CB – 95% YES
From his rookie season through 2016, Sherman made five Pro Bowls and earned three First-Team All-Pro selections. He intercepted 30 passes and replaced Darrelle Revis as the NFL’s premier shutdown corner. After landing on injured reserve in 2017, Sherman took some time to build his stock back up. He authored a vintage performance last year, earned a Second-Team All-Pro nod. Unfortunately, a calf injury is keeping Sherman sidelined this season.
Unlike Whitworth, who only has four Pro Bowls, Williams is a perennial Pro Bowler. He’s received invitations to the game seven times, which ties him with Tyron Smith for the second-most selections among active left tackles (Peters has nine). However, Williams sat out all of 2019 and hasn’t looked terrific in his first games with the 49ers. He also only has one Second-Team All-Pro selection, which ruins his Hall of Fame chances.
Considering he missed significant time this year and is already 27, perhaps Kittle belongs in the “maybe” category. Despite only entering his fourth season, Kittle already has two total All-Pro nominations and two Pro Bowl bids. When healthy, there isn’t a better or more complete tight end in the NFL.
Russell Wilson QB – 93% YES
Is Wilson a first-ballot Hall of Fame prospect? Not yet. However, winning the MVP this year and taking the Seahawks on a deep playoff run could change that. Wilson received criticism early in his career because analysts and fans believed the Legion of Boom defense carried him to fame. Yet, over the past several years, Wilson hauled bad teams to winning records and torched his competition.
Luke Kuechly has a Defensive Player of the Year award. That’s one of the few accolades that separates the retired Carolina Panther from Wagner. Both stud linebackers have five First-Team All-Pro selections and spots on the 2010s All-Decade team. However, Wagner has a Super Bowl title, which Kuechly fell short of matching in 2015.
Wagner isn’t a first-ballot Hall of Famer yet, but that could change in two or three years.
Brown put together a lengthy career, making four Pro Bowls and earning spots on three total All-Pro teams. He falls into the same class as Whitworth and Williams. The Hall of Fame places high expectations of left tackles.
Olsen became the first tight end to record over 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons (2014-2016). He received two Second-Team All-Pro selections during that time. In the five years leading up to his recent injuries and decline, Olsen averaged 968 yards per season.
Adams continues missing time with a groin injury, but the LSU product established himself as the NFL’s premier safety last season. At 25 years old, Adams already has one First and one Second-Team All-Pro selection. There’s a long way to go, but Adams is on the path to a great career.
From 2012 through 2015, Iupati made four consecutive Pro Bowls. He also made All-Pro teams in 2012 and 2015. However, if Alan Faneca is still waiting for a Hall of Fame induction, Iupati doesn’t have any claim to Canton.
Seahawks fans should remember Wright as a fan favorite when he retires. The 31-year-old still plays a large role on Seattle’s defense, considering he amassed 132 tackles and three interceptions last year. Wagner and Wright are the only two players from the Legion of Boom defense that haven’t departed Seattle at some point.
If you enjoy hearing from the legends of pro sports, then be sure to tune into “The Grueling Truth” sports shows, “Where the legends speak”
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