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. Spoiler alert: Eli Manning doesn’t make the cut.
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.
RELATED: Active defensive players who should end up in Canton
It may come as a surprise to see Brees atop the quarterback list, but he’s more than worthy. Since Super Bowls aren’t a consideration in this ranking, Brees’s overall career from a production standpoint sits atop of Brady by a hair. He’s the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions, and (soon) touchdowns. Brees is the most accurate passer of all time, and he’s as worthy of a first ballot induction as anyone.
Even completely ignoring all of the things Tom Brady’s teams have won, he’s one of the most productive quarterbacks of all-time. It shouldn’t be possible for him to be this good at this stage of his career. The system isn’t the reason for Brady’s success; Brady is the reason for the system’s success.
Arguably the most purely talented quarterback of all-time, Rodgers is a no brainer. He’s the best deep ball thrower of his generation, exemplified by his 109.8 passer rating on those throws (first since 2006). The king of the Hail Mary could retire today and still be a first ballot name.
Subtracting team successes from the conversation, Rivers has had the best career of the 2004 class of quarterbacks. Rivers doesn’t get as much media hype as most legendary quarterbacks, but he’s been a model of consistency for the Chargers. He deserves a Super Bowl victory more than anyone else. Maybe this could be the year.
The most underrated passer in the league over the past half decade is Matt Ryan. Few quarterbacks have played at a higher level than Ryan since he’s entered his prime. It’s often forgotten that he was the league’s MVP in 2016 and his play hasn’t dropped off at all since then. Barring a major drop-off in play at the end of his career, Ryan should be a lock for a gold jacket.
Big Ben is an absolute lock for the Hall of Fame. It’s no simple task being so good for such a long period of time, and Roethlisberger is the reason for Pittsburgh’s consistent dominance for the past 15 years. He’s made his mark by being aggressive down the field and racking up some of the most incredible throws ever seen.
The youngest quarterback on this list was tough to squeeze on, but Wilson is on a very good pace to make it all the way. It seems very likely that he’ll continue his elite play for the next decade, which would lock him into Canton.
Running Backs (2)
Although missing time through injuries, suspensions, and just flat out skipping an entire season, Bell is the best running back of his generation. Nobody else in their prime has been as polished as not only an elite runner, but receiver as well. He’s surely not a lock by any means, but if Bell continues to play in New York like he’s always shown in the past, he should be well on his way.
A very different style of back is Adrian Peterson, who has to be the scariest player to tackle over the past decade. Since 2006, Peterson is second to only Marshawn Lynch in total missed tackles forced (493), as well as first in yards after contact per attempt (3.0). He’s one of the best pure runners in NFL history, and an absolute lock to get into the Hall.
Wide Receivers (7)
Larry Legend is undoubtedly a first ballot Hall of Famer. His all-time ranks: second in receiving yards, third in receptions, and sixth in receiving touchdowns. There’s not much else to say. He’s a lock.
Brown might also be a lock even if he retired today. He’s been the best wide receiver of his generation. Since Brown entered the league in 2010, he is first place in receptions, yards, first downs, touchdowns. There’s absolutely no doubting Antonio Brown’s greatness.
If Brown didn’t exist, Jones would be the best receiver of his time. He is the king of per-route efficiency, leading the league in total yards per route run in each of the past four seasons. Probably the most physically dominant wideout over the past decade, Julio might be a lock if he hung ’em up today.
As Jones and Brown age, Hopkins is stealing the title of best receiver in the NFL. When looking at the quarterbacks Hopkins has had to deal with before Deshaun Watson, his numbers are unfathomable. He also recorded 115 catches and zero drops last season, which is incredible.
The most underrated receiver since he entered the league, Mike Evans should be on pace for Hall of Fame induction. Evans is unique in that he runs the route tree of speedsters like Marquise Goodwin, but hauls in passes like Julio Jones. Evans has been one of the most valuable receivers in the league the past five seasons.
Playing in Cincinnati makes people forget about Green’s dominance over his career, but few have been as good for as long. Green is one of his generation’s best deep threats, ranking third in deep receiving yards since entering the league. He quietly has been deserving of Hall of Fame consideration.
Odell Beckham, Jr.
Injuries and longevity hold Beckham back from ranking higher among receivers, but there’s no doubt he has the talent to be enshrined. Consistently a top five wideout since he entered the league, Beckham has done it with a below average quarterback his entire career. He truly is the best after-the-catch playmaker in the game, only trailing Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry in forced missed tackles since 2014 (82).
Tight Ends (2)
The Dallas Cowboys legend is a mortal lock for Canton. It’d be very difficult to name three tight ends who have had a more impressive career in the 21st century, and he does it with balance. Witten is most known for being Tony Romo’s reliable mainstay, but he is the best run blocker at the position of his time as well.
Usually overshadowed by a different No. 87, Kelce can now take the reigns as the league’s best tight end. He’s one of the league’s toughest guards due to his combination of size and route running ability, but his most dangerous trait is after the catch. His 2,904 yards after catch is almost 900 more than any other tight end since Kelce entered the league.
Whitworth has had a phenomenal career up to this point. Beyond Joe Thomas, it’d be difficult to find a better offensive tackle over the past dozen years, especially as a pass blocker. He’s only allowed a pressure on 3.8 percent of his pass blocking snaps over his career, which ranks first among all offensive tackles. It’s a shame he has never won a championship.
After a relatively rough first couple seasons, Staley turned into a legend for San Francisco. He’s the one constant on the team throughout the past decade and he has been an elite lineman for most of his career. Staley’s value to the 49ers can’t be overlooked, and he looks like he will end up with a gold jacket.
Age has begun to take its tole on Peters, but he’s been one of the game’s best tackles through his entire 13-year career. He’s the primary reason Philly always sports one of the league’s best offensive lines, and he finally got his ring (even if he didn’t play in the game). Peters is a surefire lock.
Although he barely cracked the age requirement for this list, Martin is easily on his way to Canton. Since being drafted in 2014, he’s been the best guard in the NFL and his ability to stay healthy has been crucial. There’s a reason so many of the league’s rushing leaders have come from Dallas; they’ve run behind Zack Martin.
When incorporating longevity into the conversation, no interior lineman has brought more value to their team than Yanda. Since entering the league, he’s been the model right guard that everyone should want to replicate. He might already be a lock for Canton.
Since being drafted, Mack has been one of the game’s most crucial centers. Atlanta’s offensive line truly transformed when he was traded for, and Mack’s presence has been a huge reason for the Falcons’ continued offensive success. If he’s able to produce a few more high level seasons, Mack should be rewarded appropriately.
Although playing alongside the aforementioned Martin, Travis Frederick is no Robin to a Batman. Since entering the league, he’s been the most dominant center. He’s a huge reason Dak Prescott’s rookie season was so easy, and why DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott have been able to post huge numbers. As long as Frederick stays healthy, he’ll be a no brainer.