In or Out: Which Active Players Are Going to Canton?

Matthew Durgin

In honor of the 2020 and 2021 Hall of Fame ceremony this weekend, I’m here to do you the service of breaking down which active players will one day be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. Of course, there are a few slam dunks, but I’m more concerned about the players on the bubble. I’m only going to talk about players who are established veterans over the age of 30. So, if you’re someone who wants to talk about Mahomes being a Hall of Fame lock already, you’ll have to wait a few years before you get an answer from me.

Locks:

Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Larry Fitzgerald, JJ Watt, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Donald, Rob Gronkowski, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman

Matt Ryan: Out

If there was a Hall of Very Good, Ryan would get in without a doubt. He does have an MVP, is already in the top ten all-time in passing yards, and is a controversy-free player. However, he has four playoff wins in 13 seasons and outside of his lone MVP season, he was never held in as high of regard like so many of his peers. With the Falcons seeming to be at the beginning of a rebuild, I don’t know if his resume is going to stack up. The question people ask themselves about every player is “Can you tell the story of the NFL without them?”. In the case of Matt Ryan, I think you absolutely can.

Frank Gore: In

There are few things in life that I’m more passionate about than believing that Frank Gore is a Hall of Famer. I think even debating it makes no sense. He’s third all-time in rushing yards and has nine seasons where he rushed for over 1,000 yards. He’s one of the ultimate team guys and has played in more games than any other running back in NFL history. Gore overcame two ACL tears in college to play for sixteen (and counting?) seasons. Was he ever the flashiest? No, but his longevity and success at the position are rare and should be rewarded.

Julio Jones: In

This was very close to being a lock, but when you look at where Jones ranks on the all-time receiving yards list, you start to second guess a bit. There are guys like Reggie Wayne and Torry Holt who currently have more receiving yards than Jones and still aren’t in Canton. That’s total bull, but the voters are weird. He gets in for me because of the six-year stretch from 2013-2019 where he was the best wide receiver in the game. Jones is younger than most guys on this list and probably still has a few good seasons left, which will boost his chances. In my eyes though, he’s in already.

Future NFL Hall of Famers: Julio Jones at his peak was almost unstoppable

Antonio Brown: Out*

Oh boy, here we go. If you go strictly from an on-field perspective, Brown has a very strong case as he has more receiving yards than Calvin Johnson, who was a first-ballot inductee. He, like Julio Jones, had a dominant six-year stretch that put him on pace to get a gold jacket. Then the issues came and the public now sees him in a much different light. Do I think how players act off of the field should be taken into account when voting? Hell no. It was a disgrace seeing Terrell Owens not get in right away because a bunch of people who never played the sport didn’t like the way he acted. However, it’s the reality of the situation and I can’t see him getting enough votes.

Von Miller: In

By far the toughest one yet. Miller barely cracks the top 40 all-time in sacks during a pass-happy era where he’s had a lot more opportunities than guys who played over a decade ago. His saving grace is the fact he was a Super Bowl MVP and was a Pro Bowler in every season he was healthy. He’s going to be one of those guys where future generations will look at his stats and won’t appreciate his talent and what he did for the Broncos. I’d love to see another two good seasons from Miller, but it’s tough to argue that many pass rushers at their peak were ever as good as him.

Future NFL Hall of Famers: Not many were as good as Von Miller at his peak

Geno Atkins: Out

Atkins has had a heck of a career for the Bengals, but he isn’t a Hall of Famer. Eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections are great and he and A.J. Green have to be considered the two best Bengals players of the 21st century. However, he’s been relatively underrated his whole career and doesn’t have the stats to back up just how good he was. It’s very unlikely he gets to 100 careers sacks and might not even get to 80, which only three Hall of Fame defensive linemen haven’t been able to reach. History just isn’t on his side.

Bobby Wagner: In

He may be one of the youngest players on this list, but Wagner is very close to being a slam dunk pick. His six first-team All-Pro selections are only one behind greats like Ray Lewis and Mike Singletary. Also, the fact he was a part of one of the best defenses of all time, the “Legion of Boom” era Seahawks, helps elevate his status. His eight straight seasons of over 100 tackles tie him with Brian Urlacher, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, and gives him more than Junior Seau, another first-ballot guy. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, so expect another season or two of high-level play from Wagner, which should push him into the lock category.

Future NFL Hall of Famers: Bobby Wagner’s consistent play gets him in

Patrick Peterson: In

Peterson’s six-game suspension in 2019 definitely changed how others view his career, but I still think he’s done enough to get the call. Remarkably, Peterson has never missed a game due to injury and was a Pro Bowl selection in each of his first eight seasons. People also forget that as a rookie Peterson was a dynamic punt returner, tying the single-season record for touchdowns with four. During a pass-happy era of NFL football, Peterson stands out as one of the best whether he was on a good or bad Cardinals team. He might not get in right away, but I think he’s a safe bet after a few years.

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