The NFL Hall of Fame is one of the most exclusive clubs in sports. The game’s greatest honor is having your name and face enshrined in eternal history.
To make it into Canton, a player must be an all-time great at their craft. These players fit that mold. This list is based 100 percent on an individual players’ career production.
Before you read, there needs to be some clarity on prerequisites.
To be considered, a player must:
- Be able to be said with strong confidence that by the end of their career, they will have had individual production that is worthy of Hall of Fame status
- Have been in the league for at least five seasons
- Currently be on a roster
Things that carry absolutely zero weight in this list:
- Team accomplishments (such as Super Bowls) because those things are won by teams, not individual players.
NOTE: This is not a prediction of who will get in, but analysis of whose individual careers have been worthy of admission. The committee doesn’t always get it right.
All advanced metrics were obtained from Pro Football Focus.
Defensive Lineman (3)
He is easily the most dominant interior defensive lineman of his generation, and it is not really close. Aaron Donald has been the best player in the NFL for at least three years now, and it seems like he is still getting better. He leads all players at all positions in QB pressure since entering the league (491), which is absolutely insane considering he plays defensive tackle. He might get in if he retired after only five seasons.
It really sucks for Cox that he plays in the same era as Donald, because the Eagles defender is an incredible player. At his best, Cox is a top-five type of player in the entire league. It might not sound as impressive, but he is the clear and obvious second-best defensive tackle in the world.
Even though the passing game is much more impactful in today’s NFL, Damon Harrison deserves recognition for being by far the best run defender of his time. In the past four seasons, he has led all defensive linemen in total run stops and run stop percentage. That is absurd.
Edge Defenders (5)
Before injuries started to hamper Watt, he was the clear best player in football. From 2012 to 2015, Watt had 128 more pressures than any other player, which is pretty unbelievable. If those injuries never held him back, he would likely be in the talks of best defender of all time. He’d get in if he retired tomorrow.
Since those injuries to Watt, Mack has taken over as the league’s most dominant edge player. The impact he’s had as an addition to Chicago was apparent from the start, and he’ll continue to be their most valuable player. He’s extremely underrated as a run defender as well. He has a bright future in Canton if he keeps it up.
Miller’s combination of dominance and longevity may have him already locked in. He has never had a single season where he wasn’t elite, which is incredible to do for eight years straight. Since entering the league, he ranks first in both pass-rush win rate and pressure percentage among edge defenders. Throw Super Bowl MVP honors on top of it.
Wake may surprise some, but his career has been fantastic. He’s been the perfect model of consistency since entering the league from the CFL as the Dolphins’ franchise centerpiece. He ranks second behind Miller in pressure percentage since coming into the league.
Jordan didn’t really come onto the scene until the past few seasons, but he’s been absolutely dominant since then. If Mack and Miller have been the recent clear top two, Jordan takes the third spot. He’s certainly not there yet, but if he keeps this pace, he could squeeze into Canton.
Widely considered the best linebacker of his generation, Luke Kuechly has had a phenomenal career thus far. Injuries have set him back slightly in recent years, but his production hasn’t quit. He’s dominant in every aspect of the game; Kuechly is the perfect NFL linebacker.
If Kuechly is the best linebacker of his time, Bobby Wagner is as close behind as you can be. Over the past half decade, nobody other than these two have even been close to the top, but it seems like Wagner is taking the crown as the current best linebacker. He’s fantastic in run defense and plays the middle of the field to perfection. It’d be shocking for either of these two to not end up in the Hall.
One of the most dominant cornerbacks of all time in his prime, Sherman is well on his way to Canton. Here’s some stats to show: first in completion percentage allowed (48.6 percent) and first in passer rating allowed (54.6) among cornerbacks who faced 200+ targets in their career since entering the league. He wasn’t wrong when he claimed to be the best corner in the game.
The most consistently elite cornerback in the NFL has been Chris Harris. Easily the best slot defender of his time, Harris is one of the rare corners who are able to maintain dominance throughout their entire careers. If he keeps it up for a few more years, there’s no reason for Harris to not be inducted.
Weddle is arguably the best safety the league has seen since Reed and Polamalu, but he’s widely overlooked. His longevity, leadership, and consistently great production make Weddle an absolute no brainer.
McCourty was harshly miscast when he came into the league as a cornerback. Ever since the transition to safety was made, he’s unquestionably been one of the best in the game. Although his interception totals have oddly never matched his terrific play, he’s been uber valuable in that he doesn’t really mess up. He’s the primary constant on the Patriots defenses this decade.
He’s not quite there yet, but if he continues his career trajectory, Smith should solidify HOF status. He has unquestionably been the best run defending safety since he came into the NFL, and his coverage ability doesn’t hold him back whatsoever. Smith gets points for being as well-rounded as they come.
Thomas is the epitome of the centerfield, ball-hawking safety. Nobody is better at moving sideline to sideline and taking away the deep middle. His 30 interceptions and 14.1 percent forced incompletion rate both rank second among safeties since entering the league.
No kicker has made as many legendary kicks as Adam Vinatieri, and he is one of the biggest locks on this list. Two gam-winning Super Bowl kicks, unfathomable boots in the snow — he’s done it all. He’s now well into his forties and still going strong, warranting an undoubted first ballot induction.
The best kicker of his time is Justin Tucker. His precision and reliability have made Ravens fans comfortable any time he trots out onto the field.