By: Josh Shippen
Almost every above-average starting quarterback at one point or another has been lauded as a “Hall of Fame quarterback”. Today, let’s take the spotlight off of the quarterback and look at each team’s Hall of Fame player that doesn’t pass the ball
Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, WR
Larry Fitzgerald has been a major piece of this offense since he was drafted in 2004. That’s insane that he’s still playing today! Fitzgerald is not a huge force anymore, but he is still an effective WR. Some Fitgerald records include youngest player to reach 1000 receptions, Second all time in receiving touchdowns, and 8 seasons with 90+ receptions
Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones, WR
Arguably the best WR of the 2010’s, Jones and Ryan have been an unstoppable combo for the Falcons. While Ryan is not good solely because of Jones, Ryan is a different player when Julio is on the field. Jones has tied the record for consecutive 1500+ yard seasons with 2, and holds the record for the most receiving yards in a single game.
Baltimore Ravens: Justin Tucker, K
Justin Tucker is the most accurate kicker in NFL history, and at that point there’s nothing else to say about that. Tucker has been in the league since 2013, and is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Buffalo Bills: Tre’Davious White, CB
There aren’t a ton of options on this Bills team, not for lack of talent but because the Bills are a very young team, White was a top 3 cornerback last year, and if he stays on this Bills defense and possibly gets them back to contention as a top 3 defense, he could have a superstar career and get that gold jacket.
Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB
McCaffrey is a very electrifying and athletic running back for this Panthers team, and was the best RB in the NFL last year. Keep an eye on McCaffrey to be in pursuit of that gold jacket, and to keep showing up for this Panthers team.
Chicago Bears: Khalil Mack, LB
Mack is one of the best defensive players in the NFL, with three first team All-Pro awards (which is the award that the Hall of Fame people really care about) and a defensive player of the year award. Mack had a recession last year with the Bears, but his career is still very young, and he has plenty of opportunities to get more All-Pros, and maybe another DPOY
Cincinnati Bengals: Geno Atkins, DT
Atkins is no longer one of the top 5 defensive lineman, but he was for the grand majority of the 2010’s. Atkins’ glory has been hidden on a depressing Bengals team, first being stuck with the Marvin Lewis experience, and then being stuck on the 2-14 2019 Bengals. Atkins is consistently the best player on that Bengals defense, and should be considered for the Hall of Fame.
Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham, Jr., WR
What is lost in the shuffle of the massive Browns drama is that Beckham in his rookie season (2014) was one of the most insane athletic freaks we had ever seen. Not only is he a Hall of Famer, I would argue that his prime years make him a first ballot Hall of Famer, especially if he continues to play at a high level. 10 more years in the NFL, a couple more All-Pro awards would probably lock and seal his gold jacket
Dallas Cowboys: Everson Griffen, DE
The biggest free agent who was still available late in the offseason for me was Everson Griffen (although Damon Harrison is a close second). The Vikings let Griffen hit the market, which is an atrocity to me, Griffen has not declined in play and has plenty of prime years left.
Denver Broncos: Von Miller, LB
Miller was fighting with Luke Kuechly as the best LB of the 2010’s. In a dominant Broncos defense, Miller was the leader and is a consistent monster that opposing offenses hate to face. Miller holds the Broncos’ record for career sacks at 106, and has 6.5 sacks in his entire playoff career, also a franchise record. Miller has declined with play and is currently injured, but he could potentially be a force to be reckoned with.
Detroit Lions: Adrian Peterson, RB
Peterson won an MVP award as a running back, that’s so crazy! Usually it gets handed to a QB every single year, but he was so damn good that he won himself an MVP award. Peterson is no longer the same player, in fact he’s probably the average line right now, but his past makes him possibly the best RB of all time (yeah it’s arguable), he is a lock to make the Hall of Fame.
Green Bay Packers: David Bakhtiari, OT
For the past few years Bakhtiari has been a top 5 offensive tackle in the NFL, and is mentioned with players like the Pounceys, Taylor Lewan, and Trai Turner. Bakhtiari needs to keep his consistent play to make the Hall of Fame, but if he keeps it up he could very well get there.
Houston Texans: JJ Watt, DE
Lost in the shuffle of injuries is the fact that in 2012-2014, JJ Watt was considered the best defensive player in the NFL, and to this day he is still a vital part to this defense. He is the first NFL player to have multiple 20 sack seasons, and he was a runner up for the 2014 MVP. A defensive player! That’s crazy! Watt is a lock to go to Canton.
Indianapolis Colts: Darius Leonard, LB
This will only be Leonard’s third year in the league, but it is certainly notable that the man led the league in tackles in his rookie year, and has been a sensation since. Leonard needs time to further develop, but when he does he could have a shot to get a gold jacket.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DJ Chark, WR
DJ Chark showed lots of pop in 2019, and frankly was the single most underrated NFL player last year. Chark has potential to be one of the next great receivers, he just needs this Jacksonville team to start being better so that this young star gets more attention.
Kansas City Chiefs: Travis Kelce, TE
If Rob Gronkowski wasn’t a human playing football, we would be talking about Kelce as the best tight end of the 2010’s. Kelce’s athleticism has been a huge compliment to first Alex Smith, and then Patrick Mahomes, who at the pace he is going is set up to be the best quarterback in NFL history. Kelce will continue to play at a high level for a number of years, and I can totally see him being in the Hall of Fame ten years after he retires.
Las Vegas Raiders: Jason Witten, TE
Witten was a tight end from 2003-2018 for the Cowboys, spent a hiatus embarrassing himself on Monday Night Football, and then had a last hurrah with the Cowboys in the 2019 season. At least, we thought it was a last hurrah.. Witten looks old and pretty irrelevant on the Raiders, but that doesn’t change that he was one of the greatest tight ends of the last 20 years.
Los Angeles Chargers: Joey Bosa, DE
From the word go Bosa was an instant impact, earning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Now, Bosa has done nothing but make huge strides, and he is now the highest paid defensive player in the league. Bosa seems on pace to be a defensive legend.
Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald, DE
Over the past 5 years, Aaron Donald has been the best defensive player in the league, winning defensive player of the year two years in a row, and making a pro bowl every single year of his career. Donald seems like a lock to make the Hall of Fame, and don’t be surprised if he wins a few more defensive player of the year awards.
Miami Dolphins: Xavien Howard, CB
To be honest, the options were pretty poor for Miami, so I just went with the best overall player on their team. Xavien Howard is one of the best corners in the business, and with more experience and awards he could become a consideration for Canton.
Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith, S
Smith has been a shutdown corner for the Vikes since he was drafted, and is a key part to this Minnesota defense. He hasn’t put up quite the required stats and notability to be considered a Hall of Fame candidate, but a few more years could prove to be just what Smith needs to make that final push to get a gold jacket.
New England Patriots: Stephon Gilmore, CB
Gilmore is the most recent recipient of the Defensive Player of the Year award, and has been a consistently great starter for both the Bills and Patriots defenses since 2010. Gilmore is currently seen as the best corner in the game, and it would not surprise me if Gilmore got serious thought for Canton, especially if he keeps up this play.
New Orleans Saints: Alvin Kamara, RB
A huge part of what Hall of Fame voters look at is the wow factor, in other words how fun the player was to watch on the field. I can’t think of a better candidate than Alvin Kamara. From the second he came in the league, Kamara has been making defenders miss, and pounding through defensive barriers like a boulder through a sheet of paper. Kamara is the best RB in the NFL, and deserves to be called a Hall of Famer.
New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB
Saquon Barkley has had a rough 2019 and 2020 season, riddled by poor surrounding talent and injuries, but he looked truly dominant in his 2018 season. Many compared his rookie year impact to that of Adrian Peterson in 2007. Barkley has the potential, but he needs to have more great years over his career, and the more consistency.
New York Jets: Frank Gore, RB
This seems easy considering Frank Gore will be on an NFL roster for the next 20 years. Gore has had 9 seasons of over 1000 yards rushing, and places third on the all-time rushing yards list. Additionally, Gore has made his mark as a great locker room presence. Devin Singletary of the Bills voted Gore’s leadership as a great help to his overall development in 2019.
Philadelphia Eagles: DeSean Jackson, WR
I admit this is a pretty big reach, but DeSean Jackson had some very good moments with the Eagles early in his career. Jackson is consistently a fast, reliable receiver, and has played for the Eagles, Redskins, and Bucs. Again, it’s a reach but it is still possible if you squint hard enough,
Pittsburgh Steelers: Maurkice Pouncey, C
Pouncey has been the Steelers starting center since he was drafted in 2010, and has made a combination of 5 All-Pro’s in that time. Pouncey has been one of the top 3 centers of the 2010’s and has plenty of prime years ahead of him. Pouncey probably will not get in quick due to his position, but I think with time he will make it.
San Francisco 49ers: Richard Sherman, CB
Sherman was arguably the best of the dreaded Seahawks “Legion of Boom” defense in 2013. Since then, Sherman continues to perform at a high level and was the best cornerback on the whitehot 49ers defense last year. Sherman also has a reputation of having a colorful personality, which makes more people notice him.
Seattle Seahawks: Bobby Wagner, LB
Wagner has been the best middle linebacker in the NFL over the past few years, and is the centerpiece in a defense that does not have much else around it. Wagner has made 6 All-Pro teams, and has led the NFL in tackles twice. If Wagner topped it all off with a defensive player of the year award, his gold jacket could become all but guaranteed.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ndamukong Suh, DT
Suh was not the only option on this Bucs team, Shady McCoy, Mike Evans, and Gronk are definitely in the conversation. Suh however is the most interesting to me because he is a great story. Suh from a playing standpoint has been a dominant player on defense for every team he has played for, and is seen as somewhat of a villian. Suh has the same factor as Alvin Kamara of being ridiculously fun to watch, which is even more incredible due to him playing on defense.
Tennessee Titans: Malcolm Butler, CB
Butler has not had gobs of stats and awards, but he has still been an above average corner for the Pats and Titans. What could get Butler over the hump is that he made the biggest play in one of the biggest Super Bowls in NFL history. As stated earlier, storylines are a huge factor of getting into Canton, so Butler will have that on his side
Washington Football Team: Thomas Davis, LB
Thomas Davis was a big piece in a Carolina Panthers defense for over a decade, and he is remembered fondly by fans. He was often overshadowed by the presence of Kuechly, but he was still a presence to be dealt with in Carolina for a very long time. Davis will be a long shot, but he has a fair enough chance to get a jacket.